“Don’t you think it’s time you work on getting him less attached?”
This is a comment I’ve come to expect right around the time my kids start crawling really well. It’s as if their moving is a signal to others that the time for independence has come and I’m not doing my part. With my first, it was a childless church nursery worker who insisted I needed to quit letting my daughter nurse on demand if ever I wanted to sit through a church service uninterrupted. With my second it was a friend who didn’t think it was normal for babies to keep nursing after one. Most recently, it was a family member who felt like frequent babywearing was unhealthy, especially past six months.
In her opinion, he needed to learn to be OK with being apart from me.
Honestly, this line of thinking doesn’t even make sense to me. It’s not like my son never plays with his toys or spends time crawling around, chasing his sisters. He loves to be near me, but he also loves to play.
Of course, even if he was clinging to me around the clock, I still don’t understand why a baby being attached to their parent is a problem. Since the moment each of my children were born, since I heard their cry for the very first time, there was something in me that felt like a compulsory need to be near my children. Even now, as I watch my ten-month-old coast on our furniture and tumble as he tries his hardest to take his first steps, I want to respond to his cries. To hold him when he needs me. To cover his cheeks in kisses.
I don’t understand why anyone would urge mothers to ignore these instincts. It’s pretty obvious to me that mothers were made with an natural urge to attached to their children and that children were created with the need to be attached to their mothers. It is all wrapped up in their survival until they are ready to take care of themselves. I simply don’t think that honoring those instincts hinders or hurts them in any way.
Of course, I’m not some super mom who never gets tired of being my kids’ person. I don’t always want to be near my children. Just like any other mother, I get tired of being touched. I grow weary of rocking my babes to sleep or lying in bed with my preschoolers when they’re having a rough night. I do my best to honor my own need for space while honoring their need for connection. It isn’t an easy balance to strike, but it is certainly worth the outcome.
I believe my older children are appropriately independent, confident and happy children because I leaned into their need for attachment. That strong belief that I’m a safe place in the world is, in my opinion, foundational to them being brave kids.
In fact, the research is pretty clear that secure attachment is exactly what a young child needs. Children who don’t bond with their caregivers are often said to have attachment disorders that make them unempathetic or unkind or even violent. And kids who do have a strong connection with their caregivers are more likely to meet their appropriate developmental milestones and to grow into healthy adults.
I’m not willing to let the criticism of those who are out of touch with my parenting choices distract me from my mission as a mom. I’m not willing to back down from my calling to love my children simply because someone else thinks I’m doing it wrong and you shouldn’t either. Follow your instincts. Keep lavishly loving on your kids. Keep responding to their need for affection. It isn’t always easy, but you won’t regret it.