When my son was 16 months old, I decided to try leaving him with a babysitter while I went to a medical appointment. Up to this point, he’d never been cared for by anyone other than me, my husband, or very occasionally by his grandparents. He knew the babysitter fairly well, but nonetheless, was miserable the entire time I was gone. She eventually resorted to wearing him on her back, but even there he wasn’t terribly happy.
I know many people would have taken this as a sign that he needed to get used to being cared for by others, and recommended that I start leaving him with a babysitter on a regular basis. I even got offers from some of my friends to look after him.
But it seemed to me that what he needed wasn’t some kind of acclimatization program, but simply to be older. So I waited.
Four months later, he stayed with a friend and her child while I went to another medical appointment. This time, it was no problem. A few weeks later, another friend, another great playdate. Today, at 23 months, he stayed with someone he barely knew for a couple of hours with no trouble at all.
We often hear that a secure attachment helps children to become more independent in the long run. Obviously, every child is different, so there are no guarantees about how any given child will develop. But I’m certainly glad I trusted my instinct about what was right for my child, and trusted that he would outgrow his need to be with me constantly in his own time.