The first weekend of school was tough.
But peaceful all the same.
Friday night I cried while dropping Natalie off at my in-laws home for her second night of slumber partying at their house. We still have so many industrial fans and humidifiers in our house that it just isn't safe for her to sleep in her room right now. I watched her walk to the door holding her daddy's hand but her head turned back at me, confusion etched all across her sweet face. I put my sunglasses on and turned my head away.
And then I called my mother.
Natalie was scheduled to spend the night at her home Saturday and Sunday evening and in that moment, I couldn't fathom having to say good-bye to my baby for two more nights. After a short conversation filled with tears, it was settled - I would be spending Saturday evening with my daughter at my parent's home.
My heart smiled.
Saturday morning Natalie and I attended the birthday party of my dear friend Jill's daughter. Jill and her husband recently moved into a gorgeous new home further from me but closer to her husband's job downtown. Their new home is completely fabulous and Jill has a fantastic eye for design and decor. And I came home to no floors and a hole in my ceiling.
While at the party I experienced the first wave of social anxiety with Natalie. Having to stand by and watch her interact with small girls her own age all fighting over the same play kitchen and fake food.
Will the other kids like her?
Will she be included in their play?
Is she interested in playing with other kids?
Are her feelings going to get hurt?
What if she is rude and mean to another child?
I knew I couldn't intervene. I had to sit back and watch her figure it out all on her own.
It was excruciating.
She was the quiet one. The one who kind of let kids push in front of her. And she didn't know how to to react. Her big blue eyes found mine, confusion etched across her sweet face. I was paralyzed. There were tons of adults in the room - parents and grandparents of the other children. Do I encourage her to stand up for herself and get back the toys that were taken from her? Or do I remind her of putting others first and waiting her turn for the toys?
In the end........I nodded reassuringly and kept my mouth shut.
Shortly thereafter the newness of the kitchen wore off and the other little girls scattered among the other new toys and Natalie had the whole thing more or less to herself. She happily went about her busy pattern of cooking, eating and showing me what she had produced.
One grandmother attending the party commented to me, "she sure does look back at you for your approval."
I smiled and mentioned something about her having been gone the past few nights due to construction. But inside I was cringing. My stomach dropped and my heart clenched.
My approval. Her mother's approval. My mother's approval.
My God, I thought. What have I done to my little girl? Have I already damaged her so much that she cannot do anything without constantly checking with me for my approval? I want her to be brave. I want her to be confident. I don't want her self worth to hinge on my opinion, my judgment or my assessment. I want her to be proud based on her own merits not on some set of expectations that I've placed on her.
I am a teacher. I am a coach. Expectations and boundaries are my language. I use them with my students not to punish or discipline but to encourage and help them flourish. As a parent my job is to impress upon my daughter the importance of setting goals, working hard, doing her best and treating others with kindness and respect all along the way.
So how do I set expectations for her without instilling in her the idea that I am the one she has to impress?