“Amma vandhachu! Amma vandhachu!!”
Her voice echoes in the otherwise silent room. I enter quickly and scoop her up from the ground and shower her with kisses. She clings to me as we pick up her lunch box and search for her water bottle. Her new caregiver gives me a quick overview of the day. We say goodbye, exchange hugs are on our way out when it hits me.
My laddu is really going to daycare.
I let it sink in. Over the past week, Laddu, her sisters and I have been haunting our local care provider’s building. We eased into it. A few minutes the first day as we toured the building and met the teachers. Half hour the next day with Laddu curiously watching everything from the safe confines of my hip. An hour the following day when she slid down to engage in water play with the rest of the kids. A little more on Friday when she joined the class on yoga mats and enjoyed breathing in and out.
Yesterday, I snuck out as she joined circle time knowing I would regret it the minute I walked out. Two hours later, I parked and spied her on her teacher’s hip, eyes rimmed in red, cheeks swollen. Today, steeling myself I kissed her goodbye and walked out even as she stepped away from me to grab a toy. I could hear her crying as I walked out. A good four hours later, most of which was spent watching the clock and refreshing my phone for messages, I parked and walked rather quickly to her room.
Peeking in through the glass door, I saw her sitting upright on her pallet, eyes searching for me. My heart broke and healed as I clung to her as much as she did to me. The rest of the afternoon sped past with snippets of her morning at the daycare peppering her speech.
Lying beside her a while ago, hearing her ease into sleep, something that her caregiver said came back to me. “After you left, she cried a bit and then clung to my leg for the rest of the morning…”
It strikes me that today will mark the first of the many years of separation as Laddu grows into her own person. For about two and a half years, I have been her primary caregiver, solely responsible for her food and emotional needs. Today as she transferred part of that dependence on another person, she and I grew up just a little more.
Over the next few days she will hopefully grow to enjoy her time away from me as much I look forward to it. We will part each morning only to revel in each others company a few hours later. I see the pattern repeating as she grows and heads out into the big, bad world. One day, it will happen and I will be happy to let her go and hope she will come back.