Tears

Well, it finally happened. Today when I left Jimmy at school (i.e., daycare; I just feel better about leaving him there for nine hours a day when I call it “school”), he cried for me.

When we walked in he was all smiles for his teacher — as usual — and he acknowledged the other little babies with a glance each, as if he were taking roll. As usual, he began chewing on everything he could get his hands on as soon as I placed him in the play area. He continued to amuse himself as I meandered through the room, putting his bottles in the fridge, his diapers in the bin, his binky and sunscreen in his cubby. When I kissed him goodbye, he gave me a big bashful smile, all par for the course.

Today, however — and perhaps for the first time — he followed me with his eyes as I walked away, breaking his typical concentration on the piles of brightly colored toys that surround him. I could hear him wail as the door closed behind me. It was devastating.

During the two or three seconds I remained in the hallway, I changed my mind a thousand times about what to do. Go back in was my first and most pressing thought, and it bounced repeatedly off of He’ll be fine (the eventual winner). I glanced through the window to see him screaming and tears burned in my eyes.

I walked away. It was the most difficult thing I have done so far as a parent — leaving him to the comfort of strangers — and it has been haunting me all day. I know he is fine. I know his teacher picked him up immediately and rocked him into peace. I know this. I know this but it doesn’t help.

Hours later, I still feel like I should have gone back in. You read these books and articles about babies manipulating their parents, and how you mustn’t give in lest they control you. But why not? If Jimmy has found a way to communicate his needs to me, why should I refuse to listen? Am I then teaching him that his needs are invalid, or that his communication methods are inappropriate? He is six months old.

Some might say that by giving in I am paving the way to an incorrigible two-year-old who will throw himself on the ground at Target, screaming and flailing for a candy bar. But in my mind, that’s truly inappropriate behavior. Crying for the comfort of your mama — that’s just a primitive attempt to fulfill a basic human need, no different than crying when hungry or tired.

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