As Nala clings to my leg, standing, wobbling on her feet, her total trust in me not to move a millimeter and I try to cook dinner without moving, I remember something I saw that said ‘you will never be this loved again’. And I know it. I have to know it. I remind myself of it 1000 times a day, when her love for me feels suffocating, when I find myself lunging across the kitchen to reach for a spoon to avoid moving the leg my daughter is attached to. It is, I am sure, the age, a stage, a phase. But honestly I hope it doesn’t last too long. I cannot put her down, from the moment she wakes up, until she sleeps. And even when she sleeps, she sleep in my arms. If I try to put her down she holds on so tight, lifts her legs off the floor, and cries.
I can see what has happened. Our little 10 month old has learnt to walk. She moves so quickly she is basically running. But though physically she can move around independently, emotionally she is not ready. Physically she can run – but only if it is to me, never away. I can sense the mixed emotions inside her – her excitement of finding her feet, her surprise at realising she is independent, and her fear of moving away.
So many things I used to do without thinking are now a daily struggle. Do you know how many steps you take each time you make the bed? If not, lucky you. Try doing it while either carrying a wriggly 10kgs or with one leg stuck in one spot!
I’m the only one who experiences this side of her. The minute her daddy is home, she rushes to the door and greets him, cuddles and hangs out with him for a while and then sits happily on the floor and plays with her toys! Whenever others are around she plays with them or on her own. Her ‘don’t put me down’ personality is something she saves especially for when she’s alone with me.
Nala has always been a very easy baby. Never unsettled, nearly always happy to chill in her bouncer or on her playmat or with her toys, friendly to everyone, able to be taken everywhere. So I didn’t expect this. But 10 months has been the most challenging age so far for me.
It’s challenging because for many years how I feel about my day has come from how productive I have been. How many items I’ve crossed off my to do list. And it is generally much harder to get things done at the moment. I’ve realised I need to detangle my self-worth from my productivity. I need to start going to bed feeling good about myself even if I have done nothing except keep my daughter alive that day. I need to realise that that in itself is a successful day. I need to change the way I measure a successful day.
So today I’m counting my success by the number of tears (none so far), the length of the cuddles and how many funny faces my daughter can copy (plenty). With this as my criteria, I declare the day a success.
I’m starting to read up on attachment, separation anxiety and clinginess, but I still know very little. What I do know though is that babies do things for a reason. That right now she obviously has a need for me. And as her mother it is my job to meet that need. Over and over. It’s my job to put aside my to do list, hard as it, and sit on the floor and play blocks. Because that’s what she needs. And even when her affection for me feels suffocating, I remind myself, I will never be this loved again. And I choose to treasure these (sometimes trying) moments.
I would love to hear from other parents – how long can I expect this to last? And what can I do to ease it in the meantime? Would some new and exciting toys help? She used to enjoy in her toys but doesn’t seem that interested at the moment. Any other tips or ideas?