It’s alright that you need me

yvette lambMy child, I want to say this to you: It’s alright that you need me.

Needing is good. Needing is natural. When you cry for me, when you wrap your arms around me, when you sigh because you feel happy in my arms…you’re behaving just as you should. You are finding out where you fit in this world, discovering all there is around you and learning how to feel safe.

You are young and new and so many things at the same time: brave and unsure, loud and quiet, shy and confident, content and needy. You are all of these things, and that is alright.

I have worried before. We spend a lot of time together, which is lovely for me and, I hope, for you, too. But I sometimes have thoughts like, Will you struggle to settle without me? and Should you be more self-assured?

Then I remember, you have your whole life to be bold and independent. And what a big life you will have.

I want to reclaim need and dependence as good things. I want to remind everybody that these are qualities, not inadequacies. These natural urges ensure protection, security, safety. They are a big part of love and trust: You trust me enough to depend on me, to allow me to see your need.

It is alright to need people. It is alright to rely on them. It is alright to know that there are people in your world that will stand by you, on whom you can depend. In fact, it is more than alright — it is wonderful.

And you my little boy — in your own time — will take tentative, then hurried, steps away from me. You will let go. Then I’m quite sure I will wonder why I ever worried that you needed me so much, and I’ll miss those arms around my legs as I try to make dinner, those soft snores on my pillow that leave no room for my head, and those contented sighs as I scoop you up and make everything alright with a kiss.

I’ll miss the days when just being me, being with you, was all you needed.

It isn’t always easy to be needed, especially in the early and intense days when only I would do so much of the time. But I know also that it is a gift to hold such a big space in your heart. You trust that I will be there, that I won’t let you down, that I love you wholly — and to you, that is everything. You and I are everything, and everything is enough.

So need me, call me, demand me, exhaust me. And then smile — and I’ll be there for it all — every day.

And of course I will cheer you on, as almost each day it seems you need to do more things by yourself: take off your shoe, undo your zipper, brush your teeth. You are so proud! You need this, too, and I will never stand in your way. But for the times you need me, be it a hug between plays or holding on tight as we navigate something new, I will be here. To give you what you need, for as long
as you need it.

As your world gets bigger, I won’t be able to provide everything that you need, but for now, I can — and that makes me very privileged. So keep on keeping on, and I will, too — watching you lean, then lead, then leave.

So remember, it’s alright that you need me, and whether you know it or not, little one…I need you, too.

Is she too attached?

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Aug. 11, 2010, and centers on an issue that many of us know all too well — that of separation anxiety and Attachment Parenting.

baby-kiss-1395713-mMy 8-month-old daughter, Penelope, is going through a separation anxiety phase. If I walk out of her eyesight, even for a second — even if Peter, my husband, or someone else is sitting with her and playing — she cries. She is a mama’s girl right now.

When her anxiety first showed up, I was concerned. I thought, “Oh, what have I done?!” Is she too attached? Have I taken Attachment Parenting to an extreme and done damage? I thought, “Should I finally get a babysitter and leave her with someone other than my husband and ‘teach’ her to be OK” — which, of course, had been so often told to me by neighbors and some friends. I had also been told to simply let her fuss for a bit and not immediately pick her up and tend to her.

Luckily,  I snapped out of my doubt and regained my confidence before I heeded any of that advice.

Even if her behavior is not the stereotypical 8-month-baby-separation-anxiety-phase, and she simply wants me all of the time, that’s perfectly fine with me. I am her mother, she is my baby and we are still deeply connected through my breastmilk that I make for her. To me, breastfeeding feels like an extended, energetic umbilical cord. I hold her all day long; I sleep and cuddle with her all night long. I want to be in close contact with her, as much as she wants to be in close contact with me.

This is what is supposed to be happening. This is how mothering and baby rearing is supposed to be.

One of my most favorite books is the Continuum Concept. When I read it…before I was a mother when I was a nanny…it turned on a light bulb in my head. What a novel idea, that babies are expecting to be with their mothers at all times! They are expecting that Mama — or a really great almost-Mama substitute for the time being, like a fabulous nanny — is going to be right there, every step of the way.

I will admit that sometimes I dream of lounging by the pool, or going out to dinner and then (gasp!) a movie with my husband. But most of the time, I am thrilled to meeting my baby’s every need and demand. I love knowing that she has not once “cried it out” to go to sleep. I love knowing that she knows that if she communicates to me that she needs me, that I will be there, every single time. She completely trusts me, and that makes it all worth it.

Choosing a Preschool

kelly shealerThe thought of sending my first child to preschool always had me worried.

Not because I didn’t feel like I’d be ready to part with him, but because I didn’t know how preschool would fit in with Attachment Parenting and the positive discipline that he was used to. Would he be put in time-out? Would I have to leave him there when he was crying and screaming for me to stay?

Change is not easy for my son, and he’s never been apart from me unless he’s been with other close family members, so this was a real concern. I’d heard stories from a fellow API Leader whose daughter struggled at the start of preschool. She had stayed to comfort her crying daughter to the point where she felt that the teachers were thinking, “Just leave her already!” I didn’t want that experience for my son or for myself.

We were very lucky that early in our search for a preschool, we found a place that fits so perfectly with my beliefs and my son’s needs. I was pretty much sold on the school when I first learned that parents are allowed and encouraged to stay as long as children need them to.

If I wanted and he needed, I could stay all day every day.

I was also so impressed by the teacher during our parent orientation. She talked about how when one child hurts another, he then takes on the role of doctor or helper — turning him into a hero rather than the “bad kid.” She explained how she takes the time to help children figure out a solution that works for everyone when they have an argument. I felt like I learned so many positive discipline techniques in that hour!

I was so comfortable with our decision to send my son to this school that when the first day came, I wasn’t nervous at all. I was only excited for him.

I stayed for his whole first day, because I felt like he needed that. That night, when I told him that I would stay for a little while the next day and then leave, he cried.

I thought about my reasons for leaving. Did I really need to leave? What if he really needed me with him?

I remembered my husband telling me about his first day of school and how he had cried and cried when his mother left him. I didn’t want my son to have that same memory so clear in his mind decades from now. I knew that I needed to stay with him if he needed me, just like I stay with him at night until he falls asleep because it’s scary for him to be alone — because he needs me then.

The next morning, on his second day of school, I talked with his teacher about it. She stressed that I had to make up my mind whether I was leaving and not let him make the decision for me. She suggested that I leave for a short time, maybe just to the bathroom, and then return so he’d see that I’d always come back.

When I told him I was going to leave, he didn’t cry. He was too busy having fun. He was excited when I came back and wanted to tell me about what I’d missed, but he’d been fine the whole time I was out of the room.

Each day since then, I’ve stretched my time away from the classroom out longer and longer, and now I just stay for the beginning of class.

But I love that I always have the option to stay. Even if a month from now, he decides that he needs me again, I can be there for him.

Gently and Sensitively Separating for Drop-off Activities

Today, guest blogger Ariadne Brill shares how she gently and sensitively transitioned her children to their first drop-off activity. 

Gently and Sensitively Separating for Drop-off Activities

Lap Pool

by Ariadne Brill

Drop off activities can be such a fun and rewarding experience for preschoolers and school children. From dance camp to cooking class to swim team, most children love such activities.  Yet, sometimes children feel some anxiety surrounding the drop off and the time away from mom and/or dad.  The anticipation of separating from a parent can sometimes lead children to resist the transition time from home to the drop off activity, making the simple tasks like putting on shoes, to entering the building really difficult.  Some children are very verbal and may yell, others may cry, others may simply plant themselves stiff as a tree and simply not budge!

So what to do? I was once told to take the Band-Aid approach, set them off and walk away no matter what, but that just did not sit right with us as a family. So it got me thinking, how can I help my children gently but confidently transition from home to a drop off activity?


When my children were about ready to start swimming classes they were a bit apprehensive.   During our regular special time we had a chat to prepare for this new activity. In this time both boys told me some things they were worried about.  They didn’t know the pool, didn’t know the teacher, didn’t know where I was going to be and they were pretty sure they were going to be “way too hungry” when the class is over.  Armed with this information we made a plan and this is how it worked:


Knowing my children really wanted a chance to see what this pool was all about I set up a preview day with the swim center. We were able to see the locker room, the showers, the swimming pools, meet the teachers and just calmly take our time to see the place. In having a chance to look around, both boys were able to become familiar with the pool and on the first day of class it wasn’t all new and scary.


Aside from having a preview of the actual location, I made sure to set up a quick meet and greet with the swim teacher. Often for school and preschool students have a chance to meet their teacher ahead of time or use some sort of transition time attending school with mom/dad a few hours before braving it alone. Yet with drop off activities it’s often the case that children are expected to dive right in. I knew it would be important for us to trust and know the teacher before walking away from me. I explained this to the teacher who was very accommodating and more than happy to meet with us.

Make a Deal

Needing to know exactly where I was going to be was really important to my younger son. Having just turned four, he just needed some extra re-assurance that I would be nearby and definitely there at the end of class. We found a spot in the swim center that overlooks the pool where his class is and we made a deal. We would do hugs and kisses and he would go to his teacher. Then I would go to a spot watching over his class where he could see me. Over time, we have progressed to where I can wave to him at that spot and leave and return in time to watch “jumping” time at the end of the lesson.


When class is over, I make sure to be at the pick-up location right away where both boys can see me.  Even though it is evening and technically we should be in a hurry to head home, I try to make sure to greet each boy with a hug and asked them “How was class?” I like to keep the question open so they can feel comfortable telling me whatever they really think of the class. Once we have had a chance to re-connect I support the boys with whatever help they may need getting dressed (although unless there is a tricky button they do this on their own) and packing up.

Favorite Moments

One really empowering tool for both boys has been recalling favorite moments on the way to swim class.  After the first class the boys were generally happy but a bit shaky about the whole process.  We talked about how the class was and what if anything they had really liked about the class. The following week on the way to class I asked them if they remembered their favorites from the week before.  We started singing about them in the car “splashing, splashing, kicking, kicking, hello pool noodle” As the weeks progressed, the list of favorites got longer and longer and we review these in some fun way on the drive over each week.

Listening to the boys, being patient, giving the boys a chance to get to know and trust their new surroundings and new teacher has worked really well for us.  Oh, remember that the boys were worried about being hungry after class? We always make sure to bring a snack along!

So, have you tried any drop off activities with your child? How has the transition worked for your family?
Ariadne has three children, she practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne is a Certified Parenting Educator and the creator of The Positive Parenting Connection <> She believes parents and children should try to have fun everyday and love life.

Separation Anxiety – Your Child’s and Yours

Register now for API’s next live teleseminar: “Separation Anxiety – Your Child’s and Yours” with special guest Elizabeth Pantley. Register for this call to hear hosts Lu Hanessian and Lysa Parker talk with Elizabeth Pantley about:

  • If you work so hard at creating attachment, why encourage separation?
  • Do AP children have more separation anxiety than others?
  • If you have a baby who won’t let you out of her sight without crying, how do you handle that?
  • Should an AP parent ever leave their child with a babysitter?
  • What do you do if your child cries when you leave him with a sitter?
  • Is it normal for a parent to suffer separation anxiety?
  • What are your tips for parents who have a hard time separating from their children?

Elizabeth Pantley is the author of the new book The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution: Gentle Ways to Make Good-Bye Easy from Six Months to Six Years.

DATE: Monday, July 26, 2010
TIME: 9pm ET / 6pm PT


If you missed our last API Live teleseminar, Settling the Cosleeping Controversy with Dr. James McKenna, the recording is available for download now.

Separate but Attached

DSCN2261aI slipped into the apartment at 5 pm, kicked off my sandals, and looked around.  “Where’s the baby?” I asked my husband.

“She’s in the crib.  She cried herself to sleep.”

My heart froze.  “She did what?

He looked as  uncomfortable, unhappy, and upset as I felt.  “She cried from the moment you left until she finally fell asleep.”

I shouldn’t have left the house, I thought.  Without another word, I swept into the bedroom and lifted her out of the crib, holding her tight against my chest and burying my face in her thick, dark hair.  “I’m so sorry, little girl,” I whispered, guilt welling up in my chest, my throat tight as I fought back tears, “I’m so, so sorry.”

My husband walked over and wrapped us both in his arms.  Our daughter woke up, looking up at us, her dark eyes serious and her brow furrowed for a moment with sleepiness.  I felt judged.  Then she smiled, raising a hand and pressing her fingers to my lips, and I smiled in return, gently biting her fingertips to make her laugh.

I felt forgiven.  But there’s still a lump of guilt in my chest every time I think about those words: She cried herself to sleep.

You see, at seven months old, our daughter is going through a serious separation anxiety phase. A lot of the time, I can’t walk away without her starting to whimper and whine, and as soon as I exit her line of sight those little sounds of discontent grow  to full-blown wails.  I never try to slip away from her stealthily; I kiss her forehead and tell her, “Mama will be right back,” before I walk away.  There are things I need to do — use the washroom, get dressed, pour some coffee, feed the dogs — that are infinitely easier and faster without having to hold her in my arms.

When she wants me, she doesn’t want her Daddy.  She doesn’t want her blanket.  She doesn’t want her teddy bear, or to listen to music, or to be read to; she wants her Mama.  Now.  I could be standing on the other side of the gates we use to block off the kitchen, talking to her about what I’m doing, and she’ll start screaming and bashing her hand against the gate because I am not holding her.

But on that day, I had to leave the house.  Right now, my husband is unemployed and so am I; I needed to get out and apply to some jobs.  I made a plan as to where I’d go, plotted out the most time-efficient route between them, and made certain she was nursed and happy before I left.  I knew she’d be upset when I left, but I had no idea that when I walked into the house an hour later, she’d have cried for fifty-five minutes straight as her Daddy tried desperately to comfort her.

She loves her Daddy.  Every few days, they leave the house together for awhile and go out to the park, mall, or library for several hours, and she’s giggling when they leave, just as she is when they return.  They have a great time together!  When we take her to playgroups, she’s the baby wandering everywhere, exploring everything, and greeting everyone, not once looking over her shoulder for her parents.  I know she knows we are always here for her.

So why did she cry so relentlessly, exhausting herself, that day?  What am I supposed to do when I get a job and I need to leave her at home with her Daddy? This guilt, this sickness in the center of my chest, knowing that she suffered, makes me cringe.

Can someone out there help us?