It’s funny that the more I have written on raising babies and toddlers and little children, the more I realize the answer is “know thy child” and “trust your mother heart”. It’s almost always the answer-which is such a blessing to realize because it means there is little use for experts in this equation-we are the experts in most cases, about our own children. If I wracked my brain I could give 1,000 really good examples of me finding this out in real life through my own experiences.
Janey was the clingiest baby and toddler to me-one could say it was (is, because she still is sometimes) a part of her personality. I could also contribute it to her birth order-being the last of six, and seeing everyone walk in and out of the door so many times a day, with friends visiting also, and then not understanding why some siblings were gone for weeks and months at college, and then came home only to leave again. Imagine that in a little one’s head! Most likely it is a combination of both.
But it is what it is-she was velcro to me day and night. I sometimes wondered if this was ‘healthy’, but I didn’t wonder much-because of my experiences and also because I had bigger fish to fry, like laundry and meals, to “wonder” much about something so little.
Today there is SO much advice on this I feel-and pressure! Preschools now offer programs that begin at 18 months, and I’ve been told by the young mom crowd that this can feel very competitive to them-what if all these kids have a head up on learning and their child “falls behind”? (I felt the same as a new mom and when I look back I regret early preschool that I enrolled my oldest in so much-it was so traumatic for something so completely unnecessary, as few times as it happened.) Moms feel forced into it, and although some little ones are just fine, there is a lot of tears and fears in others that are just supposed to be ignored as the child “gets used to it”. Independence is stressed so much, along with socialization (for babies!?) and “getting used” to being away from mom.
I think though, security is the rock of real independence and babies and toddlers need that rock to come back to, some more often than others. Trust is so important. And most important all of these little people we are talking about are so different. And rushing them and pushing them and wishing they were someone else (comparisons!) is not good for them or healthy for us. Sometimes it is just purely heartbreaking for all involved. And yes, we all “get used” to things in life, but that does not mean these things are the right things to get used to, or don’t create more problems that come out in other ways. It is good and healthy for little ones to be home with mom-they aren’t missing a thing that can’t be replicated at home.
My friend told me a story about her sister’s little girl who sounded so much like Janey, even more so! Never left her side well past preschool age, and was just always “right there” were ever the mom turned. The term “velcro baby” would be used correctly here and it took her a long long time to grow out of it. People would offer advice mainly about how to get her “away” and on her own as quickly as possible. Her mother just let her be-let her be who she was and enjoyed the time she knew would end one day (as she is a mom of many and very wise). And this velcro baby, toddler and child is now a young adult, living and traveling all over the WORLD on her own. If that isn’t true independence I don’t know what is.
Janey has grown so much this past year-waiting a year for preschool after a rough start last year has worked so well for her-she is so confident and happy about it every day. I can see her independence in all things grow as she makes sense of the world and what her siblings are doing and where everyone is and truly can now understand it all. I see her trying new things, and sometimes deciding not to do so just yet, but just to hold back and observe. As the youngest she gets the benefit of me knowing how fast these years go and that there should be NO RUSH in those years, but just deep appreciation for who she is and what stage of development she is as she becomes a lovely person-exactly who God meant her to be.