I am the mother of a particularly clingy toddler who, at 23 months, is still experiencing pretty bad separation anxiety. If we’re at home, it’s likely he’ll be wanting cuddles on the sofa; if I take him to a soft play I’m the mum being led around by her finger as she desperately tries to fit through the foam equipment without putting her back out; if we’re out and about I’m probably carrying him, as he prefers a pick-up rather than to walk. I’ve developed some pretty impressive arm muscles! I’ve pretty much accepted that this is how he is, and although I try and encourage him to be independent, if he wants a cuddle I’m not inclined to deny him that.
But the thing is, he’s not like this with other people. I’ve noticed that if he’s with his Dad, he’s more likely to go off exploring at the park. And having spoken to nursery (where he attends two days a week) about this in the past they’ve assured me that they see him as quite an independent little boy, who is really coming out of his shell personality-wise and is pretty confident.
This week was the nursery Mothers Day afternoon and it was the first time that I’ve witnessed Max playing at nursery for any length of time. The difference was remarkable – normally I would be being led around by my finger, but here Max was happy to show me things, but allow me to watch from a little distance, and wasn’t bothered if I moved away to talk to the other mums. It was like watching a different child. I have to admit that it was lovely to be able to play with him, but then also allow him to explore things without me watching over his shoulder.
Although nursery had always told me this, for some reason I didn’t quite believe them – perhaps they were just saying it to reassure me, I thought. But seeing it for myself, I wondered whether I’ve not been doing the right thing in allowing Max to be so clingy with me. Have I encouraged him to be too clingy and dependent on me?
But the more I thought about it, the more I decided that I was worrying over nothing. If he’s able to be independent and is confident when I’m not there, surely that’s more important than how he behaves when I am there. After all, when I’m there, he doesn’t need to be as independent – Mummy’s there to help, and if that gives him reassurance then that’s fine by me. Because it won’t be long before he’ll be past this clingy toddler stage, and he’ll be running off without a second glance. I’m going to make the most of the cuddles and hand-holding while they last.