The Ever-Widening Hug

I fell into attachment parenting like I've fallen into many of the things that would become my passions: by accident. 

I have no recollection of seeing anyone practicing it, save perhaps some photos in National Geographic magazines over the years.

But, having embarked on the grand adventure of BECOMING PARENTS TOGETHER with my Beloved, I proceeded to read everything I could find about parenting, and somehow, Jean Leidloff's book, The Continuum Concept found it's way to my hands. And then, Our Babies Ourselves, and, more mainstream, Dr. Sears The Baby Book. In each of these books, the authors talked about how babies are pretty much hardwired to be held and when they are, they are basically content. (I now know, from talking to many of my attachment parenting friends, that this may or may not actually be true.)

I bought myself a ring sling, and was delighted with the simplicity of the design. I also bought myself a stroller and wondered if I would ever use it.  (answer: hardly ever)

When my firstborn was born, my husband worked from home, so we were both around to hold and carry and nurse (well, I did that part) that baby as much as he wanted to be held and carried and nursed, which we found out, was most of the time. 

We learned how to put on a sling and adjust it very quickly and also how to take it off and transfer our wee babe to his moses basket without disturbing him. We were baby wearers!

He also slept in our bed. Our first anniversary gift to each other was a kingsize bed. (Best parenting investment ever.)

These practices were sometimes questioned by our well-meaning family and friends. But, we found our own way through the first days, weeks and months of new parenthood, and those attachment parenting folks seemed to be right. Our baby was basically happy with being held close and sleeping with us. He rarely cried, and when he did it was kind of quiet--just letting us know he needed something. 

His 'womb with a view' as I had heard slings called, and loved, was his safe place to explore the world. He came with me to my part time teaching assistant job. The kids loved him and adopted him as part of the class immediately. 

And of course, he rather rapidly grew out of it. My embrace had to expand to accommodate the crawling and then toddling versions of baby. I remember the first time he sat in a grocery cart at the store. He was fairly old, probably near a year, long past being able to sit up. I was in the produce section and I stepped a few feet away from my cart to grab a vegetable. And then my heart went Ka THUNK. My baby was THAT FAR away from me. It felt very weird. I remember stepping back, closer to the cart.

Of course, between that day at the grocery store and now, he has ventured beyond my arms reach--it would be pretty creepy if he had not. And each little milestone was a celebration, and an opportunity to practice letting go: first time he crawled, first steps from me to Dad, first time he went up stairs, first time he climbed on a play structure at a park, first time he slept by himself, first time he stayed over with someone else, first time he went on a plane, first time he drove away from me.

Fast Forward 17 years. Today, I received a letter inviting me to send pre-fab care packages to him as he experiences his freshman year at college. He will be going to college 3,068 miles from home.

I began when he was little, thinking about parenting as 'the ever-widening hug'. He is 6'2" now, and when I hug him, my head is under his chin. (oh yeah! first time he was taller than me!). He tolerates my hugs, but also things I'm sappy and silly when I squeeze for just a little bit more. It is tempting to not let my hug grow ever wider. Part of my mama heart wants to keep him here with me--let's face it, part of my mama heart wanted him to stay little and Pooh-bear like--to find that magic potion that makes children stay tiny-cute (although he was never very tiny, but always cute). 

But, I cannot. I definitely have never seen a mama with her 6'2" baby strapped to her body. And, I now know that all of that attachment didn't stunt his independence and curiosity. I must, again, widen my hug to accommodate a new THAT FAR. 

And you can bet it will not be accompanied by any pre-fab care packages. Upon touring the campuses last fall he said, "You're totally going to be THAT MOM that sends me stuff ALL THE TIME, aren't you?" Yes. Yes, my dear boy. I will, so you can still feel my hug from very, very far away.