My 3-year-old daughter had never been away from me for more than half a day, until I went to the Hand in Hand Parent Retreat this year. She stayed with her father in a hotel close by so I could spend the nights with them. But during the day I was away.
My daughter did great during those days, but when I came back on Sunday she was “bouncing off the walls.” Nothing was right. I decided to do some special time with her to reconnect. The play started kind of slow with us dressing and undressing her doll. Then, we moved on to the bedroom and jumped on the bed. My daughter was the Mama, her doll was the child and I was the Papa. All of a sudden she threw her doll on the ground, telling her to go away.
I picked up the doll and had the doll say, “I want Mama.” My daughter said that Papa needed to comfort her. So I comforted the doll until she was done “crying,” then I let the doll jump on the bed again.
My daughter took her, jumped with her, and threw her down again with the same words. Inside myself I felt guilty, thinking that my daughter felt like I pushed her away and I somehow wanted to interfere with the game and make it all good. But I held my tongue and tried to stay present and give her the opportunity to play her way through her experience.
We replayed this game several times until it shifted into me being the child and she being my mother going to a seminar. I pretend cried every time she “left” and she would tell me that she would be back ,etc. My daughter would leave the room and come back at “night” and put me to sleep.
During the afternoon I could tell she felt a little more connected, but she was still disturbed and whiney. That night before bedtime, she finally cried and told me how much she missed me and the next day she was all herself again.
~ Sa Budnitz, a Parenting by Connection mom in Boulder, CO