It is the wee morning on Christmas Eve. I am the only one awake. All life beyond my window is suspended in a wordless quiet under a heavy blanket of snow. As I made my cup of green jasmine tea this morning, I stared out at the dark trees behind our house–only illuminated by the sparse bits of light reflected off the pristine snow pile. I thought of my baby–my first baby–who is half way around the world and likely preparing to go to sleep on this Christmas Eve away from her family. While I allowed only one tear to escape my eye, my breasts’ let down their milk and began to drip all over the kitchen. I thought it very interesting that not only would thoughts of my tiny baby, upstairs asleep in his crib, evoke such a reaction–but also thoughts of a 17-year old daughter in Japan. Incidentally, I have been thinking much this week about the process of weaning her 15 years ago, while I was pregnant with her brother Ethan. I have always had some regret about her weaning. She really wasn’t ready. Given the events of this past week, I understand why I have been thinking so much about her weaning.
As it turns out, this past week both Hannah and I have realized that we have been too connected, via email and Skype, over her first 4.5 months in Japan. This has not helped her, but has actually hindered her immersion into that culture and her feelings of belongingness with her Japanese host family. She and I have both committed to disconnecting from one another so that she can remove the foot she still has firmly placed here at home and fully enter her experience in Japan. Although this is an incredibly hard step for Hannah to take, especially over the holidays, I am so proud of her. She has made the decision to stay. She has realized what it will take for her to stay. She is growing up.
It is funny, I’ve been meaning to take a picture of the two books I am reading right now, because they capture the strange polarity of this year so nicely. One is a small book with advice on babies, since I have forgotten some of this information through the years and required a refresher. The other is a book on colleges, Looking Beyond the Ivy League I believe is the name. Ironically, it was the book on babies that proved most instructive to me with respect to Hannah over the past few days. While preparing for Josh to start some limited daycare hours with my Aunt and Uncle this upcoming month, I was reading about separation anxiety and read this passage:
Parents walk a fine line. On the one hand, you need to offer love and empathy. On the other hand, you need to show confidence in your child’s ability to get along while you’re away. So don’t discourage tears or pooh-pooh sad feelings, but equally, don’t allow tears to change your mind about leaving. Often a child’s feelings about separating are directly connected with the parent’s ability to let go.
Faull, Jan. Darn Good Advice–Baby, p. 101
I realize now that my own inability to properly let go of Hannah has been actually harming her and chipping away at her own self-confidence. I wish I had realized this sooner; better late than never though. It has been a process; it is still a process. All of life is a process.
I love that daughter of mine so much. Her strength and courage have amazed me all of her life. I trust her abilities and her good sense to navigate the road ahead. I am grateful for our love that will always bind us so close and is strong enough to allow this space between us for growth and change.