Learning to let go of your child
“HE CAN’T LET GO!” That was a friend talking about her father. She was not angry, so it would be wrong to say that she was complaining. It was a statement made in a gentle disapproval of the father who she calls her friend. From the many discussions we have had about her dad, I was convinced that they had a good relationship- father and daughter. He was a good adviser to her in her teenage years and when he needed to ally with her mother against some of her behaviours, she knew she was wrong and bore him no grudge.
This time, however, the man’s refusal to approve her future husband was the chagrin; “he did approve after making all the shakara”, she said with a glee.
But the observation that parents never want to let go of their offsprings has never left my memory and I have since tried to see things from a parent’s point of view. My thinking is that a parent does not start to hold on to a child at that stage when she/he wants to leave home to start his life with another person in marriage. I am of the opinion that it begins much earlier. It may have begun when a mother gives birth to a new baby. She looks at her bundle of joy and sees how helpless he is and resolves not to allow danger or any bad thing to come near her baby.
Automatically she clings to a baby who does depend on her to feed and survive. Baby cannot walk so she needs to carry her and, with the need to protect the young one, an attachment between the two grows stronger. But incidentally, the child with the eagerness to know the world around him is the first to crave independence; it is normal to want to know.
“When I gave birth to my daughter,” observed another friend, “I did not know that I would come to appreciate the advice of one of the nurses at the hospital.”
She was what they called a “nice baby” at birth. She was so cute that when she was taken to have her bath, visitors or other mothers would follow the cot back to the room to see the mother. “The nice nurse, whenever she was on duty, would tell me; “You may carry her, play with her, hug her to stimulate her, but don’t pick her up all the time. Even in those first few months of life, people joked that my baby was born matured, but I did not agree with them. However, you have to let go of your child at some point in her life, so know when to let go; that time to tell yourself that you want an independent child, not the one who wants to hang to the hem of your skirt for life. You can change things if your child was already becoming too dependent; like a mother I used to know. Her cry was always, “what do I do about this child who refuses to be held by other people?” He cried when she had to leave him at the daycare centre.
You have to carry that toddler because although he can walk, but “he is not strong at all and may harm himself if he is too active or runs faster than his little legs could carry him.”
You are right to feel concerned because at age two, a child has little or no sense of danger and still needs to be protected from putting his fingers into electrical outlets. But the protection that he needs now is you putting up guards or covers to make them unreachable, just as you put dangerous fluids out of reach because you can’t watch him 24 hours.
Baby is growing fast and is eager to learn and wants to check these things. He does not want to depend on mummy’s opinion. When he falls and injures himself and cries, tell him sorry, but don’t follow it with; “That is good for you.” He would be scared to try again. Console him, but let him continue with his play.
If you don’t want your child who is learning to crawl and enjoying the freedom that comes with the ability to move without help, make the floor safe and clean.
But once a child is two you have little choice but to begin to let go unless you think that he still needs you. Still prepare such children to play by themselves. But reassure such a child that mummy is never far away by coming up and showing interest in what she is doing.
If she is not ready to leave you, she will continually call out to you. If you think that she is not ready, do not force her to be independent. Do not force her. If you have taken her to a play school and the feedback is that she was miserable the whole day, keep her at home, by your side for a little longer.