Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Peace Process

As I've mentioned a week or so ago, this is the week we have been dreading.   

On Friday our beloved au pair Violah leaves us to go home to South Africa.

That's tomorrow.  Yikes!

Maya is coping and by coping she is like a pendulum swinging back and forth between her usual happy, funny self and being an emotional wreck, not so much in a tearful way but just taking everything hard, being overly sensitive, extreme reactions, hello drama queen.  The slightest thing has her running upstairs followed by her silent sobs with mouth wide open, eyes closed and her reaching out to us for comfort, to let her know everything in her world is still okay.  

We're trying to find a balance between being very sensitive to her and recognizing this as the big deal it is in her life, without completely indulging her and letting every limit go and acting like it is the end of the world.  For me it's tough to know how much I should coddle her.  I want to reassure her but I don't want to over do it either, learning how to say goodbye and to learn that not everyone ends up being someone who is in your life forever is an important lesson to learn and an important thing to cope with.  

In situations like this, where Maya is going through a lot I often worry about how much she actually understands.  Does she truly understand  what is happening?  How will she cope with it?

I worry about it more than she does.  

It's tough.  

For the last week or two with Violah's leaving looming ever closer I have been thinking about how to best prepare and handle it with Maya.  On the one hand I want to acknowledge that this is a big moment in her life and not sweep it under the rug but on the other I don't want to make it so big that it becomes this huge thing for her, something paralyzing.  I want her to feel the sadness but not be overwhelmed by it. 

And I know that Maya takes a lot of her cues from me, how she will handle it depends greatly on how I handle it with her.  The easiest thing would be to pretend it is no big deal, but I also don't want Maya to repress her feelings, I want her to feel how she feels and in life, sadness is part of the equation.    

It's kind of like the thing when your kid falls down and hurts themselves, inside you are shocked and then panicked but all the while you force yourself to stay calm, because their reaction will mirror yours, they will panic if you do, but they will be calm and take it in stride if you do.

All week I have been playing a Maya/Violah version of that scene from Fiddler in the Roof in my head.  The one where Tevye learns that his daughter Hodel is leaving for Siberia to join her husband whose been arrested.  The finality of that moment, of saying goodbye to your child forever has such a hollow permanence to it.  

That's a lot of how I see this parting between Maya and Violah.

Then again, Tevye and Hodel didn't have Skype, or Facebook or You Tube.  

And no matter how much dirt you rub in it, how much in stride you pretend to take it, it is still a big deal. It is the first time someone will leave that she  may never see again, it is the first time that she will remember someone exiting her life.

So I've pretty much been taking your typical Jewish mother/Yenta approach all week, building it up, overcompensating, asking Maya too often if she's okay and explaining, explaining, explaining.

On Monday evening it seemed all Maya could talk about was Violah leaving so my approach seemed like the right one.  She spent the evening talking about how she is going to go back, how she won't see her again, but how we can Skype (which thankfully cushions the blow, how did people handle goodbyes before Skype and social networking).  Yesterday she told Violah that she has enjoyed Violah living here with us and that she is going to miss her and that even though she won't live here with us anymore that she will still love her.  

Cue waterworks.  

And in the hour or so before she went to bed, when we usually snuggle in my room before she heads off to her own room to sleep, she asked me about our new au pair Cynthia who will arrive in about a month or so.  She asked me if Cynthia liked to sing and dance, if I thought she would like to play with Thomas the Train and her stuffed animals.  I tried to reassure her that Cynthia will love to do all these things and that she will have just as much fun with Cynthia as she did with Violah and even though she will miss Violah and it won't be the same with Cynthia, that it will still be a lot of fun.  

This morning I was going through my usual routine of grilling asking her if she was feeling sad and telling her everything would be okay, pre-supposing that she was feeling sad that today is really Violah's last day with us.  

Maya looked at me and said in a somewhat exasporated voice, "mommy, everything is going to be okay, I'm going to be sad and miss Violah and think about her, but you and daddy will be here and it will be okay."

She is making her peace with it.

And we are all sad about Violah's departure, it's been a lovely beautiful year having her as part of our family.  She has cared for our daughter with love and kindness, patience and laughter.  I know Violah is responsible for a lot of the maturity and progress Maya has experienced this year.  I will forever be grateful to her for what she has brought to our daughter and our family.  

We will see what happens tomorrow, after a lot of consideration we have decided that Maya and I will not accompany Violah to the airport, I don't know how Maya is going to react but I feel like if she has a meltdown, the airport will only make things worse, not only will I have to deal with Maya's sadness but potentially a scene and judgmental people around are not the situation I want for Maya.  

We shall see what happens.  


  1. I think you're right in not taking Maya to the airport.

    I also left a comment on FB. Perhaps for your next nanny, you can try and get an extended visa based on Maya having special needs. It seems counter productive to change caretakers every year. It's too late for Violah, but perhaps for next year...

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