To Be With My Children
|“There are many things that I do that many other parents and “experts” don’t agree with, like bed sharing, child-led weaning (including extended breastfeeding), child-led learning, babywearing, intuitive parenting, and so on. But the one thing that dumbfounds so many people is that I actually love spending time with my child.”|
It took me some time to accept that my child is an autonomous being who deserves respect and freedom of expression. Allowing this autonomy to develop can be messy and loud. It doesn’t cleanly align with a world that values obedience, passivity, complicity, and time-outs. But because I was able to follow my heart, I now see before me a child who is tender, gentle, intuitive, attentive, and fully expressive. I can’t see why I should want to be away from a person like this because I am enjoying her in so many ways.
Sometimes it is not easy existing in the community with a child who is always by my side. There is a rigid expectation that children should only be allowed in “kid-friendly” places and they are only barely tolerated outside of that sphere. This unwritten rule is so prevalent that even an Attachment Parenting workshop that I wanted to attend politely informed me that children were not allowed! I then politely informed them that I would not be attending. It seems strange to me that children, who are expected to one day be fully-integrated contributors to society, are segregated from adults until at least the age of sixteen. Parents have to constantly search for those child-friendly play areas – which usually are full of plastic toys, rules, and a whole lot of frustrated children – or endure cold glares when their child participates wholeheartedly in everyday life. Even within these kid-friendly activities, children are segregated by age. It seems that socialization should never occur between children more than two years apart, if that! This strange age division continues through school and until adulthood for most children. Even for parents who want to be with their children, everything around them is telling them that it just isn’t right to feel that way.
I have never sat down and asked my child if she wants me to be around, or if she would rather spend the day with a childhood educator. It’s not one of those things that needs to be asked because the answer is as clear as day. We spend our days reading books, doing art, playing with other families, swimming, going to the library, attending story times and family events, playing at the park, having picnics, going to meet-up groups, and sometimes just hanging around the house.
Who knows what other fun ideas we will come up with as she grows! She never has to leave my side unless she wants to, she never has to wake up or go to sleep unless she is naturally inclined, she is never forced to “get along” with anyone she doesn’t like, and if she doesn’t want to be somewhere we just leave. I know I make mistakes all of the time, but, just like my daughter, I am learning and growing continually. When spending each minute with a child who’s closer than her life’s vein, a parent has no choice but to grow and change with her. It’s the natural movement of life.
Not every day is smooth, and not every day is easy for either of us. Sometimes my husband comes home to a very grumpy wife and child. But somehow, every single night, we cuddle up in bed as a family and talk, giggle, and share stories. When the lights go out, my little one snuggles up to me, warm and comfortable, and nurses her way into oblivion. I can’t imagine a better person to spend all the hours of the day with. And when the rhythm of her suckling becomes in sync with the beat of my heart, I’m certain that there is nobody she’d rather be with, either.
Heidi Haghighi is a stay-at-home mother, attachment parent, breastfeeding advocate, part-time doula, and unschooler, who lives in Surrey, BC, Canada with her husband and daughter who was almost-two when this article was written. She aspires to become a midwife once her child (and future children) are grown. You can visit her website at www.newlifebirthing.ca.