Our eldest daughter slept like a baby as I peered into her cot, her baby sister in another cot beside her. The eldest was on her side, legs sprawled and mouth open, with tiny toddler hands tucked against her cheek. Her eyelids flickered as invisible dreams danced through her mind. Oh how I wish I could see inside. Her Dad-O and I are the ones who know her best but even we don’t understand everything.
All too often we find ourselves calling through the house for each other’s support.
“Bub, do you know what she is trying to say?”
“I’m not sure,” I reply, “I’m sorry darling, what’s wrong? What are you trying to say?”
I scan the room for hints on what she might be thinking; was it something on the TV? Is she hungry? Is she thirsty? Is she in pain? Has she invented a new way to play and she’s trying to show us? Has she remembered something we used to do with her? Is she confused? Is she asking us to clarify something for her? To make her life easier?
Her brow furrows as she gets lost in thought, trying to find the right words from her limited toddler vocabulary.
“We’re sorry baby, we don’t understand.”
All too often we see her give up, realising that she just cannot explain what she needs. Though others say that her speech is wonderful for her age, on the few times she struggles, my heart breaks, as I’m sure her Dad-O’s does too.
Granted, she’s an incredible toddler and rarely loses her temper, but she is so young, so innocent, isn’t it wrong for her needs to go unmet?
These are the things that I stress over when I leave her in another’s care.
Now, it may just be my anxiety and my need to be organised and to follow a strict plan – so everyone knows what to expect of each other, I tell myself. Or it may just be that I care for my daughter, and that this stress is another normal part of parenthood, for me at least. Who knows?
I struggled to resist stroking her hair or touching her cheek as she slept so peacefully, but my logical mind told me not to, that it would only make the evening that much more difficult if she were to wake.
You see, Dad-O and I are leaving now, mid-afternoon, for a late lunch, a dinner and a drink with old mates from his previous workplace. We’ve spent evenings together without our daughters before, but never from the afternoon onwards. Never in the middle of her nap time until well past her night bed time.
My anxiety starts to peak as I frantically think through everything that they’ll need for their lunch, their dinner and their bath and bed routine.
Did I explain which nappies were whose? Did I explain the correct amount of hot water to add to the youngest’s bottles? What if something happens to the pre-mixed bottles? Maybe I should make another bottle, just in case. Did I leave enough food for the eldest? Maybe I should prepare more food too, just in case. Did I get out everything for their bath time? What if they dirty those clothes? Should I get out another couple of sets of clothes out? Did I demonstrate how to tuck the baby into bed? What if she doesn’t want to sleep? What if she gets cranky and struggles through the evening routine? What if the eldest gets stressed from the baby being upset? What if she’s stressed that we’re not home? That we’ve just disappeared while she was sleeping. What if she thinks we’re not coming back?
I fight back tears as one thing piles onto another, and a simple covering of the bases blows up into me potentially foregoing the entire night.
I snap out of it and regain my composure. I do this every time. It’s something I’ve been working hard to control, and Dad-O does really well in supporting me, though I know I’ll never overcome it completely. It’ll always be there, in the back of my mind, telling me to turn around and go back, to protect them, to make sure that I know what’s happening and that I’ll have the control to make the best decision if something goes wrong. So I won’t regret leaving them if something does go wrong.
I leave their room, and walk down the hall, constantly cycling worries through my mind, trying to counter them in any way possible.
A new thought appears, one that has taken a lot of push and pull, but one that appears more often nowadays than it ever used to; they adore their nanny. They know what to expect from her and she knows what I need to feel assured that they’ll be okay. And they will be okay.
I step into the lounge, all spruced up with make-up and hair done, some pretty evening clothes on and maybe some lingerie underneath – something I don’t do often enough – and reluctantly announce that I’m ready to leave.
I take a seat in the car, breathing deep and telling myself over and over, they’ll be okay.
As a cherry on top, Dad-O leans over from the driver side, kisses me softly and – as though he read my mind – says, “they’ll be okay,” before he starts the car and we head off for what will be the longest I’ve ever been without the girls.