My teenage daughter just left for a week to Kiawah Island with her best friend, her dad, and stepmother. As they pulled away from our driveway to go to the airport, I fought back tears, knowing that it would be easier for her if she looked back and saw me smiling.

Many people call me “overprotective,” but I don’t care, and it does not inform my parenting. My sweetie was born six weeks early, and though she spent only a few hours in the NICU, she did emerge highly sensory sensitive. I had to endure years of people telling me to just “let her deal with it” and “you’re babying her” as I adapted and modified her environment to assist her to ease into the world.

I will forever be indebted to two people: the former OT (Occupational Therapist) at the elementary school where I work and my daughter’s 3-year-old preschool teacher. They were the only two people in our lives who had answers and support, not judgment and moral advice. The OT informally diagnosed her with sensory processing disorder (which, up until that point, I had never heard of) and put her on the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol. It changed her/our lives.

The brushing protocol consisted of three times daily dry-brushing of her arms and legs with a surgical scrub brush, along with joint compressions. I watched the relief and anxiety wash away day after day as we used the protocol. She started gagging less on food and started requesting Lunchables and fruit snacks—just like those her preschool friends had in their lunches. No more mandarin oranges and cottage cheese. She began to wear shorts and short sleeves. Prior to that, when I’d try to force her into summer clothing for the summer months, she would scream bloody murder, crying that the “air was hurting” her. She began to sleep through the night. Prior to that, she would wake 5-6 times a night crying for me.

And then there was “Miss Angela,” her angel of a preschool teacher. I still get choked up when I write her name. This woman loved who my daughter was. She accepted her copious tears of missing me, let her carry her yellow blankie everywhere for the entire school day, and knew that time, love, and patience (and the brushing protocol) would allow her to grow beyond those needs. And my daughter did.

And now, I am here, practicing staying—practicing for when she goes off to college. She told me last night, she was most worried that I would just be in a corner, crying, not eating or drinking. I hate that she thinks that of me… Is that who I am to her?

So this week, I need to return to my “before kid” life. Where will I go? What will I do? I need to have stories for her so that she knows it’s okay to leave.

And I need to do those things so I know it’s okay for her to leave and for me to stay.

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6 responses to “Mary McKnight”

  1. Carl Oiler says:

    Maybe take sometime and study to learn about what mindfulness meditation has done for so many of us.I know for myself I felt lost and didn’t know who I was.After my kids and my life love was gone I was stuck with this person I didn’t know.Mindfulness meditation help me discover who I was from the inside-out and open up many different things that I now enjoy. This is your life and you should enjoy every little bit of it….God Bless.

  2. Ted Harper says:

    I enjoyed your story. I hope you take the opportunity to pursue some of your interests. My two daughters are away at college. I’m so happy to see them thrive. And, amazingly, they call everyday! My brothers ask when I’ll let them go; hopefully, never. Even though one daughter is thousands of miles away, it’s an opportunity for me to travel to another side of the country. I drove a car out to my daughter and planned the route to stop at a museum every day along the route. I like to take walks. I’ve challenged myself to walk a half-marathon (in distance, not competitively). Two years later I haven’t yet, but I enjoy the process of getting there. It’s eight miles round trip to the farmers market. I like to go to art museums. I drove a car out to my daughter and planned the route to stop at a museum every day along the route. I’m not necessarily returning to my before-kid-life, because I’ve grown and continue to grow through the interests of my daughters, and I’m thinking of myself in the future; I’m trying to learn to program in Python. I’d like to be able to use those skills on behalf of a non-profit organization. I hope you won’t think life is behind you. Take care of yourself and show your daughter how to keep moving a life forward in a positive way. She’ll need your good example and will enjoy participating in your achievements as you do in hers.

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  4. Mary Fung says:

    Start making pretty colorful single dishes and Instagram them. Your daughter will be able to “like” your beautiful pics. She’ll know that you are creating magic in the kitchen and not crying in the corner. You need to eat anyways .. BigHug? It’s gonna be OK.

  5. Marlana Sherman says:

    This was such a touching story. Thanks for sharing!

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