A few years ago I my grandmother shared with me the most precious bit of parenting advice I have received this far.
I’ve spent countless hours on the internet learning about things like breastfeeding, co-sleeping, sleep scheduling, breaking the pacifier addiction, potty training, along with many other topics. There is lots to say on all these topics. Advice from experts, bloggers, doctors, and psychologists.
Well, my friends, my advice doesn’t come from anyone with a PhD or a certification. My advice comes from a mother of four who has watched all her babies grow up and move on in life. She is now in her seventies. Her expert field has been in being a Mom. She was raised poor, with almost nothing. She spent her years staying home with her kiddos, and helping them to raise us, her grandchildren.
One night, when my daughter was a baby, maybe a few months old, I confided in her that some people said I held my daughter too much. They were afraid I would spoil her. “Put her down, let her cry”, they would say. I did, when I had to, but when I didn’t I loved to hold her. She looked at me and whispered the words that never sank so deeply until tonight: “Hold her as much as you want to, as often as you want to, as long as you can. One day you won’t be able to anymore, or she won’t want you to.”
It is very simple, but the point stuck with me. Often, it creeps into my mind as I go throughout my day. It is a big picture idea. Rather than following a set of rules or some by-the-book formula, it is a practical way to remember to love my daughter and meet HER needs. As a baby, she cried when she needed something. Now, she may need me in different ways. The point remains the same- I ought to never feel ashamed to run to my daughter and wrap my arms around her when she wants to cry or be in her mama’s arms. Love is powerful, and the wisdom in this is beautiful. Be present, be available, be open, and be willing to give my child my love and attention- even if it costs me my sleep or plans.
For years my daughter and I co-slept. It has always worked for us. I am not going to lie- I tried to stop. I spent days, weeks, and months trying to execute sleep schedules and plans to get her in bed without me. After many nights of crying (on both of our ends), she finally made it into her own bed. At three years old. I never guessed that was how it would end up, but that was our experience. I loved co-sleeping, and she did too.
Well, tonight, on her own accord, she decided she didn’t even want me to cuddle in bed with her anymore. Along with that, she is getting too big to hold anymore. The time is slipping so fast. I feel like she was just a baby yesterday. I can hardly pick her up.
Here is the bottom line: in the end, all babies grow up. They won’t want to be held forever. They won’t want their moms and dads in their beds forever. They won’t want story times or cuddles or tickle fights.
From me to you, hold your babies as much as you want. It won’t spoil them to be near their mothers. How can affection spoil? Love is what shapes us and gives us a sense of security. Love never fails.
All the advice out there, while good and well meaning, in the end is just advice. Strategies to move you from one stage to another. Advice to help you get “there” quicker. My question is- why are we always wanting to get to the next stage so fast? These little ones grow up so fast. I truly wish, looking back, I had worried less and just enjoyed being a mother.
I am going to hold my three year old as much as I can over the next few months. Until I can’t anymore. And I am NOT ashamed by it.