If my 14 ½-month old son can Velcro himself to me, I’m pretty sure he would. That’s how attached he is to me ever since he was a tiny baby.
I always thought it was just a phase since he was only 6 months old. He wanted to be held a lot and would panic when he doesn’t see me in the room. Everything I read said it was normal for babies to be attached to one or two people – usually mom and dad – and separation anxiety was a healthy part of their development.
But when he turned one, I saw how other kids around his age would just forget about their parents and impatiently dive into toys and anything they can get their hands on. During his first birthday party, I looked at the little kids running around our house, then at my baby stuck to my hip. I know I shouldn’t compare my kid with others, but I couldn’t help it – I was hit with a huge pang of envy.
“He’s probably overwhelmed by this many people,” says one of my friends whose baby is so independent, she even feels ignored sometimes. She may be right, because my son doesn’t exactly get to be around people often.
“Maybe he’s just tired,” says another one. I could think of about 35 other reasons why this boy just won’t let go, and they could all be true. Still, for a while I questioned my parenting skills and asked myself, “why is my baby so clingy?”
These thoughts screamed in my head especially when he and I went to visit our family in another country – family he had no awareness of. Each time I left his sight to go on a bathroom break, he would wail like he was being tortured, only stopping the waterworks as soon as he was in my arms.
It didn’t matter how many people were more than willing to lend me a hand and watch him for a few minutes so I can at least shower. He would refuse to survive without my physical presence.
I knew this was going to happen – after all, we were in a strange place with oddly hot weather and a completely different time zone that threw off his schedule. Everything familiar to him was pulled off his feet, plus he got sick right after we landed, so I knew we were going to be in for a rough first few days.
Unfortunately, it lasted more than a few days. I was so exhausted and at my wit’s end – this vacation without his dad was turning out to be a bad idea, mostly because the break I was looking for backfired on me.
Somehow, we survived even before my husband finally arrived. Milo eventually warmed up to his grandparents, aunties and uncles, playing with them and walking around other places even without me in the room.
He would sign to them, babble and dance to their songs, and behaved perfectly fine as long as they didn’t attempt to take him away. And when he met his cousins, they played as if they’ve known each other all his life to a point where he wouldn’t even care where we were.
More importantly, I had to make some changes in perspective. Instead of “taking a break” from baby care, I decided to think of this whole trip as a long bonding experience and an adventure for me and my son. Though I desperately needed a break, I told myself this wasn’t going to last.
Before I know it, this boy will not want to hold my hand anymore as he learns to walk on his own - I will be the one running after him. Someday, he’ll refuse to kiss me as he runs to meet his friends. And someday, he will be keeping me out of his room… and then all I will have are memories of him as a little boy who couldn’t be without me.
So instead of pushing him to be independent, all I really needed to do was to cherish this short time that he is a baby, because it will be over soon.
See, my mommy instinct now tells me I am right. Since he has mastered his walking skill, he has become more and more independent, venturing into big open places, eager to explore. And when there are other kids around, I turn into wallpaper or a little shrub on the side. Independence is slowly growing into my boy.
Now, the bitter-sweet countdown begins.