Your Kids Won't Leave You Alone? Good!
We all have those 'lock yourself in the bathroom' moments to gain a semblance of silence and retreat when living in a busy household, but let's look beyond those frazzled instances . Are you finding that your kids won't leave you alone? Good! Here's why.
Many years ago now, I was at a big holiday gathering and my nine-month-old daughter was crying. I had left the room to get myself a glass of water. As I came back in the room, she cried all the harder and scooted toward me, whereupon I picked her up and soothed her. My Maria buried her head into my neck, sobbing at our separation, which must have lasted an agonizing minute. I held her for sometime before she calmed, feeling her little clenched fist around my blouse.
I looked up to see another mother looking at me. “My little guy is very independent and doesn’t mind at all when I leave the room. He is very confident and I don’t have to worry about him crying or anything. As a matter of fact, I don’t think he even notices when I leave or come back.”
Whoa! Is that real independence or simply a child used to separation?
As any new mom can attest, when confronted in situations like this, I went through a quick checklist of self doubt. Was I being a good mama to my new baby? As I held Maria, I went through a second list in my mind. The attribute list of the kind of mama I wanted to be and the one phrase I say to myself when I doubt my parenting.
Taking stock, I realized that I knew some of the behind the scenes story with that mom/son relationship. At four weeks old, her little baby was placed in daycare from 8:00 AM until 6:00PM every day. That went on until he was five years old. At that point, he entered Kindergarten, and each afternoon went to after school care until 6PM. His bedtime was 7PM.
As years went by, I observed that once he was in full-time school, he attended an after-school care program until the age of twelve, at which point he minded himself throughout his remaining childhood until a parent came home around 7PM. He is now an adult who rarely communicates with his now divorced parents.
Indeed, he is very independent, but he is also without an anchor, without traditions, without a sense of home, without strong roots, and without attachment. The most common thing I hear from that mom today is “Who knows what he is up to?”.
This isn’t a story of my judgement upon this woman. This situation actually breaks my heart because I know there's a better way.
Instead, this is a story of what close bonds look like.
Babies are supposed to care about being left alone. They are created to look for Mommy and Daddy and draw security from their presence. Little ones are designed to call out, cry, cling, be shy, want proximity, and regularly touch base with Mom. From this secure time, when they are responded to, and attended to, comes authentic independence.
It is attached independence.
It is a security that comes out of trust, assurance, attentiveness, and yes, lots of contact. Your child is not meant to naturally leave you alone. A time will come when they, in confidence, are not concerned about separation. They will have a self-assurance that launches them into life, comfortable in their own skin, well anchored, and strong in the face of challenges.
Why? Because you’ve been there all along.
Why? Because you are still there.
It isn’t the kind of confidence that free falls. It isn’t the kind of self-assurance that has no ties, or is shallow, or fleeting. Attachment makes bonds that never sever.
If your little one looks for you, needs you, finds comfort in your arms, hides behind you, lays his head on you, reaches for you, or pops over to you for even brief moments within the busy-ness of play or distraction, good for you! Something is going very well.
How are you building attachment to your child?