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Did I Make My Baby Too Independent?

Photograph by Twenty20

My baby is just rounding the two year mark. Two years since he dropped out of the sky and into my life, changing everything.

He’s got a wild streak, which doesn’t shock me, because I am told I did too. My parents have told me, “You ran, mouth open, screaming, until you ran into something. Time and time again.” I was strong, I was wild, I was free.

He runs into things, too. I’d say he falls down over 20 times per day. He’s moving so fast, it just happens. His shoe catches. His foot slips. His leg skips. And when he goes down, he almost never turns to me. He handles his fear or injury on his own, brushes himself off, and gets back to business.

And it has begun to break my heart.

**

When I was pregnant, my mother suggested I would want to buy a baby carrier. “As long as he’s next to you, he’ll be fine. That’s all they want. To be next to their mothers.”

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I was driving when she said this to me and I remember the way I took my foot off the break. Shock. Fear. Pause. “THAT’S ALL THEY WANT?” I wanted to scream. “TO BE NEXT TO THEIR MOTHERS?” That’s insane, I thought. I’m no angel. I’m no savior. I’m no surefire guarantee.

It was buried somewhere inside of me, the thought that these babies should want to take care of themselves.

**

I was given a baby wrap at a baby shower. It was all cloth, it just wrapped around and around and tucked into itself—no buttons or latches or Velcro. It spoke to the natural mode of attaching your baby to you. And when my son needed calming, and I needed my hands, I tried it. I wrapped it in preparation, and then I dropped him in, like one drops an egg into water. But it never looked that comfortable for him, and it was fairly difficult to wrap it around without losing my cool in the process.

And now that I am fully in love, I see where I may have gone wrong.

I often would throw it on the floor in a huff and just put him back in my arms again. Or I’d put him on the floor, on a colorful mat, with shiny things floating above him. Or in a baby bouncer, or a swing, or in his crib. I was near him always, of course, but when we cut the cord, we cut the cord.

My baby didn’t live on my body anymore.

**

I never thought I would have a baby. I didn’t really know why people did. They seemed hard and scary and like they cut off every ounce of independence you ever had.

But at 35, I found myself in love with a man who challenged all of my thoughts about independence and love. And I decided it would be worth it to figure out the why behind having children.

**

I love our little boy so much it scares me. A life without him, I couldn’t imagine. I would give up nights and days and a million things just to be by his side. I still long to be alone a lot, but only when that time is cushioned on both sides by time with him.

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And now that I am fully in love, I see where I may have gone wrong. Maybe I should have worn him round the clock, or picked him up every time he fell when he first started to walk. Or at least checked in with him verbally. Maybe I should have kissed him more or hugged on him more or done something more. Because it feels like he doesn't need me anymore.

I recall the way I met my mother’s insistence that my baby would want just me—only me—with resistance. I didn’t want him to just want me. I wanted him to be strong, wild and free. Not all parents are good parents—what if I wasn’t? I wasn’t sure I wanted him to depend on me.

How little we remember from the beginning of our lives.

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