I took an uncharacteristic stand the other day. I said: Echo. I want you to wipe yourself when you pee. In our world that's seriously drawing a line in the sand. I think some cowboy music played and a tumbleweed skittered past as we stared at one another. I was watching the words as they came from my mouth. I didn't know I was going to say that. She was filtering the words across her brilliant mind, figuring out what that actually meant, practically speaking. Eventually she asked me why.
In those thirty seconds I had three thousand thoughts swim past. Because you are five. Because I want to keep doing what I am doing instead of stopping to wipe your butt. Because you can. Because I watch two years-olds skip past us at the Children's Museum and take care of their potty needs without a parent in sight, let alone on-site. Because I worry that I created an attachment monster with you, spending so much time with you at my side, in my arms, on my body, on my mind that I am thwarting your natural growth. Because I have visions of you at age nine waiting for me to come and wad up toilet paper. Because I compare myself to other parents. Because sometimes one issue stands for ten others. Because sometimes one issue tries to stand for who I am as a person, or who you are becoming as a person.
But I didn't say any of that. I said: Because you are almost five. And because you can. She argued that perhaps she wasn't actually capable of doing it, but I reminded her of all the kids at Xi's Montessori school that are younger than her and never have an adult with them in the bathroom. She sighed. Reached over, got some toilet paper, and wiped herself. I helped her pull up the thirteen layers of underwear, pants, and skirts she had on, and she skipped merrily out of the bathroom.
Since the showdown she has asked me to help her and once I said I would that one time, but not the rest of the times, other instances I said I would come and keep her company. So I've been keeping her company, standing there dying of impatience as she rips one square of toilet paper at a time, then carefully folds it and stacks it onto a precise stack before wiping. It would be faster and easier to do it for her. FO SHO. But I breathe deeply and look at her little profile and appreciate her negotiations of this world in which I decide most of the parameters.
She's my girl.
And we've raised her with attachment parenting principles- sleeping together, nursing on demand, being available to her, carrying her on our bodies, and her interests reflect that. But she also is who she is, a tender, loving, affectionate girl who, of her own accord, likes all of this attachment. She pets me and counts the ways she loves me. She courts me with tender phrases. She opts to spend every minute of her day within reach, even when other people and options beckon.
When I am secure in myself, when I am trusting the process of her unfolding this closeness feels perfect.
I Love Her So Much
When I am my little self, when I compare and doubt, and fret, I wonder if her development is "normal". At recess duty she is on my back in our shopworn Ergo, or next to my legs. She plays with the children that happen to be visiting me and my legs. She's almost five and has no desire to run wild with packs of new buddies. She bundles up in four hundred layers of down to accompany me on winter runs even when home is toasty and filled with toys and sisters and Papa. When I am my little self I don't see a girl, an incredibly lucky girl that is allowed to unfurl her wings at the pace that makes sense to her, I see cause for concern.
Then I notice her prance her way to the bathroom, do her business in seconds flat and scurry headlong back into her game.
Then we are at the coffee shop and she stops me at the threshold of the women's room, letting me know that she'll be out when she's done.
Then she asks to go around the block on her running bike. Without me.
Then she runs into my parents' house without looking back and spends five hours without any concern for my whereabouts.
Then she leaves the play area of the children's museum, locates the snack pack among the coats and settles herself in the eating area. Munching. Alone in the other room.
Then I shame myself for doubting. Then I remind myself that the whole point of attachment parenting is to fill these kids up with so much security in their early life that their steps into the world are firm and sure.
Then I wipe the tears that threaten to spill as I stand outside the public restroom, and walk a whole half-block behind her as she travels the world on her own.