When a child takes neither pacifier nor bottle and has no other addictions except a mild obsession with canoodling her own bellybutton, the mother who breastfed that child into such fierce independence might need a few lessons in letting go. I have breastfed Clara in the insurance agent’s office, to the sound of football in the sports bar Buckets, and in a really uncomfortable chair at Gate 46 in the Miami airport. For the last 493 days, I have been awakened at the hour of 3:00 a.m. to nurse Clara, and when I am tired, one comfort I offer myself is pride. She never needed a bottle; I was always there.
Now, I am checking out The Sleep Book for Tired Parents at the library because pride is all talk and no rock. Pride spins a pretty little story about who is the best breastfeeder of them all, but pride doesn’t wake up and rock Clara back to sleep. Beaten down, tired Moms and Dads do.
Which is why we renewed our efforts to cultivate within our daughter a desire for soft things that do not breathe or produce milk. The sleep book said that introducing your child to a lovey was an important step in allowing him or her to experience attachments to things other than his or her parents. Words like “attachment” or “dependency” normally make me very suspicious since deep down, I seem to maintain the conviction that my toddler will have the emotional fortitude of a professionally and relationally successful thirty-year-old. I’ve noticed, however, that there is such a thing as expert advice. And so, Hadley sniffed her way out of the corner of Clara’s crib where she was just sewn thread under some blankets.
When Clara met Hadley, the minotaur of loveys with the head of a lamb and the body of a pink blanket, she was tender and held her close to her face as she nursed and rocked. Last night, when Aaron laid Clara down, Hadley gave Clara a kiss goodnight and Clara gave her one back. In that moment, Clara’s love—as love is wont to do—made Hadley come alive.
Nothing makes me happier than watching Clara be gentle. She’s walking now, but I feel as though my girl grew up more in the moment when she started to love something other than her parents than when she stood upright. It’s true I am a bit jealous of a blanket. Clara still loves to nurse and play games with Dad, but now at night, she’ll point to her crib where she and Hadley snuggle and make each other feel safe enough to fall asleep, and I know it has begun—the beautiful paradox of parenthood. I make her feel happy and secure enough at home so that she can eventually leave it. I love her enough so that she will know how to love others.