Preschoolers

Learning to Love Again. Every Day.

momma in me

When they are babies it is easy.

You rock them; you cradle them. You hold them; you kiss them. You do it out of pure love.

You do what a mama is designed to do.

You feed them and burp them and keep them alive and breathing. You check on them and worry over them and fuss over them.

Is she eating enough? Is she sleeping enough? Why isn’t she sleeping? Why is she sleeping so much?

Is she happy? Is she suffering?

We wonder and worry and love, love, love.

But they don’t give much in those early days.  Just their gentle sighs and their smiles in their sleep.

They don’t say, “I love you.” They don’t reach out to hold you and hug you.

But you keep giving.

You do it because you love them. You do it out of love.

They don’t talk and give back in the way that one normally gets back love, but you love them nonetheless.

But as they get older this changes.

Your little baby is no longer a baby, she’s a toddler.

And then that little toddler is gone and in its place is a little fresh preschooler.

And with each change you learn to love again. You learn to love in a different way.

Just last week my little girl was wrapping her arms around my neck as hard as she could. She’d whisper in my ear, “I love you soooooooo much….” And I’d say it back. “I love you soooooo much…” and then I’d wrap myself up into the warmth beside her and drink up that love.

But she doesn’t do this today. She no longer wraps her arms around my neck and says “I love you sooooo much” like she did just yesterday.

In one week that has changed.

Today, I whisper to her, “Who loves you more than anybody in the whole wide world?”

“Mama,” she says, without missing a beat.

“And who do you love more than anything in the whole wide world?” I ask. “Dada,” she says.

My heart skips a beat. What do I say?

And just for a moment, out of my own need, I test the waters.

“You don’t love mommy?”

Of course she does. She loves us both, she says.

Her idea and expressions of love are changing and with that I must change to.

She’s speaking now, thinking, loving with her mind, not just her heart.

Love is no longer an unadulterated instinct that wells up from within her and springs forward out into my arms. It’s a thought and a decision and a test.

She’s maturing.

The irony is that where she needed me more in the past, I am growing to love her more with every day that passes.

And with every day that my love grows deeper and stronger, she is moving a little bit away from that precious, sweet love made strong by the mommy umbilical cord.

So I need to learn to love all over again. I need to learn to love the way that she needs it and want to.

With each passing day, I need to learn to love again.

Learn to love again.

Every day.

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Potty Training and Giving up the Pacifier: A Relaxed (and Attached) Mom’s Perspective

My child is three years and three months old and she occasionally she pee-pees and poo-poos in her pants. Not every time, not all the time. But often enough.

Recently when my daughter started at a new daycare she was not potty trained as was required by the program. She was still in pull-ups full time and had not been showing any interest in moving towards full time use of the potty. At the daycare’s advice, I took the pull-ups away cold turkey and put her in underwear during the day. This worked to some extent but not completely.

To add another layer to this, she was not allowed to use her pacifier during naptime because the program was for preschoolers and not for toddlers. I’ve heard from others that this is not unheard of, that many preschool programs except a child to be completely potty trained and do not permit use of the pacifier. The potty training I can understand due to the license and the teacher-child ratio, but the pacifier at naptime? That I do not understand.

Having come directly from a smaller toddler classroom in a daycare where they put her on the changing table to change her, sat her on the potty once a day to practice, and let her have her pacifier whenever she was upset or taking a nap, this changes were a pretty big shock to her and seriously turned her world upside down.

In the end, she was not able to potty train fast enough and the amount of help she needed was more than the daycare could offer. I was also encouraged to raise my expectations for my child and to consistently send her the message that she is a big girl and to not offer help around pottying and dressing.

Some of society’s ideas about child development fly in the face of what I feel is right for my daughter. At three she’s been on the earth for approximately 820 days. At day 821 she’s supposed to give up the warmth and comfort and security that comes along with having a mother guide her and carry her through some pretty major developmental changes? She’s also supposed to give up her pacifier because she’s crossed some arbitrary line into preschoolhood rather than toddlerhood?

This is the crux of the clash of my world view, as it applies to parenting and childrearing, and some other mainstream ways of thinking about child development.

When I posted my potty training dilemma on Facebook, some provided sympathy, whereas others felt that I needed to examine why my daughter, at three years old, was so “late” in being weaned off the pacifier and why she wasn’t potty trained.

This reaction shocked me. It had gone from being an issue whereby my child simply wasn’t potty trained to an implication that I was infantalizing my child.

My approach to parenting is definitely an “It’ll happen when it happens” type of attitude, whereby the child takes the lead in his or her developmental changes. I believe that a child will hold onto what they need until they no longer need it and that a child will make their emotional needs known somehow or another.

I also don’t see a problem with helping my child with new tasks that she is starting to master. There may be times when she can do it completely independently and times when she wants me to do it for her. When she’s tired or crabby or has had a long day, it is natural that she will want her mother’s assistance. She needs me as her object of security. There are times when she wants me to dress her and feed her and hold her hand and rock her. And I do—with pleasure. I do it because I know that I am meeting her emotional needs at that moment and that even though she is capable of pulling up her pants by herself, she simply wants the comfort of knowing her mother is there to do it for her when she asks her to.

Through all of this it has become even clearer to me that my views of parenting and childrearing, which are primarily based in attachment theory, don’t always mesh with the world at large, especially a world in which individuality and self reliance is valued over all else. In my view and practices, the relationship between me and my child is prioritized over independence. If independence is going to come at the cost of a sense of comfort then I choose comfort and security.

As for the transition to a new placement, I can only imagine that for my child,  this move to a center where they are better able to meet her needs will provide her with a renewed sense of being allowed to be who she is at this moment in time—to be the half baby/half big girl that she is; to be able to pee in the potty, or in her panties or on someone else’s lawn (if that’s where she is when she needs to go!); and to become a big girl over time and at her own pace.

As for now she’ll continue to pee in her pants from time to time and she’ll continue to suck on her pacifier when she’s feeling the need for comfort, and that’s okay with me. She’ll stay with some of these “baby things” until she’s good and ready to give them up completely. In the meantime I’ll help out by spoon feeding her when she’s tired and hungry and pull up her pants when she wants me to. I’ll encourage her and teach her to do things on her own while remaining there as a safety net when she falls. On the way I’ll gently move her towards being the big girl that she’s on her way to becoming without any rush and without any urgency.