It needs to be said: I love love.
I love getting cuddles. I cry watching movies and TV shows. Sometimes I cry watching YouTube. My dogs are used to being hugged and kissed and squeezed and held like babies against their will. And my human babies? They will never have a shortage of affection from their mama (whether they like it or not!) Back during our NICU days, all we could really do was sit and snuggle with the twins for hours on end. But really, that’s all I would have wanted to do anyway. The fact that it was essential for their development was just a nice bonus as far as I was concerned.
Over the last month, right around the time that Madeleine and Reid really started to perfect their crawling and standing skills, they also started to become very clingy. It was a developmental milestone I’d been expecting, and to be honest, I was a little concerned that it was taking them so long to realize they wanted me around! I’d heard that many babies experience separation anxiety starting as early as five or six months, so the fact that we’d reached ten months and they couldn’t care less about where I was was a little offensive. I was ready to hold them and hug them and kiss them and give them all the attention that they needed as they built their secure base from which they’d go off and explore the world. Madeleine and Reid had always been so independent, happy to play on their own, sleeping best by themselves in separate cribs in their own room (and never in Mom and Dad’s arms!), and not terribly interested in getting cuddles or being held. I figured I could easily handle them finally needing more affection.
It turns out, though, that being needed so intensely, being touched and climbed on, having a baby constantly sitting in your lap or pulling on your pant leg to be picked up when you’re trying to make lunch is actually, really, very exhausting. I try to remind myself that this is just a stage, that they’re just working out their new realization that they are their own people, that they can leave and be left. I try to remind myself that, at this age, babies want to climb on Mom not to drive her crazy, but because she is love and safety and security and all those wonderful, crucial needs wrapped up in a warm human package. But, seriously. It’s really exhausting.
On one particularly super touchy-feely day recently, I could feel myself starting to lose it. I just needed some space, and I needed it immediately. So I left Madeleine and Reid behind the baby gate in the living room where I knew there was nothing unsafe that they could get into, and I hid. In the bathroom, with my laptop, fan turned on loud to drown out all outside noise. I just needed ten minutes to myself where I didn’t have to think about anybody else, or give all of my energy and heart to two sweet little human beings, and so I sat and browsed my Facebook newsfeed and pinned some pretty pictures on Pinterest and I didn’t even feel bad about it.
The reality was that, while I was avoiding a total meltdown in the bathroom, the twins were hanging out with each other and their toys, happy as clams, totally calm. They babbled and giggled to each other instead of whined. If they fell, they got back up, instead of crying for mumumumum to come and get them. They were completely fine with me not being in the room, and when I came back Reid actually laughed and clapped his hands. “Oh good, you’re here! Come sit down so that I can climb on you some more!”
It’s been pretty surprising to me how difficult I’ve found this clingy stage, how much I miss my personal space and how challenging it is when you are needed constantly, without a break. But it’s also been surprising to learn how valuable it actually is to NOT give everything to your children, as counterintuitive as it seems, how I’d be hurting all of us if I let myself get too emotionally drained. I wonder why it’s so difficult for us to admit that we need to set limits sometimes, that there are days when you need to literally hide from your kids for a little while in order to be able to really be there for them when you come back. It doesn’t mean you’re selfish, or neglectful, or that you don’t enjoy being a mother. I guess all it really means is that you’re human. And I wouldn’t really want them to see me any other way.