I was nervous. This was the first time I was leaving Moppet alone with her nanny in the evening. It was just for a few hours, and I was only going to a neighbour's house, but I was still worried. Moppet's Papa was travelling, so I was going by myself.
Nanny has been with us for over 6 months, and knows Moppet's routine inside out, but that didn't stop me from repeating my instructions to her a dozen times over. I left all phone numbers - mine, the neighbour's landline, cell, and intercom - written on a postit and stuck on the phone.
Let her watch Barney if she wants, I said. If she doesn't sleep by 9, call me. If she cries for me, call me. If she doesn't drink her milk, call me. I'm in the next building. I can be back in 2 minutes.
At the party, I made my apologies in advance almost as soon as I walked in the door. It's the first time I've left Moppet with her nanny at night, I explained. She doesn't sleep without me, so I'll probably get called back around 9.00 pm. I hope that's ok.
Of course, my gracious hosts assured me. But don't worry about it, she'll be fine.
All through the evening, I waited for the call, sneaking looks at my phone, checking to make sure it was working, the network signal strong, and the ringer volume on max.
8.30...9.00...9.15...9.25... No call.
Finally at around 9.30, I cracked. I withdrew to the balcony and called home expecting to hear chaos in the background, only to be cheerfully informed by Nanny that Moppet had watched Barney, drunk her milk and gone to sleep by 9 without even asking for me.
I returned to the living room, telling myself that I could finally relax and enjoy the party, but despite the excellent company and delicious food, my heart just wasn't in it.
At around 11 pm, as I was leaving, my host asked about Moppet - was she doing ok? More than ok, I said, a touch ruefully. She didn't ask for me at all.
A father of 2 strapping teens himself, he nodded in understanding. None of us is as indispensable as we think we are, he said. And then, seeing the expression on my face, he added kindly- that's not such a bad thing, you know.
Probably not. But when I got back home, I sat by my baby's bed for a long time watching her sleep, bathed in the pale blue light of the night. Watching this little being, so long a part of me, now her own person, separate, unique. Watching, my head trying to comprehend how my heart could feel so fiercely proud and intensely sad at the same time.
This freedom I don't want. Yet.
I got in and lay down next to her, pulling her warm little body close. She stirred and murmered something I couldn't quite catch, then turned and snuggled into me.
Sshh sshh, I whispered. Mama's here, baby.