The little person who owns me.
This week Hollis started yoga camp. My mom saw a little blurb about the studio in the paper back in May and it looked like something Hollis would enjoy while also getting our collective feet wet regarding separation and autonomy.
It's Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays from 9 am to noon. The kids do crafts, eat a healthy snack the parents have packed and if diapers need changing that's taken care of, too.
I've never left Hollis with anyone he didn't already know before so this was a really big deal for me. We talked a lot about yoga camp and he was excited before he ever showed up and I felt I'd done as much parenting prep work that I possibly could. Day 1 went swimmingly. Hollis gave me lots of hugs and kisses as I departed and happily dove into a gigantic toy-filled trunk.
When I came back at noon he was very determined to tell me how I had been gone. "Mommy, you were gone! You were GONE! But you back. And you hold me. Kiss. Fun! Mommy, you were gone! But come back."
I held him tight and he waved goodbye to Amy and her assistant Remie and they told me he'd done wonderfully.
Day 2, same scenario as I left: lots of kisses and hugs, no signs of strain, and when I picked him up we had a similar conversation. Unlike Day 1, however, we had plans with my step-dad for lunch which Hollis was very excited about... until, that is, I wanted him to sit in a booster seat. He clung to me, wouldn't lift his head and sobbed big, hot tears.
What in the world??? This child is the antithesis of clingy.
I picked him up and held him on my lap while he continued to lurch with sobs and bury his face in my neck. Obviously yoga camp was taking its toll.
That brings us to Day 3 and it's now 10 am. He was very excited to return to camp and see his friends (that'd be Amy and Remie, naturally). He shoved his Crocs into a cubby and ran to the yoga room where half a dozen kids wandered around kicking balloons, reading books, or pulling toys out of the trunk. His warm little hand gripped mine and pulled me inside. Remie said hello while Amy balanced three little girls on her knees. And Hollis just kept gripping my hand.
That's when I knew today was different.
I parent Hollis with a keen memory of my own experiences as a shy child and also with the educational awareness of a counselor - I want very badly not to project my own childhood personality (and issues) onto him - I want him to navigate this world as Hollis, not as Jessica's Son, so when I knew he was going to protest me leaving I was truly torn.
Do I stay and hang out?? What message does that send? That when he's a little scared Mommy will stay and that makes everything better? Or do I go? And the message is that Mommy leaves and I can rely on myself to get through a tough spot of emotions? Or do I leave and send the message that MOMMY LEAVES when I'm scared?
It took a couple of tries before I could get out of his sight. By that point Amy saw our little drama playing out and she came to intervene. She asked him if he'd ring the bell to start the class, to be her special helper. He warmed up to that, but kept a wary eye on me. He gave me more kisses and I took a deep breath and walked away as if to the front door, out of his line of sight. I could hear him crying and Amy talking to him about kicking balloons and playing with his cement truck toy. The cries weren't alarming other than the fact that he was upset and the receptionist, who had a direct view of him, confirmed to me that his face was affect-less and he was just making the crying noise to show his displeasure with the scene.
I told her that this was new for us and had to take another deep breath to fight back the tears... I was sweaty and dusty from the trail, basically looked a hot mess, and felt vulnerable enough without breaking down in tears in front of a complete stranger. I managed to ask, "You'll call me, right, if things get worse?"
She smiled and said, "Oh, of course."
I walked the last few steps to the front door and walked out into the blanket of heat that is Austin in nine in the morning to the woeful moans of an angry child filling my ears.
And I still don't know if that was the right decision. By leaving him under (mild) duress am I upbraiding all the work I've put into instilling complete trust in me and the adults who love him? Is it wrong to leave him? Or, shit, is it just my own personal abandonment issues wreaking havoc on my perspective??
In any case, my plan this afternoon is to take him to get some ice cream and reconnect and cuddle and reassure him that MOMMY ALWAYS COMES BACK. If not for him, then definitely for me.
What do you guys think?? Any suggestions? What did you do to get through this kind of anxiety and milestone?