Don’t Leave Me This Way – by Jamie
My daughter, Jayda, has been a day care kid ever since she was three-and-a-half months old. She loves school, and some days I even have a difficult time getting her to leave the center after eight hours to come home with me. She also takes a dance class whereby I drop her off and watch her prance around through the glass; generally, Jayda’s so immersed in the activity and the other kids in her class that she rarely acknowledges me with more than a wave when she’s changing from her tap to her ballet shoes. And she recently started taking swimming lessons; the moment Jayda is greeted by her teacher, she never looks back.
But lately, when we’re together in the house, Jayda won’t stop clinging to me. I can’t eat a meal or read a magazine without her demanding, “I want to sit on your lap, Mommy!” And she doesn’t want to let me out of her sight for even a moment. The other morning, while Jayda was watching a “Max and Ruby” DVD and I was making breakfast in the kitchen, I announced that I needed to run to the bathroom for a second. “Are you coming back?” Jayda responded fearfully. Huh? I couldn’t even joke with her about the unlikelihood of falling in and drowning, but simply remarked, “Of course!” Another morning, we came downstairs to the den and Jayda instantly begged, “Mommy! Don’t leave me!” I explained that I would never “leave her.” I might go to the bathroom or the kitchen while she was busy playing, but I’d never be far away. And that same morning, when I told her that I needed to run back upstairs to grab something for school, she insisted on coming with me…grasping onto my hand the entire time.
Jayda’s separation anxiety continued the other night, when I had plans to go out for drinks with a girlfriend—which is something I’ve certainly done in the past. My parents agreed to take Jayda to the diner for dinner that evening—and to put her to bed. Jayda was excited about going to “the pancake store” with Grandma and Poppy…until she discovered I wasn’t coming along. And when she found out I wouldn’t be home when she returned from the diner, the waterworks started: “You’ll come back though…right?” she wailed. “Of course I’m coming back,” I explained, as I seem to do all the time now. “I love you too much to ever leave you. And while I may have places I need to go to now and then, I’ll always come back to you,” I assured her. For the moment, Jayda was placated…but not enough to let her fall asleep until I came home; though she burrowed under the covers in her bed to placate my parents, she insisted on waiting up for me. Only when her sleepy eyes confirmed that I had, indeed, returned to her, did she let herself drift off, completely.
I’ve never “abandoned” my daughter; I’ve never even been separated from her overnight. And whenever I have to leave Jayda to do something (even to simply enter another room in the house), I always forewarn her about it. So I can’t figure out where this behavior is coming from. It’s true that sometimes my daughter’s devotion is heartwarming, like when she throws herself on me when I’m lying in bed, and wraps her whole body around me so I can’t go anywhere…literally. Or when she holds onto my hand and murmurs, “I love you sooooooooo much” as she’s falling to sleep. However, other times, Jayda’s dramatic attachment to me is worrisome, and I’d like for it to lessen. But I suppose nothing is as worrisome as the future, when my then-adolescent daughter will likely be telling me “Go away, Mommy!” or “Leave me alone!” As the mother of an emotional young girl, there always something to worry about, isn’t there?