It seems in many jobs one criterion for success is to work oneself out of a job. The results of doing it are bittersweet. The sweet: you’ve handed on the torch. The bitter: you aren’t needed anymore. Though my oldest child is not yet four years old, I’ve already
lamented noted on numerous occasions that Motherhood is a job in this category. And so, it seems, is the job of Being an Attachment Object.
There have been a few glimmers of decreasing attachment to which we have turned willfully blind eyes. But last night at bedtime we couldn’t avoid noticing it. I like to turn the beds down in the evening, pull the curtains, and have everything ready to tuck in the children when we enter their room after Bible time. Often I find Goat and put him on Norah’s pillow with a book or a teacup or covered with a blanket, just so she’ll find him waiting patiently. Last night I didn’t get to this, so in the last moments as Norah hopped in I was hunting around for Goat.
“Wait, where’s Goat?” I asked, innocently. Then the boom fell.
“I don’t need him,” said Norah, calmly.
Alex and I froze and our eyes met in a sort of horrified stupor.
“You don’t need him?” I couldn’t believe I’d heard that right.
“Goat wants to be in the animal basket tonight,” said this new, strange, grown-up being, “and that’s okay with me.”
All I could think was You’re three and half! It’s not time yet! Ridiculously, I heard my voice stammering out, “But Norah, you’ve always had Goat! Ever since you were a tiny little baby.” Then I felt like an idiot. But only for a second. Because then I heard Alex: “Oh, Norah, you need to have Goat. Goat would feel so bad if he couldn’t be with you.”
Norah, of course, immediately abandoned this early effort at independence and maturity. But how silly of us. We were just postponing the inevitable. Oh well, we’ve had a warning now and maybe next time we’ll be able to let him go. All the same, it was so painful with the heart-panging feeling that comes whenever I have a moment of long-sightedness and realize that my precious tiny children will Not Stay the Same, and the babies that they were (and are) will not come back again.
In a sort of last fling I made Goat his own pancake this morning, as I’ve often done. I was immeasurably comforted when Norah insisted on cutting it for him and helping him eat it. She even asked if he could have a miniature glass of juice when he was thirsty.
It’s coming–but not just yet.