the nest

the nest

Monday, June 4, 2012

Trust vs. Mistrust

Last Thursday my middle child turned 16.  The next year will bring driving, living away from home for much of the summer, international travel, and many more firsts.  The years from 16-18 flew by with my firstborn at an accelerated rate and I expect it will do the same with Kate.
I'm not sure how it happened, but she grew up.  Even a year ago, she seemed like a little girl and all of a sudden she is a lovely young woman, smart and inspiring, full of passion and energy.
This is the child who spent her first 6 months of life attached to my body in the sling, or sleeping next to me at night.  The next 12 months, were spent exploring within the safety of the family, but aside from her sitter (who she chose), no one else was acceptable.  We were told we weren't doing her any favors by "giving in" to her demands.  We should let her "cry it out"; she needs to "figure it out"; we heard "you'll make her dependent on you," about a million times.  Around 18 months she decided that all was good with her world and from that moment was pretty much happy with anyone. 
Thank goodness we trusted our instincts. 

Infants and young children ARE DEPENDENT ON US.  There is no benefit to pushing them away before they are ready.  Erik Erikson was one of the Psychologists I studied in my previous life and his Developmental Stages shaped many of my thoughts on meeting the needs of my children as they grew.

1. Infancy: Birth to 18 Months

Ego Development Outcome: Trust vs. Mistrust
Basic strength: Drive and Hope
Erikson also referred to infancy as the Oral Sensory Stage (as anyone might who watches a baby put everything in her mouth) where the major emphasis is on the mother's positive and loving care for the child, with a big emphasis on visual contact and touch. If we pass successfully through this period of life, we will learn to trust that life is basically okay and have basic confidence in the future. If we fail to experience trust and are constantly frustrated because our needs are not met, we may end up with a deep-seated feeling of worthlessness and a mistrust of the world in general.

I'm pretty sure had we insisted on pushing Kate away when she "needed" us most, she would still be trying to figure this out.  Instead, she is a confident, powerful individual, ready to take on the world, and HAS been since the moment she decided that she was ready to trust the world and move on. 
She knows that we will always be there to catch her if she falls - she TRUSTS us and the larger world because we met her needs when she couldn't.  Others would tell us that she would never leave home if we didn't let her "soothe" herself and blah, blah, blah.  This is the child who headed to preschool and never looked back.  The child who went to sleepover camp at 8, and NEVER looked back.  The child who will spend 4 weeks at camp this summer as a trainee and then will travel to Scotland with her classmates and won't look back.  She's the child who can't wait to go to college halfway across the country.  I'm the first one to admit that I am not a perfect parent and have made many mistakes, but I am absolutely sure that the choices we made parenting our little ones the way we did were 100% on the mark.  Attachment Parenting allowed our children to "attach" to us so they could move on with the work of growing up and away.

Why do people try to "push" their little ones out of the nest prematurely??  It seems to me that the ones who are constantly pushed away are the ones who end up never leaving.  The ones who are nurtured and allowed to develop at their own pace are the ones who are ready to leave the nest almost before WE are ready to let them go. 

If we don't let them be dependent when it is appropriate, they will never be able to be INdependent when it is time.

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