I am my 4-month-old’s favorite person. This is just as it should be and it’s so very sweet, but of course it’s also exhausting. He rarely wants to be held by anybody else, and if he does, he doesn’t last long before looking around for me and protesting until I return. In fact, sometimes he seems happier to lie on his back by himself, watching shadows, kicking his legs, thinking his baby thoughts than he does when somebody other than me holds him. Go figure.
My first child greatly preferred being held by me too. He didn’t even want to be set down to play and explore until he was probably at least 8 months old. And even after that, he still made it clear that he wanted me to be close. When he was a baby, I fought this so hard. Every time he protested being put down or handed off to somebody else, the same script would run through my head. “Why doesn’t he like other people? Why can’t he be more independent? He’ll never learn how to socialize with others! I just want a break.” The worry and, if I’m being honest, the wishing for him to be somebody other than exactly who he was began to consume me. It sucked the joy out of many of our moments and our days, and I sometimes long to get that time back and do it differently.
So this time around with my newest babe, I’m taking a different approach and I’m changing the script. I’m trying to remember to celebrate my baby for exactly who he is and to stay in the moment without wanting anything to change. If I ask somebody else to hold him and he protests, I take a deep breath, try to remember to be grateful for our bond, and I hold him again. I choose to notice what a generally happy baby he is, constantly cooing and smiling and giggling at me, his dad, his brothers, and even strangers. The fact that he prefers to do most of this from my arms doesn’t need to be a problem if I choose not to see it as one. And when I stop worrying about what this means for his future or dwelling on the physical demands it puts on me, I make so much space for being present and enjoying our time together.
In my six years of motherhood, I’ve only recently begun to really understand what it means to accept and celebrate my children for exactly who they are right now. My oldest child, who once needed me so desperately and constantly, is now a compassionate, energetic, analytical, and thoughtful person. And he is becoming independent in his own perfect way. In fact, some days I realize he has been doing his own thing for a good chunk of time day while I nurse the baby and play with the 4-year-old. (And then, of course, I miss him and seek him out – never thought we’d get here!)
Wishing to change things, especially to change people, is a fruitless endeavor. My children weren’t born so that they could fulfill some idealistic image I had of them before they came to be. They were born to be uniquely themselves and they deserve to be honored and celebrated. They are not mine to mold or change. As I venture further into radically accepting them and staying in the moment with them, I find myself feeling immense peace as I struggle and resist so much less. I imagine that they can feel the shift too. I’m sure that when I hope for them to be different in any way, they can feel that energy. I don’t want to send them the message that they’re not OK or not enough. Because they are more than enough. I want my children to celebrate and accept themselves and for that to happen, I need to accept them for exactly who they are.