Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Bambi on ice...

Separation Anxiety (for mums)

You've probably read all about separation anxiety in the baby books that adorn your nursery shelves. Anticipated at around the 9-month stage, it can be full of misery and woe. We mothers suddenly experience a metamorphosis - we are no longer milking cows. Suddenly, we're a second skin - our departure from the room ripping a tiny piece of them away, making them howl in perceived agony.

Or so they say.

This is not the case with Frankie and I. I politely cough and give a weak nod when mothers with similarly-aged babies tell of their woes when they leave their kids. The dramas of daycare. The nightmare of nannies. I was expecting Frankie to go off the charts when I went to Bali on holiday - my first time away from her for longer than 5hours. I secretly hoped she'd scream the house down, rip the vinyl giraffes off the wall, tear the chest hair off her father in desperation and longing for her absent mum. Outwardly, I wanted her to be happy (or so I told my friends). "I just hope she'll cope OK without me around", I said, thinking that even if she did manage, her father wouldn't fare quite so well with the round-the-clock bottle sterilising, cooking, cleaning, washing, cooking, washing, sterilising...

Well, guess what?

In the 4nights that I was away, she slept through the night (ish).

She had the occasional "I am ready for dinner now" whimper.

She took the nappy-changing lying down.

My partner, Andy, emerged from the ordeal without a scratch (whereas I was still nursing teeth and claw marks all over my shoulder and neck).

The moment I arrived at the Arrivals gate of Sydney Kingsford-Smith airport, I was awash with Mother's guilt and certain that Frankie would be haphazardly dressed (with at least one sock missing) and probably stained with dirt and grime. But no, she was rosy cheeked and content; one might go so far as to call her placid.

I had feared that she would stare blankly at me and have difficulty trying to place my face. You know, the "I know I know you, but can't place you" face? This lasted all of 3 seconds, before she erupted into a fit of kicking, squealing, and grinning so hard her little dimple almost burst. I was overjoyed by her reaction -the pleasure radiating from her at my presence. But I was also slightly perturbed. How is it that the world didn't stop turning when I left? 

As Andy shrugged a "she was awesome" response to my question regarding her behaviour, I felt rage surging inside me. Why did she save all her naughty energy for me? Why was I bone-tired and weary at the end of every day, in bed by 8pm with a good book and a medicinal glass of wine?

I can only gulp dryly at the possibility that Frankie's behaviour is, inexplicably, linked to my own. My anxiety feeding hers. My energy drives hers. Dear God, help me - I've created a monster. Frankiestien, shall we call her?

If she was Miss Magic for everyone that looked after her while I was abroad, then surely I am the variable in this scientific experiment of childhood behaviour? Bali has taught me that I need to look more closely at myself before labelling my daughter's own habits. "She is always moving" I say....well, this is a case of pot/kettle it would seem.