You always carry her.
You hold her a lot.
You pick her up so much.
Carrying my baby brought on a lot of commentary when I was a new mom.
“Up,” my daughter would signal upon arriving at a park, preschool or playdate. She was “spirited,” as author Mary Kurcinka described: extra sensitive, perceptive, uncomfortable with change.
She’ll become too dependent.
I still lifted.
Museums? Mall play areas? Movies? Big, busy and loud equaled my child’s need for smallness, space, and security.
Colorful play structures that lured toddlers, made mine draw back. Attending children’s concerts usually led to vacating our seats and heading to the quiet room.
I envied free-at-the-knees moms with empty laps who enjoyed eating and having a conversation at parties. They didn’t have to reply, “Mine just needs time to warm up,” when asked why their child wasn’t participating.
As the onlooker sitting on waiting room benches during birthdays at kid gyms, I tried to look amused by the squealing of children yet didn’t want to look discouraged by my downtrodden daughter. We’d roam the room or I’d escort her to the circle of kids gathered around the instructor.
Let her go alone.
I still lifted.
“You have to raise the child you have, not the child you wish you had,” says author Dr. Kathy Koch.
Now that nearly-raised child is as independent as July 4th. At 15, she loves going to movies with friends and eats in noisy food courts. She manages her schoolwork and communications with teachers. The one who once ran from the masses now performs on stage during choir shows. She auditioned and made her school’s mock trial team . . . another public performance, oriented activity.
Each year since having left her former school, she is invited to give tours to perspective parents at the annual open house. The principal feels she is a confident leader, poised, and a clear communicator. She volunteers Sundays in a first grade class and landed a camp counselor job, desiring the opportunity to work with kids. This once fearful child decided to step out from her small, private school to attend a large public high school where she did not come in under the security of a friend group. She marched in alone.
I list these examples not to brag but to say that if you are a Coddler Mom, years from now, you may see a gap from where your child was teetering to where she is standing. Baby steps taken have left imprints of self-assuredness and independence in my daughter’s life. She’s still cautious, doesn’t rush in, and there are still hurdles to jump in getting through uncomfortable situations. Here’s what helped:
Knowing and Accepting My Child’s Temperament
You can change and control your response but not your child’s personality. Rather than trying to talk my child out of being uncomfortable, learning about temperaments, development, and approaches that elevate children’s spirits, builds esteem, and honors readiness, was invaluable.
Respecting My Child’s Discomfort
Offering empathy with, “I know you feel afraid,” or “I know the noise hurts your ears,” relaxes an anxious child and gives words to their feelings. Suggesting to return another day, communicates that fears don’t always stick around and strength develops in trying again.
Communicating Plans Ahead of Time
My daughter did better knowing what to expect before an event. When walking into a store I’d suggest, “I’ll carry you until we reach the door and when we get inside, you can ride in the cart or walk next to me.” Laying out the plan enabled her to step in with more ease and giving choice gave her the opportunity to make a decision comfortable for her.
After a day out, I knew my daughter needed quietness to recharge, which she still needs today. She schedules the timing of activities with her temperament in mind, and knows when she needs down time to recharge. She directs her choices based on what she knows about herself. Isn’t that what we want our children to be able to do?
I wish I had seen that every lift up to my hip provided security to later step alone. I should have trusted the passing stages of development more, my fears and words of others, less. For that baby who needs holding now, just might be coddling you when it’s time to live life beyond your hips.
To a Coddling Mom I say:
One day, your arms will retire and be put to rest from lifting. Carrying will have its final day.
You are giving your child love and support.
She’s going to feel accepted, unhurried, and have freedom to launch at her pace, emotionally strong.
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