I have been told that my 3 year-old daughter is ‘clingy‘ with me and, really, I took it as a compliment. What may have been intended to be criticism was received, by me, as the opposite. I guess when I send my daughter or my son off to college and they still need me to tuck them in, cut up their food, sit on my lap, accompany them in all of the activities of daily living, or wipe their bottoms…well, then we could all conclude that my children are ‘clingy’. For now, though, I am going to take comfort in knowing that it is me they cling to in order to feel the safety and security they need at this stage in both of their lives.
My job as a parent is to prepare both of my children to become the adults they will eventually be. I am not raising babies here, I am raising people in their own right. My husband and I are laying a foundation for them to stand on and there are extremely important developmental stages happening in early childhood; trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. shame, and initiative vs. guilt. The virtues developed in early childhood are hope, will, and industry. Anyone who has taken enough psychology in college or ever experienced a pediatric psychiatry rotation automatically recognizes these stages from Erikson’s model of developmental theory. When combined with Biblical principles, there is a map and guide that unfolds to offer more insight and understanding into what our children truly need from us.
I come from a fractured family and that fracture began before I could walk or talk. The fracture grew over the years and, combined with some tragedies and traumas, I entered adulthood carrying a massive amount of mistrust, shame, doubt, and guilt. It took a lot of meditation on scripture, exploring my own college textbooks, working it out in therapy, and contemplative soul-searching to peel back those layers of mistrust, shame, doubt, and guilt in order to lay out a more solid foundation built on faith in God.
Today, I cling to God with all of my might. I am not independent of Him, rather I am dependent on Him. My mindset today is one that strives toward positive thinking, hope, trust, joy, peace, faith, love, and kindness in spite of the adversities. I experienced attachment wounds that left me searching constantly in an attempt to relieve the aches.
Over the years I would find myself clinging to people, places, or things in order to meet the needs of the safety and security I had been so desperately in need of for much of my life. Those endeavors were fruitless and brought me to a state of lifelessness. I don’t want my children to enter adulthood carrying the burden of mistrust, shame, doubt, and guilt, so I my intent is to provide the stability and sense of security that I myself once lacked.
My husband and I genuinely enjoy spending time with each other and our children. We read books together, have playtime together, have giant family hugs, and engage in projects together. We genuinely experience intimacy together as a family of four and it fills my heart up with a sense of contentment like nothing else ever has.
When you consider the state our society is in today, we probably do seem rather clingy by comparison. My husband and I are not perfect, this marriage is not perfect, and our parenting is not perfect. But, in the grand scheme of things, I think we are doing okay.
Our preschooler is at an age where she is able to take on tasks in order to feel a sense of accomplishment. Today, I let her be in charge of story time. And, well, this was the result…
Not pictured is the clean-up process as we sang the clean-up song together and talked about how we treat our belongings and put things back where they belong.
Yes, I spend a lot of time with my children. Yes, my children cling to me often. But, I am also encouraging them to share in experiences with each other, other things, and other people under my watchful eyes.
Safety and security is a basic human need that extends beyond food, shelter, and clothing. We need emotional security in order to navigate the rough terrain in the world today. I place my emotional security in God and I am going to be the one who teaches my children to do the same.
I do not smother my children with my presence, but there is truly no greater feeling in the world than when they come to me freely and want to be in my arms. I imagine God might feel the same way about us.
If that is ‘clingy’, I will take it and treasure it up in my heart.