THE ATTACHMENT TO THE ATTACHMENT PHASE
In Dr. Spock’s “Baby and Child Care” book, his famous opening line states, “You know more (about parenting) than you think you do.” Naturally, that is exactly what I needed to read when I couldn’t find a designated chapter on the attachment phase for toddlers. As I poured my second cup of coffee, sat down in silence at my desk and began my research, I was still shaking from pre-school drop off. Perhaps I should have water instead of coffee I uttered under my breath to my anxious self. I then continued on talking out loud … “they’re going to be fine…they won’t even remember they cried at pre-school drop off.” At least that’s what I told myself.
I think when Dr. Spock wrote his “baby bible” as my mother called it and chose to open his book with immediate credibility to the parents who might be reading his detailed baby bible, he did us all an enormous favor. I haven’t read this book in some time, but after the last 3 weeks of screaming at pre-school drop off, I had to go to this book for re-entry. And what I found was indeed not was I looking for, but what was looking for me.
I’m a worrier by nature. I just am. I sometimes hate this about my personality because I tense up way too much in life over the little things. And when it comes to my children, well, you might as well call me a gorilla mom. Nurturing, and keeping them close to the nest, a gorilla mom loves hard. She also worries and drops everything to protect like most moms would do. You could call me too tense, or too worried, but that’s my nature and they’re my babies. And that’s just how I mother. Sure I could get better and loosen up a bit and yes I’m working on that, but like the gorilla mom, I go with my instincts. And I’m pretty sure most mom’s would agree. Dr. Spock sure does. Which leads me to this.
The attachment phase
It’s not any parent’s favorite issue to sort out during early childhood. The attachment phase is rough. Rough on them, rough on us. Combined with an inability to state how they feel, toddlers over react when they don’t get what they want (wine please) and the world comes down like a tidal wave (tears and more wine please). And attachment is different for every child and parent. For example, my sister just reassured me her middle boy still whines when she goes out to dinner hugging her wanting to be near her, while her oldest and youngest could care less (oh great this continues! sigh). And yet parenting styles are different for every parent. Like, do you let them scream when you drop off at pre-school and are you the worst mother in the school as every parent watches you hand over your screaming twin toddlers who won’t let go of your leg saying “Mama no!”? Should we stop breastfeeding at 1 or 2? Co-sleeping? It's for the birds! I’d rather shoot my eye out. These are all opinions. And choices. Also, this is and always has been a subject of hot debate. How we parent. How attached we are to our babies and therefore how attached they become to us. For instance, although I’m much more like the gorilla mom rather than the cheetah mom, I wouldn’t dare breastfeed my child till he’s 4 or 5. But I don’t judge the gorilla mom for this, why would I? Life already is a shit show and we have so many added pressures on the daily including handling the attachment phase, who has time for judgement? If that baby wants his momma, breastfeed away.
We love our babies and we want what's best for them. And so we want answers. I think as mothers (and women) we tend to look outside for our answers. In books, on the internet, in friends and our family, in wherever we can find answers. We are research queens. As author Glennon Doyle voiced in a podcast this week, “when I’m at home with the kids and I walk into a room of boys and girls and I say are you guys hungry?, all the boys say “yes.” “The girls will say nothing, and just look at each other. Yeah. But men have been trained to trust themselves.” I froze. This got me mad. And got me thinking. (More on this topic in an upcoming post). Glennon went on to say “Is the thing more going inside to your own intuition and where God speaks to you, is that the place to find your wisdom?” Duh. And Hallelujah. Book closed. Glennon, I love you. And Dr. Spock, I love your book, but today, this momma of 3 is closing the book and going inside. Going to the source. Me. Just as you presumed. So thank you. And here’s why.
Mothering is instinctual
Mama gorilla ain’t got time for amazon and same day delivery of parenting books. She has to figure it out. And according to zoo experts, after some observation, this is why the mama gorilla gets so much love for her mothering style. The #1 spot for mothering in fact. It’s because she begins and ends her parenting with love and care. And instinct. She trusts her instincts and if she feels the pre-school isn’t a good fit for her sons, she might pull them out. And if she feels her child isn’t doing well with a certain teacher, she looks into it. Way into it. If she walks away from the bedroom while the 28 month old screams because he doesn’t want to take his nap, she takes a breath and lets it go.
So the next time you’re feeling all out of sorts from your toddler defying you because he is struggling to find independence and you’re struggling to find sanity, remember this. There will be many hurdles to jump over from pre-school to freshman year of college, and learning to run with your instincts will make all future endeavors with your children, a little bit of a lighter load and a lot easier for the unforeseeable future of parenting.
Because after all, whether it’s the attachment phase of toddlers, or your son moving out of your home and into a university on his own, it’s a never ending, heart racing all inclusive jungle and if we can just make it easier on ourselves to trust ourselves and our motherly instincts God gave us, the attachment to the attachment phase might fade away, or might not seem as heart wrenching as mine did this morning. Note to self.