When I first became a mother, I didn’t know about attachment parenting.
Did they even have that term 10 years ago? But, it’s the parenting style I ended up using. It wasn’t a conscience choice, it kind of just happened. Nursing was my gateway into the attachment parenting lifestyle. Because I chose to nurse my daughter, we ended up co-sleeping. And because she co-slept, we ended up baby-wearing (another term I’m not sure existed back then). She was just so used to being close to me that being worn went hand in hand.
Unfortunately (and fortunately) for us, our first daughter was also the most chill baby/toddler ever. Even though she was, and is, debatably the most attached kid on the planet, she’s also the sweetest. She never threw fits or had “terrible two” or “threenager” outbursts. When I asked her to clean up, take a nap, or eat dinner, she just did it. Bedtime was the same. She liked sleeping with us, but she never required us to put her to bed. She simply laid down and fell asleep.
When our second daughter came along, I wasn’t expecting her to be exactly like her sister. However, I also hadn’t considered how my chosen parenting style would affect a child with a completely different personality. Although I don’t love the terrible twos she’s now expressing at alarming decibels throughout the day, I fully accept that it’s part of most children’s development. As is her picky eating, lack of cleaning skills, zero remorse for stealing toys from her friends, and her unshakable stubbornness when demanding a third slice of cheese at 7 a.m.
What I wasn’t fully prepared for was her level of attachment.
I mentioned earlier that my eldest is quite attached. But in a very different way than her baby sister. While my eldest is attached emotionally to me, her baby sister is attached physically. And it’s a very different thing. Over the last 10 years, I’ve perfected the best ways to listen, teach, and communicate with my eldest. Comforting her emotional attachment with loving words and a calm, soothing voice is simple and effective. Even when I need a break, I can explain it in a way that doesn’t feel like a rejection to her.
But my toddler, who’s in a volatile stage of independence and development, is more like a honey badger. She don’t give a hoot that I’m all “touched out” and need a moment. In fact, there’s no way to explain to her that the one thing she wants and needs (to physically attach herself to me) is the opposite of what I can give her 24/7.
I’ve tried my best to offer her anything and everything.
I’ve tried blankets, stuffed animals, and even silicone nursing beads. But her sole currency is me. I’m the thing she needs. I’m her comfort. And to her, comfort means pinching. It’s called, “comfort pinching” (yep, it’s a thing), and it’s beyond my ability to redirect. And most of the time, I don’t even mind. It’s not a painful pinch – it’s just a thing she does. But there are moments when I think she’s in league with the Spanish Inquisition – trained in some rare form of torture that’s designed to break me.
That’s when my rational mom brain leaves me and I start to ponder sleep training (did I mention it’s 2 a.m. and she’s woken up twelve times? And I’m 39 weeks pregnant.). But then she falls asleep again. Her sweaty head glued to my chest. Her tiny puffs of breath in my neck. And she’s clinging to me because I’m her mother. I’m her rock. I’m the person she can torment and claw at and I’ll still welcome her into my arms at all hours of the day and night. It’s a beautiful thing when I look at it like that. It makes my heart full and it eases the chafing.