Independence or love?

It occured to me as I slipped away after putting Duncan to sleep for a nap just now that there are a bunch of people who’d probably think I’m doing it wrong.

Duncan doesn’t go to sleep on his own. Not usually. At night he’s usually nursed to sleep or, if not, he’s cuddled up next to Mummy, his head on my breast like a pillow, arms and legs held against me in a human swaddle. He flails a lot right before he goes to sleep. It helps to contain it.

So much of what I read or hear about with babies is how to teach them to be independent. The debate is whether that’s done by attachment or detachment, really. I’m all for independence. I’m the woman who can’t stand not to have time and space alone. I’m the one who goes for solitary walks in the middle of family gatherings to keep my mind intact.

But I wonder about this thing of teaching our children independence. I wonder if that’s really the most important thing? Perhaps what we should focus on is teaching them love. Or teaching them how to be intimate and open. Not in a sexual way but with their emotions. How many of us have trouble really connecting with others? Who doesn’t live behind the walls they’ve constructed to keep them safe?

Duncan will learn independence. He’ll learn to fall asleep on his own. He’ll learn to go to sleep easily without nursing. I love our cuddle time, honestly. I love curling up with him and feeling his warm little body against mine (even as it’s flailing), seeing the look of comfort and deep satisfaction as he nurses himself into oblivion. I want to breastfeed for 18 months to 2 years and if I do that every night, that’s OK with me. If it helps me keep doing it longer because it’s a comforting thing for him, that’s OK.

I’m his mother. I’m supposed to provide comfort. He’s not packing to go off to college just yet. Or even Kindergarten. I do love that he needs us, his parents. That he trusts us. That he knows we’re there for him, whatever his needs may be.

Because that’s the thing I really want to teach him right now. Trust. If he trusts us and feels truly loved, then he’s going to wind up not needing us as much as if he doesn’t know if we’re unconditionally loving and there no matter what.

It’s more important that my little guy knows how deeply he is loved than that he goes to sleep on his own with no fuss at 8 o’clock every night. It’s more important that he knows to his core that when he calls, when he needs, when he wants — there is someone and something to answer the call and fill those needs, rather than being able to self-soothe and do it all on his own.

We’re not alone in this world. Whether its our parents or the universe looking out for us we should know, without a doubt, that our needs will always be met; that we will never be left, abandoned, to figure it out for ourselves; that there is unconditional love and acceptance for us no matter who or what we are. And I think that knowing, that learning, starts right now.

2 thoughts on “Independence or love?

  1. I have no idea how you can read my mind so accurately, but I was just mulling over this very thing this holiday season. Thanks for the encouragement via your thoughts and blog entry! I love how similiarly we think… and how your writing arrives in perfect timing to still any doubts I have about nursing James to sleep every night.

  2. Funny, I thought of you as I was writing it – especially the paragraph about there always being unconditional love for us from the universe (i.e. God).

    I’m glad it made sense to you. It’s something I’ve been mulling over the last few days as well.

    Our babies grow up so quickly already – why rush them along?

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