My oldest daughter Tannah is almost 6. One of her teeth is threatening to fall out and she can get herself a glass of water when she is thirsty. I look at her sometimes and wonder where those long legs came from and how was it that she was ever so tiny that she fit all curled up in me belly.
She also sleeps in her own room, hasn’t had a breastfeed for over 3 years and she is too big to be carried, even in an ergo.I used to wonder how I was going to stay connected with her when so much of who I am as a parent seemed defined by those early days when I was a poster girl for Attachment Parenting.
But eventually she grew more interested in walking and didn’t want to be carried anymore, she decided that my breasts were not the be all and end all and words gradually replaced cries — making her needs more easily met. I would like to say that I didn’t cry the first night when Tannah, at a few months after her 5th birthday, took herself off to bed in her own room, but I can’t. I felt like I’d lost the last of the things that defined us as “attached”.
But can l tell you a secret? That stuff is just the tip of the iceberg.
All the groundwork laid as babies, all those nights and days I held her, listened to her, tried to meet her needs and treated her as a small human being who was not an inconvenience on my life has paid off.
Sure, just like babies, it’s not always easy. Tannah tells me, in no uncertain terms, if she feels I’ve been too cranky or upset her which is hard to hear. And she does all the age appropriate stuff and gets cross with her sisters and storms off and whines and does things that downright annoy me at times. It can feel hard to stay connected to a person who is slamming the door in my face.
I find that the relationship we have is what makes staying connected easier. That relationship is based on trust. She trusts me to always be there for her, just like I was when she called out to me as a baby and I always came. I trust that she is always doing the best that she can at the time. And there are further ways to stay “attached”:
- Physical Touch. This is still very important for children. While they may not be in a sling or full time cosleeping anymore they still need lots of physical touch. Lots of cuddles and having them sit on your lap to read a book or holding their hand when you are out walking.
- Listening. Your child will have lots to say and lots of questions about everything. Listen and answer honestly. Hear what they are telling you and don’t make light of their hopes and fears.
- Relax. Don’t put timelines on things. Remember how there was no pressure on your baby to walk or talk by a certain age? Magic ages for milestones don’t suddenly happen when your child hits school age. They are still an individual.
- Connect. Lots of parents sit on the floor and play games like peek-a-boo with their babies but never ever play a big kid game. Find an activity you both like doing and share it. It could be as simple as watching the clouds roll by or as complicated as Dungeons and Dragons. Make the time to connect.
And lastly enjoy that beautiful creature that is your child. Appreciate their wonder and awe, delight with them in their achievements, and be amazed at their thirst for knowing the world. Watch a movie together, push them on a swing, and savor the time that they are young. And when you tuck them in at night (maybe in their own bed!) tell them you love them.
Shae is a stay-at-home, homebirthing, home-cooking, unschooling crunchy Mama to 3 amazing girls. She tries her best to parent, eat and consume consciously. She blogs over at Yay For Home!
Update: Tannah did lose her tooth . . . and I did cry!