Monday, February 28

closeness

There are an infinite number of wishes we could make for our unborn children. Good health, fortune, beauty, intelligence, contentedness.... The one I settled on was that she and I would be close.

Of course, we never know how our wishes will be interpreted, and they are, after all, at the mercy of all else life and fate have in store. No matter the simplicity or purity of a wish, we must yield to the capriciousness of the universe.

In our case, closeness has had its challenges. As a mindful rather than a natural mother, as a woman of infinite interests, I have had a child who requires my constant proximity and attention.

We have slept together from the first day. We go to bed together and wake together leaving none of those couple of hours most parents have to regroup. In bed, she insists on feeling my body near her. She dislikes if I'm too far from her at any time (although will spend plenty of time alone with family members). Despite nearing 3 years of age, she still clings more often than not. She prefers to play with me and rarely plays longer than 10 minutes on her own.

Join me in Life Up Close


Yet also, she has a ready supply of cuddles and kisses. She tells me she loves me at least a gazillion times a day. She tells me that, 'you're the best mama'. Her heart is huge and she chooses to give the lion's share to me.

I believe that we have laid an unshakeable foundation. Of closeness.

A wish alone does not a reality make. I wore her in a wrap almost constantly for 6 months, we co-sleep, I've stayed at home with her, I tried breastfeeding and when that didn't work for us I bottle-fed with love, we talk together, we examine life together, I have allowed her to cry in my loving arms, I listen to and acknowledge her anger and fears. I respect her preferences. I never say no to cuddles.

I'm not placing any one approach as superior and the end-all of parenting with love. It's not about the specifics, but the motivation and the love behind all we do. I know it's possible to breastfeed without being present or even loving, for example.

My choice of wish, to be close, was made with the thinking that if a mother and daughter are close, all in life can be endured. We may quarrel, we may anger each other, she will go through hormonal changes, she will have challenges.... but she will always have her mother to talk with. If nothing else, to sit silently and cuddle with.

I want to remain a part of her life, and I want her to always have the safest place to land.

Right now she feels secure enough to be really angry with me and hug me soon after. She feels secure enough to tell me, 'mama, I want to cry a little bit more'. When she's 7 if a friend has betrayed her, when she's 16 if her heart is broken, I want her to know she can not only come to me and say the same, but that she can settle in my arms as daughter and friend.


What was your wish?

14 comments:

  1. I think mine was that she will always know that she is loved. I'm not sure I have really achieved that yet - we have certainly had our struggles. Like you I want to be close to my babies - particularly Beanie - given how much pressure our girls are under to grow up so soon. I dunno. I have/am doing all that you mentioned with both my babies but I don't always feel I have that connection. It can be hard to give so much, so constantly, no matter how much you want to. It's the ideal though. Definitely that.

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  2. Simply to have no regrets - Every moment of a childs life can present a parent with the need to make decisions. My wish was that, however our relationship developed, I could sincerely say that any decision I made was always driven by the need to keep my Son's best interest at heart. Hindsight, the passage of time might (and perhaps has) proven that some of those decisions were wrong but at then end of the day I can honestly say that, in my heart, at that moment in time, I sincerely believed I was doing the right thing. In my humble opinion, Guilt, regret and similar negative energies are easily kept at bay if this is a truth.

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  3. Mine was to help to open the world to him, to explore it together and show him all I knew.

    I have much respect for your closeness. I do it and I also need to pull away. I need my body space and head space almost as much as I need air. Sometimes I feel guilty, but it is real. And so I attachment parent as much as I can with an open heart. and then I detach, to swim in my own self for a while. Otherwise I am one mean mama. Having 3 kiddies close together has certainly tested my abilities to be close to the very core - so much needing and wanting of me when it doesn't feel there is another crumb to share.

    I also had a middle girl who didn't want to sit and cuddle, ever, she was always on the go. Only now she is nearly 3 is she learning to love affection. And that is strange for me as a super affectionate mama. But my three kiddies have each taught me that they truly are their own people from the word go.

    @Steve - I wish I could say no regrets, but I have a nature which regrets very easily, I am a natural self-flagelator, so parenting is one testing experience for me! Because I want it all to be perfect, all the time, and I want me to be perfect - but I am not, and that is a regret!

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  4. mama, this is beautiful! i too value connection, closeness, i am finding, almost more than anything else on this journey. maybe it is actually the top of the list (i'm never good at picking a favorite lol, but connection rises to the surface for me so so so often...) as my son has gotten older, i realize that while the attachment parenting strategies (bf, bw, cosleeping) were perhaps good suggestions for how to establish a really close bond with my child, the whole AP approach can and often does become just one more guilt-inducer for mamas. honestly, that it even needs to be said, that one can breastfeed without connection, or that one can bottle feed WITH connection- is messed up. OF COURSE. of course. there's the action, then there is the intention behind it. you are marvelous, and it doesn't come down to which way you fed her. i think you know that... but then it is such a common thing that people feel guilt about. anyway, this is beautiful. :)

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  5. For her to simply know how much I love her. That was and still is my wish for my daughter. But, simply has been frankly more complex than that word allows. I know I have accomplished her knowing that I love her. Now, she is 3 1/2 and pushing boundaries and demanding quality time while my wings are opening wider with business and life. Life doesn't always create simple times anymore, which just makes me that much more vigilant and ferocious to spend that quality time with her now. I love her and I know she knows that much. And I must believe and have faith in the fact that love really does transcend all else.

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  6. I want him to know that he can come to me, for anything, with any problem. So, I guess you could say TRUST is my highest wish, at least on an intellectual level. On an emotional level, however, it is that closeness that I desire. I've been surprised and amazed how close I feel to my child. I know this closeness has sprung out of being both physically and emotionally available to him. Babywearing and co-sleeping probably top the list as bonding methods for us during his infancy. Now it's just little things, all throughout the day.

    *Sigh* I wish there were a way to fix the AP-guilt problem. It's all wonderful stuff, sad that people allow it to make them feel guilty. I found that I came to the different aspects of AP on my own, in my own time.

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  7. My first wish for both of my children was for them to be happy, and to love and embrace life. As my own understanding of life and living has evolved, I realize that being happy and loving life is only the half of it. I think the other half is for them to be able to have experienced so much unconditional love and trust from us, that they become deeply rooted in understanding who they are themselves. I think I understand now that this is the true foundation for happiness, courage, faith and love. Does that make sense? I want to believe, that out of all this comes closeness and respect, at least, that is my current wish :).

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  8. Dear Mon,
    Your thoughts on closeness and your parenthood experiences with your daughter are beautiful. They touch me on many levels and evoke sadness as well as joy in me. I feel joy because through your awareness and presence a little person in this world gets what she deserves by merely being alive.
    When my daughter was born I wished for a heart connection and a secure attachment to us so that she can feel safe in this world. Here comes the sadness. It might be that I am too critical with myself, but I struggle with feeling confidence regarding my choices for her and me, as I know that they might not bring about deep connection and closeness. My daughter is as well very fixated on me and doesn't really play by herself. When we are together she receives and desires all of my undivided attention. From the first day of her life our daughter had a severe colic with 8 hours of crying a day and no sleep. In the first 4 month my presence did not calm her down and she arched her little body all the time when she was in my arms. it left me feeling insecure as her mother. I never let her cry all by herself, I breastfed her until she was 20 month old, I read all about attachment parenting, I did infant massage, I always held her and carried her in slings, but I feel that the intensity of this time left me frazzled and less than present with her. Only now, 2 years later, have I realized that I was severely depressed after her birth and just recently started to take antidepressants. I often was in pure survival mode and just wanted to get through the days. This was certainly not the way I imagined motherhood to be. In all honesty, I sometimes feel cheated out of the experience of bonding with my baby. Leyla's eyes were often closed (from screaming and crying) and she never allowed too much eye to eye contact or connection. Often I got the sense that she was overwhelmed by too much physical and emotional closeness. To this day she is very clear on her NO and gestures when she doesn't want closeness. As a woman who herself has never developed a secure attachment I struggled (still struggle) a lot with the thought that I might be unable to provide this security for her.
    Today (she is 2 years old) I decided to send her 5 mornings a week into a childcare center. I am aware that at this age children don't need "social exposure" and that she might even though she seems happy just pull herself together. Since she goes every morning I actually feel as if I can be a better and more present mother to her. After I cared for myself, our house, and daily things I can dedicate all my time in the afternoon to her. Before, when we spend all day together, I was often frustrated, because I was unable to literally do anything when we were together. We actually have less push and pull notions and whining episodes since. Carrie from the blog "Parenting Passageway" wrote a post about preschool and little children today. This post triggered me and I judged myself to be a mother that is not enough. I often think to myself that there might be women that are naturally and instinctively wonderful mothers and have so much to give to their children and other women (me included) don't have as much "mother" in themselves. It might sound selfish, but I really need to take care of myself first before I can be there for Leyla.
    Well this is enough from my side. While I was writing I realized that all of this is still very raw for me. My wish is: May Leyla feel my love, may she feel how precious she is, may she feel secure in this world.
    Love from Eva

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  9. Respect is definitely the first word that comes to mind, but of course, there is so much more. I love this post as I think this is an important thing to revisit.

    I have sadness in this area too. Mine comes from learning that when I was a baby in my mother's arms, she wished only for my happiness. I have never once felt that from her -- and I was quite surprised to hear her say it.

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  10. I never had any idea what I wanted before I had Luke. But now it's pretty clear. My mom died when I was 6, so I only got those few years with her. What I want to be for Luke is as much as I can... just love him with all I have every day because this day could be the last one.

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  11. Kat, yes, whatever we may or may not manage, if they know they are truly loved, it means the world. I questioned whether my parents loved me and that's a terrible scar on a child.

    Steve, you're right, without regrets we can look forward. Not sure I could do that though. If I didn't offer her plenty of love or attention, and it affected her happiness, I would regret that. If she were in emotional pain due to my negligence, then why should I be spared? That's my thinking, lol.
    But certainly no regrets over what you have no control over. Too many parents regret stuff like that.

    dreamingaloud,
    "open the world to him, to explore it together and show him all I knew"

    That's wonderful. I also hope to open the world to her. I know I don't have the ability of some mothers (especially some HSing ones) to show and do on a daily basis, but I will open the world to her in my way.

    I also fully know about needing your own head space. oh boy do I! I try to snatch moments when I can for sure. I figure she's only this young once, my time now is for her, as long as I remain relatively sane! Some days are better than others, lol.

    mb,
    "the whole AP approach can and often does become just one more guilt-inducer for mamas."

    Yes, unfortunately. One of the reasons I stopped referring to myself as an AP mother. And why I added that note in my post.
    It happens to be what I do, but I didn't want to suggest it's the ideal or the be all and end all. It's what has come naturally to us and what works for US.

    Amie,
    "I must believe and have faith in the fact that love really does transcend all else."

    Absolutely. If it's a love that is felt AND realised, then yes. Sounds like your girl cannot know she's adored. :)

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  12. Mine was/is autonomy... though when I think of it in relationship to my children it is that they each have the space to be the person they already are... that I can provide a space in which they can flourish into themselves.

    I think this exists for me on so many levels -- first and foremost viscerally. I just remember being pregnant and having an inkling of my desire for this, and of course, as my children have grown, my understanding of what it is I want to give and of how I can make it possible for myself to give it has grown and grown. I am so grateful, for all of us.

    Blessings,
    Stacy

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  13. @lisa c and mon:
    i think my take on the ap guilt backfire, is that the focus is a little off... if our focus is the "must do this, must feed this way" it detracts from rather than enhancing the trust-connection-autonomy we value. i think focusing on the underlying values might be more where it's at, for me. then the practical stuff just follows. though i was glad for those ap tools/approaches, and even the underlying theory behind why those approaches help foster attachment, i think the way to get around the guilt involves having compassion for ourselves. having a big difficult to-do list of "stuff you should try to get right" isn't really an asset on that journey. idk if i'm making sense with this... definitely something i'm still processing and reflecting on a lot on my own journey.

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  14. dear Eva, thank you for sharing your story here.

    When a parent wants everything good and right for their child, it's natural to feel guilt when it doesn't happen. I've heard too many mothers suggest that feeling guilt about a particular 'failure' was simply that mother's defensiveness. But I know first-hand that mother guilt comes from somewhere irrational. Doesn't matter whether we could or couldn't do anything about a situation, we feel bad about ourselves.

    "Since she goes every morning I actually feel as if I can be a better and more present mother to her."

    You're a smart mama. You know what works for your unique family unit and you acted on it.
    And if you give her your time, your attention, your love, you are providing security for her. It doesn't have to be 24/7 at all.

    "I often think to myself that there might be women that are naturally and instinctively wonderful mothers and have so much to give to their children"

    Absolutely there are natural mothers. Have you read my Mindful Mother page?
    But I disagree that they give more. They might give more hands' on mothering but that has nothing to do with giving more love, or even providing what an individual child actually needs.

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