I have a shadow and his name is Jude. He is the latest in a line of five other brothers and sisters who gone through the ‘must be on Mommy all the time‘ thing. He sits beside me. He eats beside me. He swims beside me. He plays beside me. He sleeps in the room beside me. He plays with my hair. He plans his matchbox-car highway right over my feet. He paints my fingernails. He kisses me every two minutes. He won’t walk from the van into the house without holding my hand. He sit on the counter while I’m cooking. He blogs beside me.
Really. And I’m glad for it, too.
I’m typing right now with my three year old son leaning over my right arm singing a silly song and licking my arm.
Yes, licking my arm.
(You can’t make this stuff up… lol)
I am not what you would call ‘an attachment parent’. I never ‘wear’ my children when they’re babies unless they’re really little and I must go to the grocery store with the whole bunch in tow. (I have hip displasia, which makes any extra, external weight, even of an infant or child, very painful to carry for any length of time.) The first parenting book I ever read was a copy of Babywise given to be a
much older, much wiser mom. The second was Baby Whispering.
I had some weird influences in those early years.
But now, seven and a half years and six babies into the adventure called mothering, I’ve learned a few things, and I generally smile and thank the well-meaning givers of books that tell me ‘let the baby cry’, ‘never let the baby cry’ ‘let the child be clingy’, ‘don’t let the child be clingy’ and then toss the books in the box for the next trip to Good-will.
I’ve come to the conclusion that most of those authors really don’t know what they’re talking about.
And they certainly don’t know my children.
Because there is no magic formula. There is no ‘one size fits all’ parenting method. Most of the time, there isn’t method… only sleep-deprivation induced madness and desire to not make your children end up in therapy for most of their adult life.
Because this is my theory: Parenting is scary. It’s a messy, slobbery, stinky, poop filled life style. And attempts to box it into a ‘method’ almost always don’t work because it’s bigger than any one set of guidelines written by people hundreds or thousands of miles away who haven’t the slightest clue that you and your children exist.
So you love your children. You keep them with you. You play with them or enjoy their playing. Teach them right from wrong. Read to them obsessively. Kiss them every time their little heads or hands are within kissing distance. Let them learn how to cook/clean/sew/crochet/type/weed the flowers/grocery shop/air up the tires/change the oil/ or whatever you are doing just because they are there with you. Pray for them. Pray with them. Kiss their boo-boos. Talk to them about everything.
Then learn when to let them go play, go explore, go be themselves. Take a step back and let them peddle without training wheels. Let them swim without your arms holding them up (after you know they know the basics of course- don’t set your kids up to drown!). Let them climb that tree or sew that skirt or cook those pancakes or hammer that nail all by themselves. Let them do something that makes them feel accomplished, makes them feel that they are capable, useful, contributing human beings; people who are individuals and who matter. Let them know they can accomplish what they set out to do.
And they will.
You see, each and every one of my children have been my shadows for a time. They’ve spent entire years sitting and moving when and where I do, being interested only in the things I’m interested in, and doing them right beside me. Some days, it’s hard on me and I trudge along, but some days I revel in the fact that someone else finds me so irresistible that there’s not a single other thing in the world they want to do besides hang on my arm while I type a blog and cling to my leg while I clean the kitchen.
But then, the day comes when they ask “Can I do that by myself, Mom?”
And they begin to move away. I’ve seen it happen. I have five children who occasionally still come back to my side, to love on and cuddle with me, but are mostly out to discover life on their own. I even have a four year old who swam by himself for the first time yesterday. He’s getting so big and independent! And it’s still scary. (The swimming and him get bigger!) But I’m proud of the people they’re becoming, the young men and women I see glimpses of in them, the discussions that we have, and the things they accomplish. I’m happy that they are learning to be themselves and (although I am sad) I’m glad they are learning to not need me because there will come a day, all too quickly, when they have to make their own choices and their own lives without me to stand over and protect them.
So, even when it’s 90 degrees and he’s licking me, I’m still thankful for my little shadow because he’ll be setting out before too long to discover his own little world that doesn’t have me at the center of it.
And I’ll be glad for that too. 🙂