Monday, October 22, 2007

Overnight adventure

My littlest muffin is pretty outgoing at times, but her umbilical cord is still pretty short. She will talk to almost anyone, but she likes to have her mom nearby. Only rarely has she ever been separated from her parents, and on those occasions she's always been with a sibling or two, and she's almost always been at home. She's never been away from home without siblings, and almost never without a parent. It was only about six months ago she stopped breastfeeding. Most nights she still ends up in her parents' bed. At every personal slight or bump she needs a hug and cuddle. She always wants to come with me if I have to run an errand, or on the half-day trips to Nelson for Erin's piano lesson. She likes to be close to me, my little one. And she loves physical contact. When she joins me in the family bed at night, she invariably wraps all her limbs around me, tight.

So imagine my surprise when about three weeks ago she decided that she wanted to go and spend the night at her grandmother's. I'm not sure where she got the idea. The older kids used to do an annual pre-Christmas sleepover at grandma's, but that hasn't happened in almost 2 years and Fiona clearly had no recollection of that, because she thought she was the first to ask for such an date. She was tenacious with her idea. She brought it up many times with me, and persistently with her grandma.

Grandma had a trip away, then we were away, and then Fiona got a cold. We kept putting it off. But finally this morning, with her cold tapered off into just some sniffles, she woke up and packed her backpack and announced that today was the day.

After supper I drove her down to grandma's. She suggested I could come as far as the door with her, or maybe come in for a minute, but then it would be time for me to leave so she could get on with the sleepover adventure. I said "maybe I'll stay for a couple of minutes to make sure you're feeling okay about everything." She said "well, you don't have to see how I'm feeling, because I'll be feeling fine." Such confidence!

She waltzed in with her bedraggled, too-small backpack with the broken strap. I watched as she unpacked to show off all the treasures she'd brought. She'd brought her toothbrush, a comb, two hair elastics, some lip balm, pyjamas, a tiny night light, a cuddly toy and a book. Pretty good packing for a 4-year-old, completely unaided. (She looked so sweet that immediately upon arriving home I ordered her a lovely on-sale Hanna Andersson backpack set with some of those curiously strong Canadian dollars.)

She sent me off. She had plans for "drawing, a snack, a bath, a game of cards and a story." I half-expected a call at 10:15 saying that she'd like my company overnight in the guest bedroom. But it's past midnight now, and no call. I guess her confidence was more than bold intentions. Although I never would have imagined it was so, she seems to be ready for this big jump in independence. Who'd have guessed?

Well, apparently she knew perfectly well that she was ready. I think when children are not pushed towards independence before they're ready, they know exactly when and how to lead the process.


  1. Fiona sounds so much like my little one, who is just one month younger than yours. Same need for snuggles and hugs, same desire to have me close. Yet I have noticed that lately she has been pulling away just a little and trying things on her own, and it gives me mixed feelings! They do know when they are ready, better than we do, but am I?

  2. And you waited up for her to call...

    She sounds like she knows what she is doing and she's ready for the adventure!

    And imagine how delighted she is going to be when she gets the new backback.

    It's hard to let them go but when they are ready, there's also a kind on Mama-pride that makes it possible!

  3. Sounds like Fiona knows her own mind and the possibilities open to her very well.

    I don't think all kids just naturally know how and when to lead the process, however. I have one child who will just drift along until I suggest that maybe, if he wanted to, he could try X for himself. Often, a little light bulb will go on in his head at that point, and he'll jump right in and try it without looking back.

    I have another child who will agonize over trying things herself, take one step forward and then two steps back, agonize some more, and then finally plunge in. It seems to be part of her personal style.

  4. My smallest boy is older still and yet still cuddles for England! Often he will whisper 'small boy attaching' which makes us both giggle!

  5. LOL, Eli, no I didn't wait up for her call. My middle two kids use me as their readaloud slave and we'll easily go an hour or two past midnight if I don't draw the line. When I went to bed after posting last night all three of my other kids were still awake.

    Heather, you're right. Noah often needs a nudge in the independence department. Erin too. I guess what I meant was that if kids who haven't been pushed towards independence feel they're ready, they're invariably ready. The converse is not necessarily true -- that kids who don't feel they're ready aren't.

  6. Just another case against the naysayers who feel that extended breastfeeding and AP parenting leads to dependent children.

    What a big moment,"night" for both of you.

  7. Even our youngest is still super-cuddly at 8yo. He still shares our bed. But has no problems with me being away on overseas trips these days . He's also gone for overnight stays at sis-in-law's place. Quite happily too!

    Ah... but he has no qualms running over and into my arms for a big bear hug in school in front of ALL his friends!


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