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Molly’s Return

Staring at my KIP calendar back in October, one line brought shivers down my spine: “December 22-January 4: NO SCHOOL WINTER BREAK.”

Like many a parent grown accustomed to child care, I looked at this line and could only think one thing, “What the heck am I going to do with him for two weeks?” This reaction is sad, it really is, but it is also the truth. Two whole weeks spending every waking moment with Simon? Before we finish the playroom? Two weeks! When he’s not tired from music, movement, arts, and storytime at school? When we can’t to go the park or the pool every day? I mean, just what in heaven’s name was I going to DO with him all day?

Fearing endless days of tantrums and tedium, I emailed Simon’s old nanny Molly to see if she’d be available to sit on her winter break from college. She was! We chose two days each of the two weeks, and I relaxed knowing that I didn’t have to figure out what to DO with him every single day for two weeks.

Molly arrived a little early, at 8:45 to be precise, for her first day with Simon, and as long as I live, I’ll never forget his reaction to seeing her. He looked at her and froze. Then he turned away and refused to look at her, holding my hand with a very firm grip as he bit his lower lip and looked in the exact opposite direction from Molly.

“Simon? Do you want to say hello to Molly?” I asked.


“Simon, silly, isn’t it great to see Molly again? Molly who was such a good friend to you and took such good care of you for so long?”


“Simon, honey, please say hello to Molly.”


For forty minutes this drama unfolded at an excruciating slow place, and for the first 15 or 20, Simon looked close to a breakdown as he held my hand, bit his lip, and looked over at walls and up at ceilings. I was feeling pretty panicky that Simon, who was clearly shunning Molly and experiencing very intense emotions, would continue to struggle for long enough that I’d have to send Molly home and cancel our sitting arrangement. It’s one thing when your kid gives a sitter a hard time and you are away—it’s another thing entirely when you are home to witness the hard time and weirdness.

After a 20-minute shun and a 20-minute détente watching Pooh on the couch, Simon finally unfroze and looked at Molly. By the one hour mark, he was chatting, squealing, and having a ball with her, just like old times. And the next three times Molly came to the house, Simon greeted her with hugs and kisses and was thrilled to be with her.

So what happened? I think he short-circuited. Not understanding that Molly had gone off to college and being distracted by preschool, I think all at once Simon had to deal with the agony of missing Molly, the thrill of seeing her again, and the hurt and anger of not understanding why she left him in the first place.  He wasn’t angry enough to leave her presence entirely, but his feelings were sufficiently strong that neither could he greet her as though no time had passed.

I’m hoping to have Molly back for her next break and for at least part of the summer. Her love for Simon seems real, and his for her is clear and true. I only wish I understood how to get Simon to understand where Molly is so that their next reunion need not be so wrenching for him. I feel as though I underestimated the intensity of Simon’s emotional life, and I’d very much like to respect it going forward.

Final coda: The ultimate irony of Molly’s return is that while I desperately needed her help last week, this past week I was fine. In fact, I may have preferred to not have a sitter at least one day, as between holidays, regular grandparent days, and days when Matt watched Simon while I painted the basement, I feel as though we’ve hardly spent any time together. But I would never have canceled on Molly, because I assume she needs the money for school and because her time is such a gift to Simon.

One Response to “Molly’s Return”

  1. blg says:

    I betcha that the next time through (Molly’s spring break) it will not happen in quite this way. Simon is a lot older now. Five months is like a fifth of his whole life!

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