Sunday, September 23, 2012

Not a Mama

Now I’ve done it. Apparently, I inadvertently ended Elliana’s relationship with Elizabeth. She told me with such sincerity that my heart dropped.

It all started with the famous naptime. While pregnant, I devoted myself to helping Elliana learn how to get herself to sleep. I was convinced that she needed to nap daily despite her frequent, persistent, and creative protests. I followed strict instructions from Madame, at Elliana’s school, and eventually we all got sleep!

As a result, I work hard to keep naptime routines consistent. So, when I heard Elliana talking rather loudly in her room, I feigned surprise and said “Oh, you are still awake”. I proceeded to tell her that if it was too distracting to have Elizabeth sleep in the room with her than Elizabeth would need to take her nap downstairs. Since Elliana dotes on her baby doll, this reminder is usually taken very seriously and followed by instant compliance. You may think I’m ruthless for suggesting that I separate the two of them, but I crave sleep like my next breath of air.

After disappearing downstairs, I heard Elliana again rather loudly. Several minutes of this passed and Elliana must have known I was about to come upstairs. As she was apparently planning to veto her nap, I found her in the middle of the stairwell.

Elliana: “I’m not a Mama anymore.”

Mama: “What?”

Elliana: “I’m not a Mama anymore. Because of what you just said.”

She looked very serious and genuinely sad, but resolute, as she made this statement.  I tried to think quickly and all I could come up with was:

Mama: “What do you mean?”

Elliana: “You said you were going to take Elizabeth downstairs during nap. So, I’m not a Mama anymore.”

I was horrified. This is what she thought that meant? I hadn’t intended that at all! I was simply trying to get some sleep in our house (getting Elliana and twins down for naps simultaneously is no small trick – and trying to fall asleep myself once they are down is a pipe dream!).

I tried to calmly remind her that it just seemed like it was too distracting to have Elizabeth in her room. She was welcome to see her after nap when they both woke. Yet, Elliana was adamant that she was no longer a mother.

In this two-minute exchange I felt reduced to dirt. Elliana and Elizabeth have been practically inseparable for the past several months. Elliana sashays through the room with her doll in a baby sling and she rocks her to sleep using all the techniques she’s studiously observed for the past several months. She tends to her diapers, spit-up, and outfit changes. She even looked at me knowingly one day at nap and said “You won’t believe it, she’s STILL wiggling”. That one had me at a loss for words so I’d said “Oh” and left her to handle the “wiggly” baby.

So, as you can imagine, I feel horrible to have unintentionally stripped her of a role she has honed, almost religiously, for the past several months. Then, amidst my exhaustion and shock I managed to think of a key question.

Mama: “Do you want to be a Mama?”

Elliana: “No.” (tears now welling in her eyes)

Mama: “What do you want to be?”

Elliana: “I just want to be a kid!” (tears now pouring down her face)

All along, I thought she’d been mothering over her baby doll because she wanted to. I had no idea that Elliana, with her seemingly endless imagination, felt exhausted by all the hard work she’d been doing to tend after this “newborn”.

I’m still not sure if I’ve collected all the pieces of my heart that broke on the stairs.

1 comment: