For the first two years of my daughter's life, I was her everything; her source of food, comfort and fun. This wasn't because she had no one else in her life. Despite having a multitude of close relatives to play with and a father who works from home, she always wanted me, her mom.
At holiday dinners, she would demand to be held by an exhausted me even though her grandparents were full of energy. When her daddy watched her so I could take a break, she would cry hysterically when I left the apartment. On play dates with other children, she wanted to play with me.
I did my best to be her everything, but I can't say that I enjoyed it. I felt so much pressure knowing that whenever she needed something, she would always turn to me. The intense support a child needs from their mother in the first two years was one of the main aspects of motherhood I was unprepared for.
Then, something happened around her second birthday. She demanded to be tucked into bed by her daddy. She knew the names of all our friends and relatives and got excited when we told her they were coming to visit. She had friends who she would hug the moment she saw them. Oftentimes, she would point to a door and say, "Go, Mommy." She wanted to be left alone with her friends and didn't understand why her mother had to tag along.
I was never hurt by her decision to push me away, I was happy. I know that I am fun, but I am not as good at singing about choo-choo trains as her grandparents. I don't know how to make cool bracelets like her teenage aunts. Her daddy has a special way of tucking her in that I just can't master. I was relieved that she was taking advantage of all wonderful people around her and that finally, some of the pressure was off me.
One day, we ran into her friend. We didn't have time for an official play date, but we stopped so that the girls could play and moms could chat. When it was time to go, I told my daughter to say goodbye to her friend. She gave her a giant hug and reluctantly walked away. I noticed a small tear in my daughter's eyes as we walked away.
That single tear turned into a full-on downpour and as I watched her cry, I smiled. My daughter was crying because she had to say goodbye to someone other than her mother. She was crying over someone she wasn't related to, but rather someone she met and developed a relationship with on her own. My daughter was crying because she had made her first friend and didn't want to say goodbye to her, and I smiled because I couldn't be prouder.