Holding Space for Letdown

sand_heart“All I want for my birthday is to go away with Daddy.”

It was months before my daughter’s sixth birthday. Although she had been on many vacations, she never traveled with her dad. My happiness at his agreement to take her away shifted into heartbreak when he decided to plan a trip without her. My only solace in his decision was that his trip overlapped with a vacation I was taking her on.

“Are you kidding me?” It was days before our vacation, and I could feel my eyes burn. As it turned out, his trip would begin when we returned home — he was going to miss her birthday.

***

“Am I going to see Daddy when we get home?” Our trip was coming to an end, and it seemed I couldn’t hold out any longer. I sat down to prepare for her reaction and told her the truth.

“It just doesn’t make sense!” Over the next 15 minutes, I could feel a stabbing pain in my chest as her yells slowly became quiet sobs, and she at last settled into my lap. “It just doesn’t make sense. All I wanted for my birthday was to go away with him, and he’s going away without me.” Her voice was practically a whimper.

I pushed back the tiny hairs stuck to her mucus-streaked face. “It doesn’t, my love.” I slowly circled my palm on her back, imagining the bright sun shining on us. “It doesn’t make sense.”

I wiped the tears from my eyes before she could see.

A few days after her birthday, we went for a walk in the neighborhood.

“Does my daddy only think about himself?” she asked, completely unaware of how wise she seemed.

As the pride swelled in my chest, I knew I had to stay calm. I paused, looking up at the sun, letting the warm rays wash over my face. Up until that point, I had assumed it would be years of missed birthdays before she thought his behavior could signify anything other than something fundamentally wrong with her. I felt years of concern slide off my shoulders, confident she was better armed to deal with her father than I ever was.

I considered my options. If I said “yes” I would be disparaging her father — something I was not suppose to do, something I didn’t want to do. But if I said “no,” I would belittle her discovery. I wanted to encourage her to question her father, but I also wanted to honor their relationship and my daughter’s need to navigate it for herself.

“Well,” I said. “I cannot say exactly what goes on in his mind because only he knows for sure.”

I leaned down and look her in the eyes. “But when I look at his actions and the decisions he makes, its the most logical conclusion I can think of.”

“Okay.” She smiled happily and skipped off singing, recovering from the conversation in a way only a 6 year old can.

Time passed, and she was going to her father’s house. Before leaving, she cried to me that she didn’t want to go. I wanted to encourage her to stay. I wanted to keep her from him, but I knew that it wasn’t my place. As her mother, it is not my job to keep her from her father. Its my job to give her what she needs to heal and let go. I told her I would miss her, too.

“Daddy! Daddy!” Her eyes glazed over, and she smiled with joy at their reunion. He greeted her with a loving embrace. She grabbed his hand tight, clinging to the connection she desperately wanted. I followed behind them for a moment, smiling.

Then I said goodbye and began to prepare the space within me that my daughter would need for her next letdown.

Seeing API in a Whole New Light

A week ago, Friday morning, I kissed and hugged my husband and children goodbye and boarded a plane from the Lincoln, Nebraska, airport on my way toward Attachment Parenting International’s 15th Anniversary Gathering in Nashville, Tennessee. Besides a mix-up on gate numbers during my layover at the Minneapolis airport, and then being seated next to the lavatory on my second flight down (what’s that smell?), it was a good trip. It gave me several hours of reading and a great view of the earth that can’t be seen in any other way than in an airplane.

Knowing that I was going to be picked up from the airport along with Dr. James McKenna, well-known cosleeping expert and author of Sleeping with Your Baby, I made a dash to the bathroom at the Nashville airport to change out of my jeans, tank top, and sandals into an outfit in which I would be more comfortable shaking hands with a renowned parenting expert. So glad I did, too, because not only was Dr. McKenna in the vehicle but also author of Let the Baby Drive Lu Hanessian and API Co-founder and co-author of Attached at the Heart Lysa Parker!

We drove over to API Co-founder and author of Attached at the Heart Barbara Nicholson’s home for supper, where I saw the most wonderful sight of API Board of Directors president Janet Jendron and her daughter Claudia, API Executive Director Samantha Gray, and API Membership Coordinator Stephanie Petters, among others, joining together in a fury of fresh vegetables and greens, and pots of spaghetti and tomato sauce, making supper.

Throughout the night, people fresh from airport pick-up made their stop in Barbara’s beautiful home, greeting one another like everyone was old friends. I was a little overwhelmed to be in the company of so many of these parenting experts who helped to make API be what it is today – an organization working to educate and support parents worldwide in attachment-based parenting practices to benefit not only their children lives in profound ways but also their families.
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