There once was a little girl who stumbled upon three baby chicks hatching from their eggs. Have you ever seen a baby chick hatch? It’s a tricky process. And it’s not easy. They peck and peck and peck their shell, pushing away each tiny piece until they are finally free. When they emerge they are wet and wobbly, and exhausted from all of their hard work. This little girl had never seen a chick hatch before, so she bent down to try to help one. She carefully peeled away the shell and lifted the little chick out.
And the chick died.
Turns out, when the chick pecks the shell himself, he eats part of the inside of the shell. Something in the shell helps his tiny digestive system to start working. And pecking like hell to get free clears his little chick lungs out, and helps him learn to breathe.
In other words, helping him too much meant that he was never able to grow strong on his own.
I never thought that I would be one of “those” moms. It’s easy to have grand philosophies on parenting, when you’re not yet a parent. And yet, with little babies come big lessons.
I never thought I’d co-sleep, but it turns out that my son sleeps better when he’s next to me. With all of his tummy issues, I could get him to go back to sleep faster if I was there to soothe him before he got too upset. So we took over the guest room, and ultimately bought a big bed for his nursery so that Sean or I could lay with him when he wasn’t feeling well. So I guess that makes me a co-sleeping mom.
I never thought that I would hesitate to let someone else watch my son. But other than very close family members and (recently) one phenomenal babysitter, I have kept Max by my side for the past two years. I like being with him. I don’t really want him with anyone else. Of course it’s nice to have time for myself, but I feel strongly that my job is to be his mom. I didn’t quit my job to have someone else watch him grow. I like being the one who watches him peek out from his crib when he wakes up from a nap. I like having lunch together. I like exploring our neighborhood, and having our own inside jokes and silly songs.
I believe that Max is his own little person. That his feelings and needs are just as important as those of the adults around us. Sometimes more so. When he cries, it matters to me. When he is scared, or shy, or silly, or exhausted, it matters to me.
We’re buddies, Max and I. And when I step back to look at us, I realize that what I’ve been doing all along is Attachment Parenting. Treating your child like a human being who is equal to you, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, super-involved parenting looks a lot like ME. Even if I never thought that I looked a lot like Attachment Parenting.
So what does that mean when I’m on the brink of sending my VERY attached son to preschool?
Well, for starters…it’s only two mornings a week. And just like I never thought that I’d be hippy-crunchy attachment parenting mama, I never thought that I’d be blessed with an extremely outgoing, super social child. My son loves a social atmosphere. Of course, I’ll still be creating endless adventures for us when we’re together. We’ll do playgroups together, and music class, and gymnastics. We’ll build blanket forts in the living room and learn about measurements by pouring water all over the deck outside. But my sweet, attached little boy? He needs more than me now. He needs 11 other two year olds, and the chance to learn things from them (like how to drink from a cup, and how to not get your toys stolen…and hopefully not things like how to bite and push). He needs to learn that other grown-ups can keep you safe too. They might not be as wonderful as your Mommy and Daddy, but are special in their own way. They can care about you and treat you well, and you can have grand adventures with them too.
So really, what is the goal of attachment parenting? If you do it well, and you do it right, then isn’t the goal for your child to be able to go out into the world….and do well WITHOUT YOU? Isn’t attachment parenting truly about letting your child fly? If I’ve done right by Max, then he will meet new friends and know how to be kind. If we’ve succeeded, then he will be a good citizen of the world.
This morning, as I sit by myself in the parent’s lounge at Max’s preschool, I am imagining what he must be doing in his classroom. When I said goodbye to him, he was so busy “cooking” in the play kitchen that he didn’t even look up. I gave him a hug, and he squirmed away because he saw that the rice tray was hiding under it’s cover and he wanted to explore. I’m hopeful that any tears that come later, when he realizes that I’m gone, will fade quickly as he draws on the strength that attachment parenting has given him, and delights in the task of coloring at the art table, or pounding playdough into “pizza”.
As for me? My tears came fast and furious as I stood in the courtyard outside of his classroom. I’m supposed to LEAVE him here? Well shit….who’s to say he won’t try to sneak out? Don’t LOSE him! And when he’s thirsty he calls it “Wah” and you need to make sure that he stays hydrated. And don’t forget his sunscreen! And he didn’t really eat breakfast, so make sure he eats his snack. And hold his hand on the stairs of the jungle gym, because it’s really high up! And….
This mama chick will be just a phone call away, waiting to hear how my baby chick pecked the hell out of that shell, and how he’s doing just…..fine.