My Kids are SO Attached

In bringing up my gals, I've followed closely the ideals of attachment and natural parenting. I birthed them both gently and naturally at home, and held them skin-to-skin from their first breaths. I breastfed them on demand. We co-slept. I responded to their every cry and whimper. I wore them in a sling until my back nearly broke.

As my girls grew, I began feeding them healthy, whole foods; organic whenever possible. As their cries turned into words, I encouraged gentle communications. As they began to explore their world, I surrounded them with natural-material playthings and helped them to engage in imaginative play.

They each grew quickly from infant to toddler to little girl. I've adjusted and continued on my natural parenting path. I limit and monitor screen time. I strive to ensure they have lots of outdoor time with physical activity. We regularly commune with nature on walking trails and at the beach. We hug and snuggle a LOT. I keep a wealth of art supplies and musical instruments on hand for them to express their creativity. We work together in our vegetable and butterfly gardens. We read stories and poetry out loud every day and night. We work side-by-side in the kitchen to roll out cookies and toast up granola. I continually strive for mutual respect and, as the parent, I try and lead by positive example in all I do.

My parenting ideals have expanded beyond our home, too. We belong to a community of like- minded families that support one another and share the same basic values and ideals. Our children have played together since birth. As families, we've celebrated together, cried together and grown together. My girls have developed real relationships with both the other kids and the adults of this community. They know they are surrounded by people who support them unconditionally. We are a strong village and my girls are experiencing a deep sense of belonging to a community.

On every level, every day, almost every move I make is calculated to ensure my children know in a deep and real way that they are loved and safe. Their needs and desires are always heard, and most always met.

At ages 7 and 4, my girls are officially attached. So. Very. Attached.

In fact, I'm beginning to suffocate a bit from their close attachment. Lately, I've felt a growing desire to push them away a little. To create some space around us - some breathing room. I feel my children struggling with this too. They squabble with one another. They struggle more with unstructured time. And they NEVER stop demanding someone's attention.

So I've been asking myself, what's the next step in our journey together? I know it is my childrens' natural developmental work to detatch from their parents. And I wonder, at what point - and how- do I help facilitate this gradual process? I believe all the things I've done with them to-date have set the foundation for them to have confidence in themselves and their world so they can start peeking out at it and taking their first solitary steps within it. But how do I foster this independence while holding them close? How do I safely create more space for both them and myself without pushing them away?

We are all a bit on edge, feeling the pull of something new and different on the horizon. I'm looking now for ways to move forward on this new path...

If you've walked it already, I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Rose said...

I'm listening and can't wait to hear what others have to say.

Michelle said...

I hear ya. Such great questions and I am certain you will find your way on this. You're so open and inquisitive and those are great tools to have in life, especially when parenting.

There are so many differences, both minor and major, between two families, even when all the adults have similar ideas on how to make the best of this life. I would suggest starting with what-ever gets under your skin the most. Look at that particular dynamic and figure out ways to guide your children into more independence... they want it and need it, and so do you. Start with the small stuff, it will take time and you will know what they are ready for and when they are clinging on to their babyhood.

What I do is going to look so different from what ya'll do. And sometimes, there is no particular "guiding" involved, I pretty much decide, OKAY, IT'S TIME. And I cut the cord.

Sometimes, we all flail around like fish out of water for a while, but we also always find our way into a new rhythm.

I can tell you that Max still wants me sitting right next to him while doing his homework and they both jump at the opportunity to sleep in our bed {naturally}.

I still have to say "it is time for bed, take a shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, ect" and depending on their mood, I may put toothpaste on their brush or turn the shower on for them - but it's rare they request help in these activities. They groom on their own.

It is their lack of time understanding that I have help with.

Max and Bella play outside unsupervised. I can only assume their whereabouts and trust that they are where they told me they are going to be. Max's boundaries are larger than Bella's based on their maturity levels, but I assume by time Bella is 7, she'll be riding her bike around the neighborhood with her big brother who also started riding free at age 7, with his friend of the same age.

Teaching them independence has been more about me letting go/giving up control over their behavior and trusting their abilities than it has been about me guiding them. I struggle with this aspect of parenting - knowing when they are ready, making myself understand there is not a need to be there all the time or entertain them all the time [hello, guilt!]. I've also had to become aware of my own knee-jerk reactions to have well behaved children [as perceived by others] and let them fumble through social interactions without my assistance - they always find their way, I have discovered, and their strengths, when I have bit my tongue. Funny, so have I!

I don't know what your personal challenges are, but I'm sure you will figure all of this out as time goes on. If there is one thing I have found comfort in through the years, is that this is a learn as you go gig and... my mothering is good enough. Good luck! And do share when the hurdles are jumped!

Danielle said...

My older son, now 16, was also a *very* attached child. He was by our side much of the time until he turned about eight or nine. That said, he is now a fully engaged teenager with a great big exuberant, outgoing personality (very different from that quiet little boy). Our family continues to be very close, and that is where I really see all those early years of attachment pay off. In retrospect, I think that he just needed to have a bit of extra time until he was ready to dip his toes into the world. I think that the best piece of advice that I can offer to parents of younger kids is that they will change and change again and that the only disservice you can possibly do (as a loving parent) is to somehow peg them as one thing when tomorrow they may well be something else. I remember hearing a good friend (and terrific parent) talk about her daughter as the shy one, and watching that little girl listening to her and soaking up every word just as she soaked up the words "Oh, she doesn't like carrots so don't offer them to her." My own belief is that perhaps today she does not like carrots, but tomorrow she just might decide to be the child who loves carrots. Today she feels shy, but tomorrow she may not feel that way and how can we best give her the room to grow into other versions of herself? Just my random musings in response to your thoughtful post. Thanks for a lovely blog!