Oscar went to the sitter’s for the first time today.

all day.  all day.

i had the whole day, from nine-thirtyish until four, to myself.  at home.  around town.  i was a single white female just catching up on things, making calls, dropping off job applications, running out to pick up milk, weeding a small corner of the disaster that is my garden, even – no shit – shopping for clothing that doesn’t look like it should have spit-up on it somewhere.  doing stuff that takes two hands and is messy.  going places that aren’t stroller friendly.

i had no schedule but my own.  it was glorious.

it was the first time in nearly thirteen months…not counting the trip to New York, which was also glorious but in a different, less mundane way.

it was better than i’d expected.

and it was long, at the same time.  filling the time was not a problem…i still have a list of twelve petty but necessary and thus to my sad, stodgy brain satisfying little future accomplishments that i didn’t even have time to get to, but as some of them i haven’t gotten to for months now i shall not fret.  it was the nature of the time.  the all-to-myselfness.  it was like toffee, all warm and stretchy and pulled out to wild lengths of buttery indulgence and every now and then i wondered if i was having too much of it to be good for me.  because i am no longer used to commanding my time, and i felt sinful.

and i worried, absently, a little refrain of anxiety just under my skin, under my heel, all day, trying to assert itself.  it wondered whether O was napping peacefully or crying himself into a frenzy in a strange place, all alone.  it fretted about the big screen tv that was blaring away at his sitter’s house when we arrived this morning.  it reminded me, several times, that there is a dog at the sitter’s house, too, and that dogs bite children.  it wasn’t an unreasonable voice, but rather a statistical type of one, incarnating all my fears and all the rational, informative panic behind them into a little song i carried around with me all day, in my diaper bag.  (yeh, i still carry the diaper bag when i don’t have the baby with me.  it’s hott.  and i’m afraid to unpack it or switch for fear of what might be hiding in there).

i had to keep stifling that little voice in order to keep myself from taking off at a run, and hurtling – okay, sprint-waddling – the whole six blocks to the sitter’s to rescue my son from…

from me.

from my terror that he will be hurt someday.  from my knowledge that he will be hurt someday.  from all the things that bring hot tears to my eyes and make me gag on my own utter helplessness to stop them, to see the right ones coming, to throw myself in their path and protect him.  they’re things that i never let myself think about and don’t acknowledge at the conscious level, almost ever, because i am afraid that if i start i will never stop and then poor Oscar will grow up in some kind of fear-ridden hothouse and be damaged more by me than he ever would have been by the world.

i usually do okay quashing the fear. but today, with O in the care of strangers for more than a couple of hours, for the first time, i couldn’t silence the little voice completely.  so i sang it.  i let it play across my tone-deaf ear, like a bad Liberace, and turned the litany of barely articulated fears into a little song, a hum that buzzed around with me all day at a dull roar.  the singing kept it from escalating, from gaining ground on me, from paralyzing me.

and somewhere in the middle of the afternoon, while i was noticing how irksome it is that all this year’s ‘stylish’ tops seem to make me look like i’m still pregnant, i also noticed exactly what it was that was going around in my head to the tune of “The Lonely Goatherd”.

for a second, the panic stood up and grabbed my attention again, and i wondered if i should listen to it.  if a Good Mother would listen to it.

then i shook my head.  i know, from my long career as a daughter, that part of being a Good Mother is letting your children go, little by little, step by step.  this was our first big one, O & i, the first leap beyond the protection of family, the first foray into the scary, wonderful world of “out there” in all its diversity and fascination and sometimes callousness.  turns out Oscar had a grand day.  when i showed up ten minutes early to pick him up, he was happy and snuggly and content and his caregiver seemed delighted with him and he wasn’t even all that thrilled to see me, and he didn’t want to leave the dog behind.

and i realized, this is what it’s going to be like for the rest of my life. this is the song that will buzz in my head every time he steps away from me to go further out into the world on his own.  it is how i will keep from running after him and smothering him, to keep myself from choking on my fear.

it’s the first love song i’ve ever written.