Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ramblings of an attached mama...

The other day as I was dropping Jericho off at the church nursery (new church, new nursery, new nursery workers...) he clung to me like a desperately afraid baby monkey. This has been our usual Sunday morning routine for the last month or so, even at our normal church. It didn't help that we were greeted by an unusually outgoing (and slightly pushy) nursery volunteer (this woman was a vibrantly outgoing woman who either owned her own daycare or was some higher up at a daycare- I couldn't really pay attention over Jericho's terrified wails. Either way she was apparently an 'expert' on my child).

She kept assuring me of three things: 1. this is normal behavior for a toddler 2. it hurts the mama more than it hurts the child 3. I just have to have faith that this would work. For a third time, she attempted to detach Jericho from my arms when I informed her that I will also be accompanying Jericho.

"Is it OK if I come in with him to get him used to things?"

I almost felt uncomfortable saying those words. I was basically telling her that I didn't agree with her by staying. She assured me that it was fine and Jericho and I sat on the floor. It wasn't long before his toddler curiosity took over and he was exploring every nook and cranny of the toy box. Then snack time came. Jericho lit up! He got to sit in a 'big boy' chair, drink out of a 'big boy' cup and munch a huge stack Ritz crackers (*shiver* I still have to remind myself that once won't hurt him!). He was as happy as a pumpkin in a patch when I decided that if he was going to let me leave it was now. I gave him a kiss, made one SMALL movement for the door when panic struck. You would have thought I was leaving him in the care of Chucky or something.

I kept walking. I walked up a hall echoing with the sound of Jericho yelling for me and found a clock. 5 minutes, I decided. I'd give him a bit of time to chill before going back in. I told the lady to get me in a heart beat if he cries. Or if it's a constant struggle to keep him from crying. But honestly, I didn't trust this lady to come and get me if he didn't stop crying (because she considered that 'normal' toddler behavior). 3 minutes later: quiet. My mama 'red alert' was still flashing in my head as I joined Jaden in the church service and tried to pay attention. Before long I heard Jericho cry again and ran into the hall.

Silence. "Hmmm. I'd feel really dumb scooping my child out of there now while he's quiet" I thought. Plus I didn't want to give away the fact that this lady was making me super uneasy. I went back into the service. Before I could even begin to focus Jericho started up again. UGH. This time I went all the way back to the nursery and scooped my down in the dumps boy up. He clung to me tighter than I think I ever felt him cling. He was clearly terrified. My teeth were clenched as the worker reminded me of the "big three" again ("this is so normal and it hurts you worse than him. You have all these emotions and all he is thinking is that he misses you. You just gotta have faith....") He calmed down and I was able to think clearly again. For a third time she reminded me that this is normal and then had the guts to ask if I believed her. I couldn't believe what came out of my mouth:

"No. I don't. We run things a little different. We practice attachment parenting" I was so shaky as those words came out.

Her response? "OH!" and a bit of an eye roll. She turned her body back towards the children she was painting with but her head still facing me (if that makes sense). Even after I assured her that I full heartedly believe in discipline as God has commanded us, I still felt judged. Ignorant, almost. On the spot. I KNEW what she was thinking:

"NO WONDER this child is so clingy".

I almost felt like a failure. The words of books I've read flew into my head. "A child who is always attached to his mother will develop separation anxiety when left in another's care."

Honestly, though, Jericho has been teething painfully (we're almost done, though! Hooray!), not sleeping well and left with babysitters in our home a lot lately while I've been doula-ing. But the nursery lady didn't know that. My feelings went back and forth between "Who does she think she is?!?!" and "Maybe I suck at this parenting thing".

Baby J and I hung out, playing with toys, interacting with the other toddlers and dutifully avoiding eye contact with the lady. I was on edge. I felt like I had to prove that I'm not a completely indulgent mother. Why?

Toward the end of church, another toddler started having a hard time. She started by getting angry but eventually she became just really down in the dumps. She wanted to be left alone to hide behind a chair in the corner. The other children circled around her, curious and wondering if she was alright. Eventually they all wondered off to play with toy cell phones and puzzles but Jericho remained. He watched this crumpled up little girl quizzically and finally looked back over at me. "She's very saaaad, Jericho" I informed him.

He was clearly distraught and with upturn eyebrows, he approached the little girl with his arms out, fingers reaching, ready for an embrace. It was so sweet.

And THAT is what I labor for! Jericho clearly took alarm at this other child's tears. We take crying very seriously in this house and it boosted my confidence to see Jericho do the same. I'm not saying it's 100% that Jericho is so sensitive because we're sensitive to him. He was born with a quiet, gentle heart. I am saying that THAT is the type of behavior that I want to CULTIVATE in my son.

Children love to model and will grow up imprinted with what they are taught in their upbringing. I crave that my son would love others and take their pain very seriously. I desire that he would be brimming with empathy and selflessness. So this is the care I model to him.

My goal isn't to forge a perfectly compliant, self reliant toddler. My goal is to look at the BIG picture. I want to raise a caring, responsible, Jesus loving ADULT. Besides, where in the bible is independence ever encouraged?

I wish I would have said that just because it's normal behavior for a toddler to be distraught at a daycare does not mean that it's healthy or desirable. Of course it's normal for a toddler to miss his family. Plus you can't really compare a daycare setting to a stay at home setting.

I'm not perfect. Here's my confession: I've told him plenty of times in the heat of (usually PMS related) emotion to "shut up already!" and have days where I'm just empty. I'm working on that. No, God's working on that. I'm working on showing him the love of Christ, more, by praying, reading the word and by my actions to others. I struggle with the whole empathy thing, myself, but I'm a work in progress.

Back to the "attachment vs independence" thing, here is a response I wrote to another mama 3 weeks ago:

"Being close and being even constantly carried does NOT create clingy babies. I can attest to that from personal experience as well as scientific data. It creates secure babies who are confident enough to 'leave the nest' and are more autonomous at younger ages.

"There's been studies done on 'primitive' cultures (Africa, South America, etc) who literally do not let they're baby touch the ground until they're 12 weeks old. However, independence is not only a convenience in such cultures, but a necessity. The people in these cultures face very real threats to their daily life and most do not live past 50. Clingy toddlers and young children would threaten the entire community. In a study done comparing the carried primitive babies to the kept at arm's length British babies, the African babies showed more daring independence at a much younger age than the Brits. I think the average difference was a year. This is not the only study, just the one I remember enough to quote.

"Also, carried babies have stronger necks and earlier motor functioning skills. They have advanced vestibular development and much, MUCH lower cortisol (stress hormone) in their systems. Babies were made to be carried. I have read many, many, MANY scientific child development books but my absolute favorite was the Vital Touch. It points you to the different studies that support these findings but also talks about random baby things that are super cool to read about. Like: what exactly does it mean when a baby boy plays with his 'junk'? Why do American's hum the same musical note when asked to spontaneously hum while the French hum a completely different note?"


  1. Hey Heather, I know NOTHING about parenting or really the different styles but I was reading your post and remembered a site that I referenced while going to massage school about the effects of touch.

    I thought you may find it interesting as well.

  2. Hey Hethir thanks for sharing!! Olivia sleeps with me and she is quite daring and adventurous! You still go to my church or did you switch?

  3. Cool! Thanks, Bree! I love that type of stuff! Jessica, we're still going to Lake Stevens but I sort of want to branch out a bit. It would be nice to find somewhere closer, too! :-)

  4. Can I just tell you how amazing it feels to know I'm NOT the only mom out there who says "just shut up already!" when I'm burned out and the little one just keeps going!

    I always feel like such crap and a terrible mom afterwards! It's nice to know that I'm not th only one who lets it slip every once in a while!

  5. Jessica, you're sooooooooooo not the only one!! And I've even said worse. But I think you'd see me in a totally different light if I was THAT honest! HAHA! It really does make you feel awful! I especially hate it when my hubby and I fight in front of Jericho. Ugh.

    One thing I've been trying lately (which has seemed to work) is by saying (in a teeth-gritted tone if I really need to just let some steam out) is something like, "Jericho, mama is in a REALLY bad mood right now and I know it's not fair but I need you to..." For some reason honestly telling him about my frustration releases it a bit. But I think it's totally normal to slip!!


  6. Good for you for standing up for how you want to parent. As parents we are never perfect but we try to be the best parents we can. I know that I get frustrated and I try not to beat myself up about it. Walk the path and find your way.

  7. Love the post but I have a very hard time reading white text on a black background (it gets blurry) so I had to skim the 2nd half.