Friday, March 23, 2012

Holding Hands

My daughter doesn't like to hold my hand. She wishes to be free to go where she wants, when she wants and decide how fast or slow she gets there. This is very troubling to a mother because I need her not to decide she wants to go into the middle of a busy street!! So, Smug-Baby often gets a choice, she can be carried or she can walk holding my hand. 99% of the time, she chooses to hold my hand, but she very often tries to press her luck and pull away and we have to repeat her choices again.

Why does she do this? Most children I have seen tend to stick close to their mother's when in an unfamiliar place or situation and get very concerned when they lose sight of their mother or see strangers approaching.  Why does my child feel totally comfortable letting go of me and exploring?

Well, because she knows that I am always right there and she always feels safe and secure. She is confident that her needs will be met and so she feels free letting go and trying new things and testing the boundaries. This is the way I want her to be in her life. I want her to feel out her world and seek new experiences rather than me forcing her into playing with new kids or going into a new room or getting into the swimming pool. I want her to feel safe trying new things and know that I will always be there to give her a little boost if she needs it.

This is the basis behind attachment parenting. The theory is that if you meet your baby's needs when they are just hours old and continue to meet their needs as much as you possibly can throughout their babyhood, you create a child who feels safe and loved and secure and is ready and able to take on the world.

As I read more and more about parenting philosophy and the misconceptions about attachment parents, I find that there are some who feel like attachment parents either never discipline their children and let them run free and run amuck all over everyone or they keep their children so close all the time that the children never learn to leave the nest.

My own personal experiences with attachment parenting are somewhat different. I was raised by an attachment parenting mother who kept us close and we did almost everything as a family. From housecleaning to rollerskating, from cooking to reading. Someone mentioned recently that I moved out of my mother's house as soon as it was legal for me to do so. They made this comment to illustrate that my mother was in some way smothering me or controlling me and I just had to get the hell out of there. This couldn't be further from reality, I moved out because I was ready. I had a job and could (barely) support myself and I was emotionally ready to move into being an adult. Of course, I wasn't perfect and made some mistakes and such with that first apartment and first roommate, but I was ready to try. I didn't leave my mother's home because she was driving me crazy, I left because it was time for me to find my wings.

Now, with my own child I am already seeing her finding her wings. She is fearless!! Just push her in the swing and watch as she flies through the air holding tightly to the ropes and then suddenly lets go for a few seconds to feel that adrenaline rush of not holding on and to test herself.

Her feeling comfortable enough with her world to let go of my hand and want to walk herself and not be led around also is a testament to her growing confidence, but that is not to say that I allow her to walk around without holding my hand. She has rules and she has to follow them, but I make sure to try to respect her growing self-confidence by giving her the choice. The choice is no skin off my nose! I just want her to stay safe, so I don't care if she is carried or if she walks while holding my hand. I make sure that I give her choices where the results of either choice still get me the outcome I am looking for:

Do you want mama to lift onto the changing table or would you like to climb up yourself?
Would you like to eat your yogurt sitting in the highchair or the booster seat?
Would you like to sit on the pink potty or mama's potty right now?

The results are the same, she gets onto the changing table, she eats her food, she uses the potty, but she feels some control over her life and her world at the same time. I am the parent and I know what needs to happen to keep her clean and safe and well-fed and she doesn't run all over me, throw tantrums to get her way or fail to listen to me (most of the time). I am in charge, but she is also a person with feelings and a need to be important too and it is my job to make sure that she grows up knowing that she can fly!!

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