Some days Clare sprints into her classroom with barely a glance back.
Those days are not today. Actually, we haven't had one of those days in awhile. I don't know if it's the aftermath of the Holiday Routine Shake-up, or the fruitbasket turnover at school that's bumped two of her BFFs up to the 4-YOs, or if she is maybe getting sick, or if there's something else going on I haven't even guessed at yet. But the mornings are getting worse and not better.
The thing is, with Clare, if I just stick around for long enough, eventually, she'll decide she doesn't need me. So it's not like there's some inevitable, frantic, teary, howling, monkey-clinging scene every morning (which, of course, you see with some other kids). But there is the steady relentless stubborn insistence that I must "stay a little longer," until she gets her morning snack, or goes inside the gym. If I cooperate with her plan, then eventually she sets me free with a little sunny smile and a (I kid you not) "mom you can go now." If I don't, well, you guessed it: let the howling monkey-clinging begin.
Most days, as a Theologian-at-Large working from home, I have fifteen or twenty or even thirty minutes I can spare. Today I don't really. (I don't have time to be blogging either but my lunch date is also a parent so he'll understand why I'm late, I reckon.) But there I was, feeling stuck between either causing a ridiculous tantrum that I knew could be avoided, and that awful feeling of 'my kid is manipulating me and I have no personal dignity left in this relationship.'
But then, I got to walk out of the gym with my daughter smiling, saying 'I love you,' and blowing kisses at me. And I think, I've got it wrong. She's not manipulating me. She's just looking for some proof that I really do love her like I say I do, that she's more important than Princeton, that she's more important than my computer, that she's more important than mommy's mysterious work as a "theologian." And for God's sake, she IS. So why resent showing it upon request? Do I just need to get my mind right? Chuck the reflexive mulishness at the suspicion of manipulation? Chuck the deep-down embarrassment of once again demonstrating in public that I am not in "control" of this relationship? Do I want to "control" my daughter? Do I want to "control" anyone? Not really. But yeah, maybe.