Friday, March 22, 2013

Attachment Lesson #2: You Belong

Before the world gets a piece of MaryAnn's mind, we desperately want to ingrain Attachment Lesson #2 into her brain: I belong to a Family. I don't just exist under the same roof and eat at the same table as the people around me. I belong.

Babies naturally yearn for love, comfort, and affection. They join us on earth wired and ready to connect. And they are innocently and completely vulnerable to whatever kind of human (or non-human) connection they can get. It is therefore very humbling to ponder on the fact that my children chose to come to me. They chose to receive the comfort that I could give them (or not). And I have a sense that they humbly knew my connections would not always fulfill their needs and maybe even lead them astray at times (because let's face it...I'm not perfect). But I sense that they also knew I would try my best.

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.

She naturally wants to spend nearly her entire day within a few feet of me. Her radar for my presence (ie attachment) is mind-boggling. Even when I think she's not paying attention, I can't leave the room without her instantly noticing and calling out, "Mom. Mom!" It's music to my ears (assuming I'm in a good mood and have a present mind).

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.

When I hear MaryAnn's call, I'm usually in the bathroom, or emptying clothes from the dryer into a basket, or sitting on the couch correcting grammar. I answer quickly. Then she exerts extreme effort to wobble her way back to my fill up with my love before her next round of adventures. So inspiring.

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.

1 comment:

Diana said...

Beautiful and true. I love this!