Monday, May 16, 2005

Ambivalence

1. A child is brought to my home. He is clinging to his parent, and his wails precede him into the house. Parent and I exchange needful information over the uproar, and then the parent leaves, clearly in distress. It's hard. It's hard to leave your child when he is crying and needs you. 2. One of my tots is dropped off. "Bye!" she crows, cheerfully, and toddles off. Parent lingers, then leaves reluctantly, dispirited, saying something like "She doesn't care!" (Or "Don't miss me too much", or, speaking for their child, "Yeah, yeah, mom/dad, you can leave now.") It's hard. It's hard to leave your child and have them so obviously not need you. I feel for my parents. It is hard. But of course, your child always needs you, happy or sad. Your child needs you whether you're present or not. Your child needs you in his/her life, needs your love, needs your nurturing, your guidance, your unrivalled concern. However, your child does not need your physical presence every second of the day. It is good for the child to have a circle of adults who love him/her, a circle of people s/he can trust. So, if your child cries when you leave, that's okay. They love you. Just trust them enough to believe that they will cope just fine. And they will - it generally takes about 36 seconds after your departure for those tears to dry and the child to begin to play. And if your child doesn't cry, that's okay, too. They're happy and secure in the place you've chosen for them. Good job! So, don't worry, mommy and daddy: Your baby will do just fine, and so will you!

4 Comments:

Anonymous keldar said...

When dropping the little ones of at school it amazes me how many parents stand gawping through the window waving to their children. Ive always thought it must distress the child more.

5/17/2005 04:13:00 AM  
Blogger Mary P. said...

You're absolutely right, of course. I've produced a handout that I give all parents new to my daycare dealing with this, because so many of them were driving me mad with their dawdling at the door, while their child got more and more upset. The main message of the paper: "Keep it short, sweet, and upbeat."

The longer you linger, the worse it gets!

5/17/2005 07:43:00 AM  
Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

The trouble is, we parents learn from experience just like our children do. They reach a new stage of independence and then, after we've experienced it, we adjust.

It's a parent's role to prepare a child to be independent. But it happens so soon! — too soon, even though we're eager for it at the same time.

"Ambivalence" is the right heading for the post.
Q

5/17/2005 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Mary P. said...

Child-rearing is indeed a "learn as you go" proposition. I am quite sympathetic to the plight of the parent. I hope that showed in the post!

This plight becomes a problem only when the parent projects their ambivalence onto their child, and either creates an anxious child where one didn't exist, or makes an anxious child exponentially worse.

Sadly, some parents are reassured by their child's anxiety. At some level, generally unconscious, they foster the poor tyke's misery and undermine his expressions of confidence, in order to get another example of their supreme importance to their child.

Most parents are not so oblivious to their child's best interests, of course! Mostly, we all just blunder about with varying degrees of skill and self-awareness, doing our best, getting better with experience, and generally turning out pretty decent members of society.

5/17/2005 03:28:00 PM  

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