The Sleep-over That Broke My Baby’s Heart

Last night was my baby’s first solo sleep-over.

Well, according to her, it is her second because she had one where the plan was that I would secretly stay the night too (it helps that her friend’s mom is my pal, A-funk of Motherhood and More), but pretend that I did not — so that she could at least feel like it was a solo sleep-over.

I know. It confuses me too.

Anyway, last night, she “managed” it. Of course, leading up to the big occasion, she spent many hours verbally processing her separation anxiety, some of it sitting on the edge of the bathtub while I was trying to do my business.

“Mamma, I’m really quite anxious about being away from you. Oh, I will be fine once I am there and can be in the moment, but I am very anxious beforehand. It feels like I am having a heart attack. I think it might be genetic.”

She talks like that. Honestly, had she been perched on the edge of the bathtub with a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other, staring at me scrawling notes on a clipboard, it would have seemed perfectly natural. The child was born a middle-aged women with angst.

At the birthday party preceding the sleep-over, she pretty much ignored me, a coping mechanism. She neither called me to say good-night nor had much apparent interest in speaking with me on the phone this morning.

Luckily, she does process everything verbally. It was all smooth, according to A-funk.

Ah — but I kind of know my baby by this point and I knew it would not all be smooth for long.

“Are you going to pay for this tonight?” A-funk asked as we stood on the beach watching our collective gaggle of children playing, shortly after she’d brought my baby home again.

“Probably.”

I was in the shower when it started. I know that cry. And it always seems to start when I am indisposed. This time it was coming from the hallway, where she was crouched against the wall, wailing. I peeked my dripping head out of my bedroom. She took one look at me and sobbed, “I just missed you so much. Oh God, I missed you. Oh Mommy! I missed you so much.”

Seriously, what is a mother to do?

I invited her to snuggle with me in bed.

“Mamma, when you drove away in the car, I wanted so badly to chase after you. My heart was breaking.”

For the record, when you look into your seven-year old’s eyes and they are filled with tears and she says that sort of thing, despite her fondness for histrionics, it wreaks havoc on your soul.”

Then this: “Dolittle (her friend’s pseudonym) asked if you guys had arrived home already and Annie said that she had talked to you about the video and I wanted to burst into tears right then and there. I wanted to hold you, Mamma, but you weren’t there. An hour, that’s all I can be away from you for. Just an hour.”

Now, c’mon! That’s just not even fair. Burst into tears? Oh sweet Jesus.

Finally, despite her earlier inquiries as to the next sleep-over: “I can’t do it again, not so soon. I just can’t be away from you Mamma. I just can’t. Oh Mamma! It hurts so much.”

When her Pappa came in and asked if he could get us anything, I suggested a book. After he offered several titles, she achingly requested The Velveteen Rabbit — because there is nothing better for soothing agonizing yearning than a story about a bunny who longs to be real.

Now, she sleeps, in my bed, clutching her stuffed dogs, Pups and Pupsalina, a married dog couple incidentally, like she will never ever let them go.

And I sure could use that cigarette and martini.*

*For the record, I neither smoke nor drink martinis. The histrionics are also genetic.

4 Responses to The Sleep-over That Broke My Baby’s Heart

  1. Paula, she is more in touch with her feelings and better able to express them than most middle-aged adults….Thank you to her and to you for sharing this to help other parents who may not understand or be able to interpret their child’s behaviors…oh, so that’s why you don’t what to do a sleep-over!” And for the record, who ever said a 7 y.o. ought to be ready for a sleep away? could this be part of the hurried child syndrome? Yvette M.

  2. Yvette, I resisted for a long time because I know how she reacts, but she really wanted this and spent a long time campaigning for it.

    She DID, she says, have a great time with her friend “in the moment”. She just missed me too much — understandable.

    It does truly amaze me how self-aware she is.

  3. This is such a sweet story. I found myself smiling as I read it–I could feel the love your daughter has for you and you for her. Thanks for sharing.

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