Raise your hand if someone has ever said you would spoil your baby by holding him too much? If you never heard that phrase, consider yourself lucky, but my guess is you have been told that in some form or another.
Maybe it was a relative glaring at you from across the room while you snuggle with your newborn? Or a friend not “getting” why you can’t just drop your six-month-old off with a babysitter so you can go party. Even strangers who see you with a toddler strapped to your back, and passive aggressively comment on how your kid will never want to be put down.
Your mama gut tells you to keep your baby close while they are still so small. You rush to scoop her up with every cry, sometimes at the expense of your own self-care. You are always willing to rock him to sleep just a little longer, even when you can barely stand. You pull your child in closer when they grab your hand and need a bit of comforting before exploring the unknown.
You hug him and kiss her and hold her as much as they want. Even when you are exhausted. Even when your back hurts. Even when you don’t want to be touched. You are there.
I was there, too. I had a baby who clung to me like Velcro. I called him my barnacle, because I was clearly his host, his main source for sustenance and love. I held him all day and slept with him all night. And if it wasn’t me, my husband or another close relative would hold him instead. He never lacked for physical attention.
As he got older, the questions about “making him more independent” poured in. People wondered why I wasn’t sending him to preschool. They warned me about clingy kids who never want to leave their mothers. They tell me of grown men who live in their mothers’ basements; their moms afraid to let their “babies” grow up.
The days before school began, I worried more and more about how my son would do. Would he be too scared to ride the bus? Would I have to forcibly remove him from my leg as he held on for dear life, unwilling to to venture off on his own?
When I watched my four-year-old excitedly board the school bus for his first day of Kindergarten, I knew all the doubters were wrong. All of my worries subsided. My child wasn’t scared, he wasn’t clingy. He was ready. He was confident. He was happy.
My son loved his first day of school, and said riding the bus was his favorite part. I was proud of him, and proud of myself. Proud I listened to my instincts and did what I thought was best for him, even if others didn’t always agree with me.
I know the time and attention I put in during those first years was worth it. I know those sleepless nights and aching shoulders were the sacrifices of building a confident and independent child.
So, if you have little ones, and you are worried you are coddling them too much, I am here from the future to tell you, you are doing a great job. Because nothing builds a strong child quite like love.