After a few babies, I've come to learn that one of the first and most important lessons we can teach our children is that they belong to us...forever (no matter what).
With this foundational lesson in mind, our current top parenting priority with MaryAnn is to help her feel included.
I grab two pens whenever I'm taking notes. I pull up a chair and reach for an extra measuring cup when I'm cooking. I'm getting really good at typing one-handed. I plan for a few extra minutes of coats-boots-hats-mittens when it's time to jump in the van to drop-off/retrieve another child (even if beloved babysitters are home...still can't believe I have children old enough for that!) because I know I can count on MaryAnn to notice my movements toward the door and exclaim, "Me! Me!" while beating her chubby hand on her chest.
Hearing my name called out so frantically and so frequently used to feel completely overwhelming when my older ones passed through this stage. I wasn't used to it and I regularly dodged their calls and dreamed of the time when that constant burden would go away. It felt like it would never end. Every resolved issue led to another problem to solve. Though of course me and my older kids had many wonderful moments when they were little, I was worried back then that my children would become "too attached", which seemed it would only prolong my exhaustion. Comments about my babies naturally rejecting friends and family while clinging to me stung my insides and left me wondering if we were on the right track.
Now I know better. (because I've studied brains and prayed a lot).
Now I know that their natural connection to me is a gift...and therefore worth celebrating.
That very connection that my children so intensely and so consistently try to make with me (especially during the first three years) is the very thing that will lighten my future burdens (and theirs). I can freely teach and lead and guide them through any subject I want (except maybe sewing) when we are connected. I can't when we aren't. I've experienced both extremes. And with a strong attachment, my children are emotionally grounded in a secure feeling that allows them to freely explore the world without defensive walls holding them back. We can feel a difference with a secure attachment. It's like a breath of fresh air.
Right now, MaryAnn's brain is in the middle of developing it's primary definition of emotional security. I'm thrilled that I'm IT. It will make life so much easier for both of us down the road. Though it appears now that she may never leave my side voluntarily for the rest of her life or ever like anyone else but me because her love for me is so focused and devoted, I know her brain is simply laying an emotional foundation on which to build on. A new area of her brain will soon dominate her attention (and often does for brief moments each day), but a feeling of deep mother/child fidelity will remain forever and liberate her future.
My children's natural attachment beckons me to examine my own childlike yearn for my Eternal Father. I am part of His family. How often do I call out His name? How determined am I to reach His embrace? He doesn't get weary of my needs. He has a vision for who I can become. Every time I wobble my way to Him, He gently takes the time to wrap me in His arms, fill me up with His love, and lead me on a path that will bring me joy.
I think that's why I care so much about establishing a strong attachment with MaryAnn (and all the others)... because ultimately I wish to teach her and show her even just a sample of what it feels like to exist as part of God's family. I want her to feel that same peace I feel in my relationship with Him...especially when she's old enough to venture beyond my reach. That time is not far ahead. It has already started with her older siblings. But my children will always be within His reach.
So with each scribble, scoop, and car ride, MaryAnn and I (along with all the others) are building a foundation together that teaches her about her family both here on earth and in the Heavens. She belongs to both.