Monday, November 4, 2019

With Mixed Emotions: When your Velcro baby grows up

With Mixed Emotions: When your Velcro baby grows up
If you are a regular reader of Mom2MomEd, you will know that (as of this writing), I have an 8 year old son and 6 year old daughter. My daughter was the textbook definition of a "Velcro" baby from the very start--I literally couldn't be out of her sight or whatever proximity she had deemed necessary in the moment. 

I'm not exaggerating.

As a baby, my daughter would not go to sleep unless I stared at her through her crib slats, holding her hand, and then waited for her to be in a deep sleep before I worm crawled out of the her room. And, that only worked about 20 percent of the time. 

So many nights I cried or was frustrated because she literally didn't want anyone but me--not her dad, not her brother, not her grandparents. Just me. I didn't do anything special or different than they would do, and I often became frustrated with her lack of interest in anyone else in the world.

When she began talking, if anyone asked her a question, she would nearly always answer, "Mama." Then, for a long while, she stopped speaking to other people and only would speak through me. Someone would ask her a question, she would whisper the answer to me, and then I'd be her voice to the rest of the world. Most people understood this was a phase and that some children are just slower to warm up to socially. There was the occasional jerk who would start saying things to my daughter like, "You can speak to me/answer me. You don't tell your mom. You're a big girl right?"

You know what that did?

It made my sweet girl shut down and withdraw even more. She literally went years without speaking to our neighbor's dad. She'd play at the neighbor's house there several days per week, but wouldn't utter a peep to the dad. This was common when there was a man around that she wasn't familiar with--don't worry, this wasn't a warning sign of abuse (keep reading).

She was just slow to warm up to others.

In the past, I would have given others in my position advice that their child obviously had been mistreated by a man or had trust issues. Today, I know better and would like to karate chop those thoughts out of my head. My daughter has a hands on, super involved dad, two doting grandfathers, and a big brother who adores her. This is just her temperament, and has been since the very start.

I lost so much sleep when my daughter started preschool and then Kindergarten. Would she ever talk? Her lack of speaking up led to potty accidents (because she wouldn't tell anyone when she had to go), dealing with pain (her bicycle helmet was too tight once and she wouldn't tell anyone), and she missed out on fun social situations with her peers.

This lovely little girl is able to bond with others, but it takes her a long time. She's slow to trust and needs to feel safe to be her true self. These are qualities that will be wonderfully protective when she is older, yet I've noticed how put off adults are by these qualities in children. 

I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "What's wrong with her?"

The answer? Nothing. Nothing is wrong with her.

Instead, before you say something so insensitive to a parent (or worse, to a child), I'd like you to consider, "What's wrong with you that you think that my very young child owes you a conversation?" I'm not overly protective of my kids, but I do know them better than the grocery store stranger and I'm not forcing them to tell you about school, the family dog, favorite colors, and so on.

Sorry, but not sorry.

Back to my point...

For a long time, my daughter was unable to stay with her grandparents without me. Running to the grocery store alone resulted in tears because she just couldn't stand to be apart from me. She ended up being my sidekick in everything. Every time I ran to the store for milk, she came too. If I needed new bras, she was my girl. Want to meet a girlfriend for dinner? Sure, but my 4 year old is coming too.

Yes, it was annoying at times. So, so annoying. But, she needed the extra time with me. She needed to feel safe and to know that I'd help her navigate the crazy grocery store strangers who demanded she be someone she isn't. 

She's had wonderful teachers that have helped her to feel safe and open up. They didn't forbid me from stepping in and helping, but they also made it their mission to make sure that she knew that she could count on them too.

Now, at 6 years old, she's as independent as any other child. She's able to go out and play with friends (and talk to their parents). She no longer Velcros herself to my leg when we're out in public. She has confidence and uses her words when she needs to be assertive.

Now, I actually have to sometimes remind her that I'm her mom and want to hang out with her too. I try not to pull her back to me too much and to support her in her new independence. I remember how much I wished for these days--for her to not need me so much, to be able to go to the bathroom alone, to drink coffee with a friend, and to have my body back. 

To be honest, I miss the Velcro days.

I miss them because they symbolized that I was her world--the absolute center of it. She still loves me the most, but she loves other people now too. I know it's a good thing, and I'm so proud of how far she's come, but I do sort of wish we could go back to our little bubble sometimes. 

I think that's what parenting is--sometimes so desperately wishing away a difficult phase only to look back on it and desperately want it to return.

How about you? What has your parenting experience been like? What did your kids do that was annoying and difficult at the time, but that you wish you could bring back now? Drop a comment and let us know!

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