I was prepared to write my blog for today on toddlers, portraits and smiling or the lack thereof. I have, however, encountered an emergency situation that I must discuss and save the portraits blog for a different day. The emergency situation involves a certain set of individuals who for our purposes today will go by the name of "Grammy" and "Pappy".
Grammy and Pappy, excited to share in the love of our little Isabella, have transformed their home into a baby-safe haven. Under Grammy's direction, Pappy laboriously installed a fire place guard and multiple safety gates to protect my daughter from the dangers that could otherwise await her. Their house is like a baby bunker stocked with fresh whole milk, baby food, diapers, toys, infant's acetaminophen and bath supplies. My husband and I appreciate the effort that Grammy and Pappy have made to make their home safe and ready for a toddler to tear through it, so when they offered to watch our daughter for a few hours, we of course accepted. We knew Isabella would be well cared for and tended to under careful watch. What we didn't know was that the grandparents would cast a spell on our daughter, making her immune to the need for Mommy.
Date night, as the grandparents have affectionately dubbed it, was spent with my husband and I in different rooms of the house with mop and vacuum in hand. That is correct - we spent our "alone" time scrubbing the house clean. The romantic gestures were wild and unabashed - I replaced the paper towels for my husband, he used the vacuum to clean the end of my dust mop ... we were like house cleaners gone wild.
As I folded the third load of laundry, I thought about how nice it was to both start and finish my chores, as well as the reunion Isabella and I would have when Grammy and Pappy returned her home. In my vision, my daughter, aglow with excitement from seeing me, ran up to me and embraced me in a tight, lingering hug. In my vision, I returned her enthusiasm with a big bear hug of my own. What I did not see in my vision was her vigorously shaking her head "no" when Grammy tried to hand her over to me. My daughter did not protest my embrace in my vision - but she did in real life. Isabella, content to hang out in Grammy's arms, did not want mommy. No hug for Mommy, no kiss for Mommy. My jaw, in addition to all persons present in the room, dropped and hit the floor from the one-two punch of rejection from my daughter. In the almost 15 months that Isabella has blessed us with her presence, she has never once rejected her Mommy. I was, not to exaggerate, her end-all, be-all. You may have noticed I used the past tense "was." I used to be Isabella's one and only. With this simple, yet monumental, brush-off, Isabella asserted a little bit of her independence and taking a small step away from the dependence on Momma. Apparently, someone else could actually fill my shoes, if only for a short period of time.
Of course I kept my composure and laughed it off, but ouch, that hurt! When you are a parent whose house and all relevant time schedules are run by a child, don't you want a little time to yourself, a little independence? But when the independence is asserted by your child instead of you, do you feel a little taken aback, a little wounded? Wounded is exactly how I felt, because Isabella chose her own time and form of liberation. While this may sound dramatic, simply because my daughter chose Grammy over me, when it happens for the first time, it is. I could have spent the rest of my evening brooding in the corner and licking my wounds, but I didn't have time. When my daughter cried out at 4 a.m. for some comfort, Grammy was at home fast asleep, so Mommy had to dry her tears.