I stood in the bathroom applying a minimal amount of makeup. The fact that I was wearing any at all meant the night was something special. My daughter strolled down the hallway.
“Mom, do you want to play chess?”
“Abby, you know I’m getting ready to go out. I’m leaving in a tiny bit.”
When that suggestion was knocked down as well, she proceeded to crawl around on the floor pretending to be a dog. I knew it was regressive behavior. I reminded her that I would be home that night and that she’d see me in the morning. I reminded her that we had a lot of fun plans for the next couple of days.
I hugged her and kissed her and told her to behave before leaving to meet my friend at the train station.
I understood immediately why she acted the way she did. She’s not used to me going out without her. My rare social engagements are almost always planned for the weekends when she’s at her dad’s. I work from home, so she never has to worry about me not being here when she gets home from school. I’ve organized my life around my daughter’s schedule.
Things were different for me growing up. I was only a year older than my daughter when I became a “latchkey kid.” I woke every morning to an empty house and came home from school every afternoon to an empty house. My mom rarely made it to school functions because she had to work. I’ve been determined to do things differently with my daughter . . . and so far, I’ve been lucky enough to make it happen.
The rest of the weekend, my daughter was extra clingy. She practically sat on top of me on the couch. She refused to read her chapter books on her own and only wanted to read with me. I was happy to do that, but she kept asking me at the worst times . . . like while riding a crowded bus. I tried to explain that other people on the bus probably don’t want to hear about Pokémon.
On Monday morning she threw a fit because she had to read her books for school . . . on her own. I asked her what was going on. She said, “I just want to spend time with you.”
“We spend a lot of time together, Abby. Saturday we went to dinner and the bookstore. We walked around downtown and had frozen yogurt. Sunday we went to Marcus’ birthday party and stopped to get sushi on the way home. I love reading with you, but you need to read on your own too.”
She started to cry and explained how she was sad that I went out on Friday night and how she missed me. I hugged her. I told her that I miss her when she’s away too. I told her that she’s my favorite person in the whole wide world and that I love spending time with her more than anything else, but sometimes I like to see my friends too.
I asked her if she remembered when I worked at Rite Aid. She said she did. I asked her if she remembered how little time we got to spend together back then. She said she didn’t I told her it was hard because when I was off, she was in school and when she was off, I was at work. I told her that she’s the reason I quit my job and started working from home. I told her that what I wanted most was to spend more time with her.
We hugged and I wiped her tears away. We spent the rest of the morning playing cards and laughing.
It’s Thursday now and everything’s back to normal . . . despite the days I spent feeling guilty over things I know I shouldn’t feel guilty about. I suppose that never really goes away.