Over-attached?

Do you ever wonder what life with all these attachment parented children will be like as they grow older? You know, the ones whose parents spend every waking moment with them (often “wearing” them all day), maintain a family bed, allow for very little crying, and respond to every peep?

Well, actually, I can’t speak for those kids for sure, because that’s not really the way it went down over here. Sure, we used the sling and Baby Bjorn a lot, each of the boys slept in our bed for 4-6 weeks, I breastfed them both until they were a year old (but also supplemented with formula because I was working part-time and couldn’t keep up with them using the pump) and, absolutely, we were extremely interactive with our kids from birth on.

So, okay, we weren’t reading poetry or playing Mozart for them in the womb – or even afterwards, for that matter – but they have been in a very social and nurturing environment. We have been sitting on the floor playing with them as long as they’ve been able to do so. I think we’ve done attachment parenting “lite”, but the Drs. Sears would definitely have taken exception at times. [Especially when we let them each cry for hours (yes, hours is what it took, I’m sorry to say) in the middle of the night, feeling unloved and alone in the world, so that we could get some damn sleep (eventually). But I stand by that particular decision; I’d do it all again.]

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, even kids like ours who have not been raised with strict attachment parenting techniques and were left crying in their cribs have been in an extraordinarily nurturing environment and are, well, extremely attached to us.

Okay, truth be told, what I really want to say is this: if they were more attached to me, I’d jump out a 4th story window. Because, could someone PLEASE tell me how, when your children get to be 3 and 6, you might get them to play on their own for a while? Together, without the adult? In. A. Different. Room.

We have a huge play room for the kids. It’s full of great, imaginative toys, games and books. They love it! Well, that is, they love it when one of us is down there actively playing with them. This afternoon, I needed time to do some typical household chores. I feel that my kids are at an age where they should be able to go play in another room when I need them to. The boys, apparently, had a different opinion. They actually needed to be right under my feet, wherever I was, playing an extremely loud crash-’em-up game with their cars. There was absolutely no way I could make the phone calls that I needed to make and I felt really and truly stuck. I am grateful that they play together so well these days, and maybe it’s because they’ve gone downstairs without me once in a while recently that I’m so desperate for more – they’ve proven themselves capable of it. And in fact, when they have a friend over, they go down there and I literally don’t hear from them in over an hour. It’s just that – the rest of the time – they only want to be with ME.

I tried simply telling them it wasn’t a choice: go downstairs now and play while I make dinner. You would not believe the scene – it was atrocious. In the end, they were driving me so freaking nuts that I allowed them to stay near me if they read quietly to themselves so that I could think straight. In other words, I LOST.

I really do know that someday the boys will be downstairs in that room for hours at a time, and it will no longer resemble this playroom in any way; it will probably have a TV, video games, and pool table in it, and reek of teenage boy feet. They will likely grumble when I ask them to come upstairs at all, and I will be cooking five times this amount of food for dinner, just wishing for them to be little and running around the kitchen again.

So maybe it’s not worth the battle at all, and I should just embrace the insanity of these years, revel in their attachment to me, and know that soon enough they’ll be far too busy to want to play Lightnin’ McQueen with their Mommy (beautiful guy that I am).

I do still wonder, though, if we didn’t do them a bit of a disservice by being at their sides quite so much in their infancy and toddlerhood, and by not challenging them just a little more to play independently in those years.

Actually, I don’t wonder at all. For my kids, I am sure of it.

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11 responses to “Over-attached?

  1. Oh, do I feel this post. FEEL IT. The Poo needs me all the flippin’ time. Even when I am peeing.

    It makes me crazy.

  2. Jordan, first, you ARE a beautiful guy (I just loved that! But then again, I am the mother of a child who not so very long ago yelled in Whole Foods for everyone to hear: “Mommy! I want to take off your big boy undies!”) So the gender thing, a little confusing here too. Anyway. No, I don’t believe kids should be a fashion accessory. And yes, I believe they should be loved and cuddled (but maybe not coddled). And I just hope that we’re doing the right things. And most of the time, I have no freaking clue.

    Inspiring, huh?

  3. Oh, Susan, the “big boy undies” thing is making me laugh so very hard right now!!

    And that is all the inspiration I need.

  4. How about a good old-fashioned behavior plan, aka bribery? You know, stay downstairs until the timer goes off and then you get a ______. It’s definitely not in the Parent Effectiveness Training manual but hey, sometimes it works for me.

    And you are a beautiful guy.

  5. Sounds like my house! I have even gone to the extent of asking, “don’t you have 2 sisters you could be bothering or who could play with you?” Which never works. They have the largest room in the house as theirs, they have the “good” tv, the satelite box, the dvd player and toys (they just had to have!). But no, unless MOM is there, none of it matters. So, I just remind myself, my day will come; just as with the others who so dearingly were attached to me. Now, when they are in their rooms, its mom who is saying, “why don’t you spend time with me? Let’s watch this show together.” And its the kids saying, “ok, mom I’ll talk to you right after I finish >>>> but for now, please leave me alone!!”

  6. There are bits of this that I COMPLETELY relate to. Attachment lite, was our strategy too. But like Susan, I have no idea if it was the “right” approach.

    Much of the time, my son plays on his own, absorbed in a pretend world of his own making. But since he is alone (no siblings), I guess I try to be a bit more open to the times when he “needs” me to play with him.

  7. I’m not convinced that we as parents can do a whole lot one way or another about some of this! I never co-slept, but I also never let my babies cry for hours in the middle of the night to learn how to sleep. I hated the Baby Bjorn, but yet I had a firstborn who, from tiny infancy, totally freaked out if I rounded the corner to use the bathroom, so I ended up pretty much with her constantly. I play on the floor with them all the time, but I also say “Just a minute honey, I’m busy _______, wait till I’m done” a million trillion times a day.

    And what do I end up with? Well, a firstborn who is sad about starting preschool and says she misses me and her baby sister too much while she’s there, a secondborn who races pell-mell all over the house by herself or without and does whatever the hell she wants despite threat of personal injury, AND two girls who play by themselves (or together) while I’m in another room all the time.

    Sure, sometimes (of course!) they want me, find me, and crawl up my legs (the baby is only 13 months, after all–very different from ages 3 and 6). If I’m making dinner, they’d cement themselves to my hips if the could. But very, very often they play in the nursery or the playroom or the hall that connects the two while I’m in the master bed/bathroom doing my hair and makeup, getting dressed, cleaning, etc.

    My conclusion? It has nothing to do with what we do. 😉

  8. Sometimes I agree, Shannon. They also feed off of each other; I thought we were all set when Lyle proved better able to play independently as a young toddler (in part b/c he was the 2nd child and just had to sometimes, and it was all he’d known), but over time he’s taken his cue from Baxter, and I watched as he started saying *exactly* what Bax said (“But I need to be with YOU, I don’t like going downstairs, I’m *scared* down there…!”) so now he won’t either.

    And when I was pg with Lyle I really worked with Baxter on being more independent and it helped a lot when Lyle was a newborn (but then of course Lyle got bigger and I was there playing with him, so Baxter got used to me playing all the time again!).

    So while I agree that – for my kids – some of it is related to temperament, some of it is definitely behavioral as well.

    And, Cassie, I have to agree – I’m probably going to have to start setting the timer for them to play together in another room for a while and have some sort of reward afterwards (like maybe a sane mother?!). Thanks for that idea!!

  9. Sometimes I find that when I write about something that frustrates me, it suddenly changes for the better. I know it’s because just the fact that I’m writing about it means I’m aware of it and working on it – an added benefit of blogging!

    This morning the boys played from 6:30-7:00 am on their own, letting us stay in bed, and right now they’ve gone down to the play IN THE PLAYROOM without me! It may only last 5 minutes, but that’s something! (Let’s just hope the MONSTERS down there don’t get them!)

  10. Christopher Tassava

    Jordan – I think that your last comment indicates the problems. Monsters are not appropriate for the playroom. Can you put the monsters outside for a while? Or, jeez, at least wipe the goo and Chinese lead paint off them.

  11. Wait.

    You’re saying DON’T keep the monsters down there? Well, um, not to seem clueless here, but where exactly should we keep them? I mean, obviously, when your kids are 3 and 6 you have to have monsters *somewhere* in the house, and under the bed or in those closets seems ideal.

    Besides, there’s way more to keep them busy down there. If they came upstairs they might drool on the couch or help themselves to leftovers in the fridge. Worse yet, they might get it into their slimy heads to surf the web (monster.com?) on my iPhone! Oh, the horror!

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