Friday, 24 February 2012

Keep them close and let them go: fostering healthy attachment as they grow

Welcome to the February edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama. This month, participants have looked into the topic of “Fostering Healthy Attachment”. Please scroll down to the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants. Enjoy!





Zen toddler is potty learning right now. It’s going pretty well, occasional mishap notwithstanding (‘Mummy, I did an accident!’, announced with delighted glee).
One day, I popped to the kitchen to make toast one day. When I came back she had pulled her pants down, sat on the potty, and done a wee. I was so proud I had a tear in my eye. I was proud. And a little bit sad.  Where did my ever-so little first-born go? This is the start of the letting go. And while I am more proud of her than I could ever have imagined possible, there’s a little pang.
Zen toddler and me, we’re closely attached. In the whole of her first year, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I was away from her for more than an hour. We did (and still do) co-sleep, we did (and still do) breastfeed. We share baths, we eat all of our meals together, and, barring around 12 hours of Montessori childcare a week, we’re together all of the time (with zen baby now boosting our ranks).  But I’m beginning to wonder what happens as she gets older, becomes more independent?
Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to hold her back, keep her tethered with the proverbial apron strings. Every forward leap she takes leaves me awestruck. Sometimes, I can’t believe that this hilarious little person ricocheting around the house like a stung wasp is the same little bundle of red-faced potential that I pushed into the world less than three years ago. But there’s going to come an age when she can dress herself, when she sleeps in her own bed all night because snuggling in between your parents is just lame. One day, she might even self-wean (not banking on that one happening anytime soon ;-/). How do we stay closely attached when we’re not together all day long, when I’m not the major influence in her life, when she doesn’t need me to do quite so much for her anymore?      
Truthfully, I don’t have the answers. This is the first time I’ve done any of this. In this, as in so many areas, zen baby will have the advantage of not being the test-case. But this time, first-time round, I don’t know what I’m doing. So far I’ve parented entirely on instinct, but I have no instinctive inclinations for this.
So, how do you keep them close while letting them go? Share your stories, experiences, and tips, because I could really use some ideas.  

Visit Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

18 comments:

  1. I think the fun thing with natural, attached parenting is that everything happens gradually. As you say, suddenly, you realize that they're doing X or Y, without even having noticed it before. And the letting go is just as fun as the attachment, because you see that you have done well as a parent
    Thanks for your submission!

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    1. I guess that's the thing with being child-led ~ as you say, one day you realise that they've moved on in their own time, rather than 'on schedule' because a parent-led decision was decreed.

      I loved taking part in the carnival ~ this was a great topic, loads of fascinating entries. Looking forward to the next one.

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  2. Visiting from the AP carnival. My "test case" is now almost six. And I still don't know what I'm doing. I think when you make the conscious decision to stay connected to your kids and put relationship first, everything else sort of falls into place. One book I've read multiple times and recommend often is Hold On To Your Kids . . . lots of great stuff about maintaining a strong attachment with your children as they grow.

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    1. Phew ~ very reassuring to hear yousay that you don't know what you're doing too! Thank you very much for the book recommendation, I'm off to check that out now.

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  3. There are so many fun ways to stay attached as they get older! My son and I really enjoy reading and learning together now - we pick co-op classes together, plan classes to share with friends, plan activities to do at home, and have daily reading/snuggling time. It's different from wearing and snuggling him all day, but I believe it is a natural progression :)

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    1. Thanks Dionna ~ there's been little steps towards independence so far, but for some reason this potty business just seems so very grown up! She's my oldest, so I've never been down this route before, and I'm learning too, just like she is. Learning to let go is hard :-/

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  4. I'm not sure what to expect when my daughters are ready step away from me so to speak. I can only imagine that my process then will be essentially similar to my process now. They're motivated, I'm risk-assessing, we're talking, and I make myself available. I guess risky ventures crawling down the stairs is as much practice for me as it is them.

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    1. That's it ~ they're practicing moving off on their own, and we're practicing letting them go a little bit more each day. I already get emotional when I think about my girls leaving home, and the oldest isn't even 3 yet!

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  5. It sounds like your intuition is serving you pretty darned well so far! I think I may have made a wrong turn along the way, but am trying to rebuild the relationship.

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    1. I read your story on your blog, Momma Jorje, and I was moved by how difficult it must have been to have your daughter living away from you. To me, it seems like you took an incredibly brave decision on behalf of everyone involved, and I'm so glad for you that you have the opportunity to rebuild your relationship now :-)

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  6. It sounds like your family is doing just what you need to. The attachment continues on, it just looks different as your children get older. :)

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    1. Thank you ~ it's great to hear from those further down the independence route, and to learn that there are ways to stay attached

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  7. Such a nice post, and I agree that the attachment continues, and in many ways strengthens, as our little ones grow. It's funny because I felt much more "nostalgic" when my second child potty-learned than my first. I think it was because it caught me so much by surprise at how quickly two years had passed with the second one whereas the first one I was marking months so much more intently! I'm sure my third one will be equally startling when we get there!

    -Kerry @ City Kids Homeschooling

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    1. Hi Kerry, it's crazy how quickly two years can go past, isn't it? I'm already getting nostalgic about how fast my little zen baby is growing up, and she's not even 8 months yet! I think I need to crack on and have a third one too ;-)

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  8. as my first born is getting closer to turning 6yrs old i can totally relate to your feeling of wondering where your little bundle went...it goes by ever so quickly! I agree with Dionna - lots of wonderful ways to stay attached - having a nightly ritural with cuddles, reading, massage or creating a family hand gesture to say goodbyes in your own special way :) thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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    1. I *LOVE* the special hand gesture idea! It's something that never occurred to me, but I'm going to devise one as soon as possible. Thanks for sharing that idea, it's set me off thinking about all sorts of little family rituals we can have to keep us all feeling connected.

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  9. this is beautiful. I really relate to your mothering. My girl is now 4 1/2.
    I can tell you from my experience that I had no idea how I would be able to let go when I was at your stage. But as she got older it just became more natural. She changed and I just had to notice. As she got older, more present, more sure of herself in the world, I was able to feel more confident about not being there every second in case she needed me.
    I still work on it every day.I am so grateful for the Waldorf school she goes to because having a place where she is cared for as I would care for her is essential. And being there is so important. I had no idea she was ready for the things she was until she jsut did them at school. Even the way the teacher pushed the little kids so hard on the swings and they went so high. It was fine of course, but I didn't know they could do that.
    I waited too long to make certain breaks, or to allow for her to be in any kind of discomfort (only the kind that would be natural and allow her to discover her own resources). In waiting too long, I created a situation where she became fearful. It's weird. Anyway, she needed to know that she was strong and confident and comfortable with more space between us. She wanted it but when she got older, more verbal and "thoughtful" she started over-thinking it and fretting.
    We've used great techniques like stories and chanting and movement to practice. And we talk about our bond, our cord and how it is unbreakable and so long that there is no place we can go that we won't be connected.
    Oh, sorry this is so long. You really touched me.
    We have also slept together every night, been together every day, etc... still do sleep snuggled up.
    It's a wonderful journey we're on, isn't it?

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    1. Hi Tree, thank you for your lovely comment and for sharing your perspective. It really is a wonderful journey (even on those days when it's not wonderful in the slighest ...)

      I love the unbreakable cord idea ~ I'm certainly going to 'steal' that one and use it with my toddler. She's not even three yet, but she's already talking about wanting to go to school (even though I don't think she actually knows what school is, she just knows that it is something that 'bigger' girls do) Arrrgh, someone slow time down for me!

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