I read an interesting tidbit recently that suggested one reason some babies/toddlers lag in their developmental milestones is because their parents are too attentive. Meaning, the kids never have to work for anything–they can just whine when a toy is out of reach and it appears.
Sometimes I’m guilty of that particular example. But I also went into parenting believing you can’t spoil a baby. From an attachment perspective, parenting ones so young is about trusting them to recognize and communicate their needs (often by crying), and then meeting those needs reliably.
So where does the truth lie?
Truth is a somewhat elusive thing in parenting. The whole endeavor can feel so maddeningly inconclusive, so aggravatingly subjective. We make mistakes, sure, but we won’t know until much later which ones really counted. And maybe not even then.
For example, sometimes I look at my daughter, so contentedly sedentary, and it seems like I must be doing things right. People tell us to enjoy these moments, to appreciate our mellow kid, to revel in the delay in babyproofing our house.
Then when she doesn’t want to crawl three feet (after everyone’s else’s kids have been crawling for months) to get to a toy that I’ve placed there tantalizingly to motivate her, I think that I have it all wrong. I’ve managed to create a lazy 14-month-old.
It seems mean to write that about her. “Lazy” is pejorative; it’s surely not a quality most people want to cultivate in their children. Besides, I’m not sure it’s true of her, or that we have cultivated it.
See, there’s that darned ambiguity again.
I remember the first time my daughter cried out of boredom, how shocking it felt. Previously, she cried to communicate that she was wet, tired, or hungry. Yep, that’s pretty much the entire list.
All of a sudden, we had this new set of needs. She needs stimulation. She needs variety. She needs play, like food.
That leads to a whole new set of questions: How much we should try to entertain versus encouraging her to play by herself (attachment versus independence)? How often do we give her new toys (fear of overindulgence and short attention span versus fear of boredom)? Initiate play versus letting her discover what she wants to do? Let her whine and cry until she gets off her rump and makes it over to the object of her desire rather than having it handed to her?
I started this post with a question, and now I’m ending it with more. I suppose that’s parenting in a nutshell, though, isn’t it?
Crawling baby photo available from Shutterstock