WILD, what a movie! It’s not for everyone and I walked away with a heaviness in my heart. The character is very unlike me except for the main theme, the impact of her mother in her life. Wow, does it ever demonstrate the power of a mother’s love! I think that’s why I found it so emotional because I am so close with my mom. Many, many times, I have had folks, young and old, tell me how much they love my mom, or that ‘she’s the best’. And, I’m like, ‘I know’! She even has other people call her ‘mom’ because that’s how wise, nurturing, and loving she is. And, I am so grateful. She has really made me who I am, and I’ve only become more aware and grateful as I’ve grown older, become a part of the circle of motherhood, and the unexplainable, undeniable love that comes with the most challenging and rewarding job. I remember telling my mom as I child that I could never love anyone as much as I love her. And, I also remember her telling me just wait until you have a child of your own. Sure enough…. This year of kindergarten has been an emotional one for my baby girl. You’d never know she went to preschool and been perfectly fine and happy with the tears she’s shed over missing me this year. I even work at her school two days a week and she still misses me. She doesn’t dislike school but when it boils down to it, she’d rather be with me. From the moment she was born, actually. And, as I struggle and stress over this period because like all moms, I just want her to be happy, I have to remind myself that she’s really always been super attached to me. When she was just a little baby, she screamed and cried if her sweet dada tried to hold her. For months, only I could hold her and feed her. You always hear and I’ve read countless reliable sources say that the more attention you give an infant, the more secure and confident they become later on because they need to have a parent respond to their needs and learn to trust. I wearily reminded myself of this over and over when my babies were small because I thought the payoff would be great and they are only little once! Whether it was rocking them to sleep, riding in the backpack, or holding their little fingers to learn to walk, I always held them close.
In fact, before becoming a mother for the first time, a tiny school I used to work at out in the country hosted the most generous baby shower. Something always stood out from that day almost 10 year ago. A veteran kindergarten teacher and mother of teens gave me advice I’ll never forget. She said if you hold them when they’re little and rock them to sleep, they’ll always want to be held. She was ok with that. In fact, she told me her teenagers still climbed into her lap and found comfort in their mother holding them. The baby-raising business is full of opinions, books, how-to’s, theories, and also facts. After reading a plethora of books trying to ‘fix’ my son’s sleep issues, I decided the gut is really the way to go and I cuddled the heck out of them. We still are a very affectionate family. Having a responsive, somewhat consistent mother is the single most buffer for children. They are less likely to use drugs, drink, smoke, engage in early sexual activity, become depressed, cut, and so on and so on. This is not just my gut but based on data. And, you don’t have to be mother-of-the-year. Just being there and loving your child does so much for their development, learning to trust, and feeling secure. So, even if you think you’ve had a bad parenting moment, day, or even weeks, your children will forgive you.
Children with a stable home life and loving parents are resilient. So, I’ve felt a little embarrassed, frustrated, and confused as to why the counselor’s daughter who is very securely attached with a stable home life is crying at lunch, sometimes balling and unable to eat. She tells them her stomach hurts, and that isn’t a lie. She experiences the psychosomatic symptoms like headaches and stomach aches that many children that I work with at school also experience. Stress does it to children and adults!
And, the reason she’s crying: she misses me. She misses me the same way I did in kindergarten when I was the only child to leave the slumber party at 10 pm because I was homesick. She’d rather have play dates at our house than her friend’s. She wants to go to the grocery store just to spend time with me. And, while this is all sweet, yes I too find it exhausting. For all those moms out there still in the trenches of baby and toddler-land, I feel for ya and husbands don’t really understand how tiring that is, to never have a moment to yourself! It can feel sweet and annoying all at the same time! But, the payoff? It’s still worth it. And, we have to keep telling ourselves that. I still want to make my mom and dad proud. I still call my mom first to celebrate good and bad news. I still want her opinion on important decisions in life. I still want her to hug me. (But, no, I don’t still sneak into her bed anymore and maybe one day Anna won’t either!) In the movie Wild, there is a memorable line where she says something like ‘I am walking back to the good person I used to be’, the person her mother loved. I always want my mom to think I’m a good girl and I know being close to her prevented me from making bad choices growing up because I wanted to please my parents. Still do.
So, I will be ok with Anna missing me and wanting to spend so much time with me (because not only am I pretty awesome, but I do think the bond will carry her through life and keep her on track). While it’s not “normal” by the books and people’s opinions, my gut tells me this phase will pass. I have done and do everything to make her feel secure and loved. And, I hope this love will carry us down the same path to closeness as it has for my mother and I.