My son recently turned two. And we've just moved into the fifth house that he's lived in since he was born.
In her six years on this planet, my daughter has called six different places home.
And, believe it or not, we're not finished yet. Our recent move was a temporary one. At the moment, we're in a kind of a stopping-over place until we can find a permanent home where we can put down roots and finally unpack every last box.
So yeah, if you're wondering, I'm feeling like mother of the year right now . . .
No, we aren't gypsies or drifters or circus people. No, we never intended to move this many times, and we certainly never intended to do it with young children. But life has a way of throwing you curve balls, and sometimes you just have to play the hand you're dealt.
And you know what? It hasn't been that bad.
Through the many moves, the parade of houses that never quite felt like home, my children have coped remarkably well.
Experts may caution that moving can be "traumatic" for kids, who supposedly thrive on "familiarity and routine." Okay, sure, moving a lot isn't the ideal situation for young children, but it doesn't have to destroy them for life either. In my opinion, my children have managed well for one very simple reason: they aren't attached to their things, they're attached to me.
In our culture today, we place a lot of emphasis on "stuff." As adults, we're often impressed by the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, and the houses we live in. We shower our children with all the supposedly necessary baby gadgets and hot new "it" toys of the moment. Many parents think that a special blanket or a beloved pacifier or a bedtime routine that takes place at the same time every evening in the same bedroom with the same exact crib will provide children with the security that they need to grow up feeling safe and loved.
Sorry, but that's not necessarily true.
Children do need security and familiarity. But they shouldn't derive it from their relationship with their things. It's the relationships that they form with the important people in their lives that should make them feel secure.
My little boy has slept in my bed from the day he was born. He doesn't care when the bed or the bedroom changes, because he always has the familiarity of falling asleep next to me. And he wakes up to find me right where he left me. He's never had a pacifier or a security blanket because I'm both of those things to him. He nurses for comfort or to pacify himself when he's scared or upset; he clings to me instead of an object in new and uncertain situations. He's happy and he's well-adjusted and he's secure.
I've raised my daughter in much the same way. She might be older, and more independent, but she's independent and secure precisely because she's been securely attached to me from the day she was born.
Some people refer to the kind of parenting I'm talking about as attachment parenting. Basically, that's what I do; I just don't like the label. I pretty much parent by instinct, doing what feels right to me and what works for our family. I've been raising my kids this way since I first became a mom, before I had ever even heard the term attachment parenting or been introduced to Dr. Sears.
Now I don't mean to wax poetic about what a great mother I am or how life is always a bed of roses when you choose to parent in a way that's truly responsive to your children's needs. The fact is, it's pretty damn hard. There are days when you feel like you're suffocating. There are days when you feel like a martyr.
Always being there to meet your child's every need is not only exhausting, it's impossible.
But being attached to our children from the very beginning has huge benefits. We come to understand them well from a very early age. We know which needs are most important to them. We know which child can't fall asleep by himself because he is afraid of the dark, and which one needs her alone time. We can tell when our child really needs us, and when an alternate caregiver will do. We know what types of situations they handle well, and what types of situations cause them stress.
They, in turn, know that they can trust us absolutely and that we will always be there for them. They know that, no matter where we live, they can always climb into our bed in the middle of the night.
They know that, even when houses and cities and jobs and friends change, they've always got their parents.
They know what's truly important in life.
And, mother of the year or not, that's a lesson that I'm pretty damn proud to have taught them.