My four year old still needs me. She still really needs me. Or my husband. To help her feel safe and comfortable. To be by her side while she experiences life and all it has to offer. So much is so new for her still, and so much is daunting and exciting and scary and amazing all at the same time. She needs me in the night when she has a scary dream or just wakes up and needs an arm to snuggle on. Most days she dresses herself now but sometimes she needs my help. Most meals she feeds herself now but she still wants help sometimes.
Recently she tried a music class on her own because she wanted to, but she only went once and didn’t want to go back. She tried a dance class on her own because she wanted to, but quickly she decided she wanted us to watch each class. She tried an art class on her own because she wanted to and she was ok with us being ‘right outside’.
She’s only four. And next year she will only be five. And one day she will only be twelve. If she still needs me right outside when she’s twelve then I will be there. If she wants to sit on my lap when she’s thirteen, she can. If she’s 24 and visiting us at home and wants to sleep with me in our bed then I will welcome her.
None of these things mean she isn’t going to grow into an independent, self-assured, confident woman. She will. It’s why we parent the way we do. To support her and be her safety net so that she can try anything she wants, and know without a shadow of a doubt that she is loved despite any success or failure. Loved and respected.
I know many attachment parents worry maybe they have ‘done something’ to their kids and made them needier, made them clingier, made them ‘too attached’.
So attachment parents, here’s the truth:
You HAVE done something. You have allowed their feelings. You have stood by them when they are uncomfortable. You have held their hands and their bodies when they cry, hurt or need to feel safe. You have respected them as people. You continue to do this every day.
You also haven’t done something. You haven’t pushed them to be someone they are not. You haven’t forced them to swallow back their pain, hurt, anger and discomfort. You haven’t left them to figure out their big, scary emotions on their own.
And there are things you may have done. You may have yelled. You may have been mad. You may have said things you didn’t mean to say. None of us are perfect. Many of us fail ourselves on a daily basis. But we also strive to be better. We know who we want to be for our kids and we work damn hard to try and be that.
And of course we all can’t keep our kids with us each and every day until they are ready to go off on their own. Some of our kids have to go to daycare. Or to school. Some want to go and some don’t. Some are ready to be away from their parents when they are tiny, some aren’t ready for many more years. Life is hard and the choices we have to make as parents are not always straightforward or easy.
But our kids are going to be OK. Because it’s about how we treat them and their emotions around every experience, including separation from us. We empathize, we do whatever we can to make them feel safe, we let them NEED us. There will be no other person in our lifetime who needs us in the same way our children do. So just be there. Be needed. Hold their hands and their bodies. Let them hide behind your legs and sit on your lap. Hug them, cry with them, accept their tears and their anger. Give their big, messy emotions all the space they need to exist.
I’m not going to tell you it’s easy, it isn’t.
But I will tell you: it’s worth it.
My future strong-willed, confident, brilliant, beautiful daughter is all the proof I need. I am her Mama, and she needs me.