Thursday, March 10, 2011

Needing to Be Needed

I once had a mother drop her oldest child at my house.  He, after entering the house, dropped his mother's hand and ran off to play with the kids.  The mother called him back, "Are you sure you're going to be okay?  I'll miss you.  I'll be here at 11:30 to get you...."  He said, "Yah, yah, yah," and ran off again.  She, however, stood there in the entryway with a very sad and worried face, seemingly shocked that he's just run off that easily.

I assured her that all would be okay.  We'd watch out for him.

Mind you, this was just a playdate.

It seemed rather clear that this mom hadn't left her son much in the past.  When she called five minutes later to check to see that he was okay without her, it was clear that she needed to leave him more.

It is true that as mothers, it is a total rush to have little babies so very dependent on us.  A little one that loves YOU more than anyone else on earth.  When little ones start to stray from our sides, it's a blow to our egos.

In some cases, I think separation anxiety is brought on largely by the parents.  I don't know, but I think some of my kids are very in-tune with my feelings.  They get my vibe.  They can feel when I'm anxious about things.  Thus they reflect that feeling.

This is what we've done to set our kids up for success when it comes to being apart from us.  With some of our kids it was easy.  With some, not so much, and it took a lot of patience and practice.  I would venture to say that the easiest were the ones who trusted us the most.   First of all, this is an opportunity for a child to learn to trust others, so my job is to make SURE that whenever I leave my child, I know that it's the safest place possible for my child.  If they are unsure, I verbalize that, "You know I love you and would never leave you in a place that I didn't believe was safe."  If I think the place isn't safe, there's no way I'm leaving my kid because it reflects on me and can destroy my child's trust in me.  My child's trust is the most valuable thing I can have.  Second, we, the Warden and I, talk the place up to our kids.  This has been particularly true when they become of the age to go to nursery during church.  "You get to go play with the kids?  Oh, you're so lucky!  I love the kids....."

If they are crying when I leave them, I know they will get over it once they start having fun.  I don't stay.  My child needs to learn coping skills.  They need to learn for themselves to calm themselves and find the fun.  If I stay and do it for them or with them, they will learn that I am the fun and I have deprived them of learning a very valuable, and I'd say vital, life skill.

My job, as a mom, is to train my kids to face the world.  This task is SO not easy.  I feel like my heart gets ripped out almost on a daily basis.  It's hard to watch them let go of and stop needing me as much as they once did.  But the more this eventuality is delayed, the harder it is to teach.  The more they fight against it.

I am just now learning, as I face the reality that in the near future, one of mine will graduate and leave home, that every opportunity I give them to learn something that leaves me with less to do for them, the more I bind them to me out of respect and love.  I believe that cutting my children loose by giving them responsibility for themselves has saved us all a lot of grief and has made them closer to me.  We have avoided many power struggles.  I'm not saying we haven't had any.  Oh, we have, but I do believe there were others that were diverted just by letting the children choose and allowing them some independence.   They grew, and we grew closer with the kids just with them knowing that we trust them to make good choices.

Just like the little boy who came for the playdate, all children seek for independence.  My belief is that little by little, it should be granted, but not without teaching and training so that they can be successful.  We, as parents, sometimes have to take the ego hit and deal with the pain.  It's not them rejecting us, it's us letting them love us more.  We're letting them grow up and become who they are meant to be.  But, man, it's not easy.


Kira Rivadeneira said...

I am still in that happy, my baby depends on me for everything, stage and I am already dredding the day that I have to leave her with someone else, even if it is for a minute. In the mean time I know I am going to do all I can to teach her so that when that time comes, hopefuly, I won't have to worry.
You sound like a pretty awesome mommy. I hope I can learn a thing or two from you. :)

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