We had a first at our house last night! I went to the inaugural meeting of a new book club, and that meant I was gone at bedtime and Kyle had to put both kids to bed for the first time ever.
I knew Kyle was up to it, and he knew he was too. But Ellen was a wild card, and we weren’t sure how that was going to go. Historically, she has a pattern of screaming when someone else tries to put her to bed. But Kyle has recently made it onto Ellen’s list of acceptable caretakers, so we thought there might be a chance.
Book club was literally a 3 minute walk from our house, so our backup plan if everything went sideways was that I would walk home, help out, and then go back to book club. That didn’t end up being necessary! Kyle and Ellen rocked bedtime out!
Lewis was a sweet, good boy for daddy, and Ellen took some of a bottle and then let Kyle rock her to sleep without any abnormal amount of protest.
(edit: was it really the first time Kyle was on his own with both kids? He must have done it in the early days before Ellen developed stranger danger… but this felt like the first time, and in any case… it was the first time she didn’t lose her shit)
I haven’t been able to leave for anything that spanned bedtime in over 7 months without feeling absolutely horrible due to Ellen’s meltdowns. It was so painful for me that I haven’t really even tried to leave, with the exception of a few date nights. I felt confined to my house, and as much as I love those nightly snuggles with Ellen, I am ready for a little flexibility now.
So this feeling is freedom. With babies, freedom comes gradually. Especially breastfed babies, I think. They’re physically dependent on mommy, and that often comes with a sort of general attachment as well. This was just one step further along the path to separation and independence.
I remember with Lewis that the biggest, final step was when we stopped breastfeeding and I could leave whenever I wanted without a pump or a care in the world. So we still have a ways to go with Ellen, but Kyle’s proven ability to get her down for the night is huge. I feel physically lighter knowing that I am free to accept social invitations in the evenings now without guilt.
It was pretty special for Kyle, too, to rock his daughter to sleep without her screaming bloody murder. I knew the two of them would bond and become close eventually because I saw how the relationship grew between Lewis and Kyle. Kyle is such a great dad, and he loves his kids so deeply… but baby-hood is so difficult for him. I think mostly because I have had a kind of monopoly on comforting our children when they are young. The breastfeeding thing meant that they naturally ended up in my arms as infants, and breaking that spell takes a long time, all the while, Kyle ends up as a bystander.
As wonderful as my newfound freedom is, and as beautiful as it is to once again get to watch my husband bond with his child, I have some feelings of loss that go along with it too. What is parenthood if not an exercise in wrestling with your emotions?!
It is so hard to be the only one your baby wants, and something I long to put behind me. But it is also so special, and something I secretly want to last forever. Yesterday’s success means that the era of Ellen’s and my exclusive relationship is over, for better or worse (mostly better!).
You want your kids to grow up and become independent, and getting them there is basically the essence of your job as a parent. I’ve always found their growing up to be bittersweet. Every new thing Lewis learns means he needs me less, and that’s a sign of a job well done, but also… ouch!
Those big kid accomplishments make me very emotional, but these baby milestones, where the independence is a physical severance of ties to me as a mother… well those are the hardest of all for me. They’re gloriously, wonderfully freeing… and gloriously, wonderfully painful.
But in the end, I’m so happy. The feelings of loss are muted (but worth acknowledging!) in comparison to the pride and happiness I feel. I’m grateful to have a husband who is patient enough to wait for me to be ready to hand over my babies, and who loves his kids easily as much as I love them. And I’m so proud of Ellen for developing emotionally and forming bonds with other caretakers. Watching her be loved by others is second only to getting to love her myself!