I have to admit that it has taken me some time to stand tall, with my shoulders back and look people in the eyes as I spoke those words. Not because I haven't loved him or doubted it. Quite the contrary. I love my kid so much that I couldn't stand carrying him in one of those portable car seats - I had to have him in the sling, close to me. We both refused bottles because we both desired to be held, close. I breastfed him for two and a half years because it felt natural and nurturing in more ways than just physical hunger. We slept with our son and still do because he has not expressed any desire to sleep in his own bed yet and you can't imagine how good it feels to have someone grab your head every morning and wish you a good day. And I haven't sent my child to preschool (yet or at all) because he'll be in school for a good portion of his young life and we enjoy our daily adventures and the growth of our relationship. But regardless of my intents and purposes, there has been incredible pressure to disconnect.
Whether it has been from well-meaning family members, friends, product advertising or public campaign ads, I've heard just about every imaginable comment and have been asked an array of concerned questions. I do appreciate the honest concern for our health but is the concern well-founded or deeply routed in some age-old, American beliefs of absolute self-sufficiency? I keep wondering why we push for separation of mother and child so early and so adamantly?
Notre Dame anthropology professor and leading sleep researcher, James McKenna, has long spoke of the benefits for babies that sleep with their mothers. Among those benefits are increased self-esteem, better performance in school and greater independence later in life.
Even without the scientific research, doesn't it just make good sense to love and nurture your child with patience and respect by allowing them to grow into each stage with confidence - rather than by force?
I have found that as my son grows each day, he sometimes wants me to race him along the bike path, while other days he wants only to be carried. In much the same way as adults, I think he battles with trusting his independence and new found capabilities. He wants to know that regardless of time and space, that he will be able to return home to his parents arms.
So in the midst of this pressure to disconnect from my child, I will stand tall, throw my shoulders back and scream - I LOVE MY KID AND I LOVE BEING WITH HIM AND I KNOW I ALWAYS WILL.