Saturday, March 11, 2006

Pink slipped

clifford morning
Originally uploaded by toyfoto.
I wasn't expecting the phone call alerting me to the e-mail.

I sensed something uncomfortable afoot when she became eager to hang up the phone, instructing me to read the message and call her back. This isn't the first time I've been in this uncomfortable place. However, since getting married, I thought I would NEVER again have to hear the most frightening words to ever loom over a relationship: "WE HAVE TO TALK."

And now, it seemed, one of the MOST important relationships in my life was on the rocks. As I read (and reread) the six paragraphs, it became painfully obvious our babysitter was breaking up with me. Well sort of, anyway. She wasn't handing in her resignation, she'd just decided the smoothest way to make the morning transition less exciting would be to do it quickly. It would be easier if I were a long distance partner.

For two years my morning routine has revolved around wrestling an infant-turn-whirling-dervish into a breakfast bib, fresh clothes and then the car seat, and driving 17 minutes to a warm cup of coffee and the connected feeling of friendship and commiseration. What could be better than catching up on girl talk and having (and being) a sounding board as the kidlet loosens her kungfu grip on the collar of my shirt and ventures out into a room littered with toys?

As I studied the detailed account of her thoughts in the electronic missive -- all carefully crafted so as to give me the letdown gently but providing little room for argument -- it became clear I had two choices: drop my kidlet off in the morning and leave or drop my kidlet off in the morning and leave. Each variation included how I could spend my time before my arrival or after my departure.

I should have known this day was coming. I sensed it the same way I sensed that my high school boyfriend was looking beyond me, yet I pushed it to a darkend corner of my mind where it took its place next to the elephant I was trying to ignore, as well. See, lately, Ittybit has been having a power struggle between mom's authority (which is somewhat lax) and the babysitter's (which is considerably more stringent). For a few months most of our mornings have begun with meltdowns and playpen timeouts that drag on until THE MOM leaves. It's a daily lottery that has no discernible pattern. Sometimes she's joyful and eager to play with toys and other days she's clingy and cranky, eager to play one legislator against the other.

I'm wondering how many moms out there go through the roller-coaster emotion of care provider rejection: That pivotal moment when it becomes clear that you, as a parent, are doing more harm than good with your presence in the playroom.

As I sat at my desk rereading the e-mail, I felt my heart sink as the largest part of my social network suddenly became unmoored. The two-women coffee klatch I savored each day for the past two years was adrift. But as I look at my Ittybit, I see another reality looking back at me: The baby has vanished and a full-fledged person, with new needs, has taken her place. What's left to mourn is my place in this new development. I suppose I didn't really need the caffeine as much as the camaraderie. Only now I find myself just a little bit farther out of the loop.

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