Attachment parenting, grown up

I spent Monday at college orientation for our 4th child. In just a few weeks he heads off to live in the dorms and try out life on his own. I spent much of the day determinedly blocking out glum thoughts over the inevitable change coming. It’s not here yet– I’ll deal with it when it comes.  ‘Sufficient to the day’ and all that…

These days at college orientations, they pry you away from your kid quite early, sending parents to one room and kids to another for various orientation indoctrination sessions.  Since I’ve been here before, the information wasn’t exactly ground-breaking so in the afternoon I took a break from my ‘parent sessions’ and zipped over to my daughter‘s house to sneak in some grandbaby cuddling.  Ah, delight.

At one point I was watching him nap on his momma, and realized she and I are at opposite ends of this journey.  She’s just beginning the job of raising her little guy to be a man, and I’m at the end of the active phase of parenting my Daniel. Undoubtedly he’ll be checking in with me often, especially in the early months of adjusting to college life.  But his life is now his own.

The early months and years with little ones go so slowly in so many ways, especially when you’re trying to remember the last time you got a decent night’s sleep.  But oh, so soon the little guy sleeping on your chest, and crying when you attempt five two minutes alone in the bathroom, becomes a tall young man with a dorm room and a calculus professor, a grownup who  can go days without even needing to speak to you.

It’s good and right and the way things should be.  He’s ready and he’s going to do well.  But the twinges I feel now make me incredibly grateful I’ve always been an attachment-parenting momma, the kind who carried my babies everywhere and nursed them whenever they peeped and slept with them til they were two.  (OK, I confess, our last one was four.)

Sure, having a baby napping on your chest instead of sleeping ‘properly’ in the crib means you get less done when they’re babies.  But oh, babyhood!  It is precious and goes by in the blink of an eye.  Really.

Enjoy, mommas.





























  1. So, so true Mary! I’m getting close to my oldest two graduating high school and it all feels as if it is coming at me in a rush. And then I still have my baby sleeping in my arms while I try to savor every moment of his life, because I know how it goes.

  2. Becky Wright says:

    Whaaaaa! I’m struggling with my baby turning 4. I’ll be a real mess when he goes off to college.

  3. Thank you, Mary, for this sweet reminder. There was a very specific moment, not too long ago, when I realized that I would never regret holding/rocking/snuggling my babies to sleep/as they sleep…but I might someday regret it if I didn’t. From then on I have not felt guilty about my attachment parenting choices. I am savoring the moments!!

  4. I totally understand what you are talking about. What comes to my mind, though, is how words get twisted and used wrongly so that we have to double emphasize in order to get a message across. For instance, the phrase “true love” has niggled at me for years. What is love if it isn’t true? And what is parenting, if it isn’t “attached?” Obviously not taking issue with your usage, but with the general population. So often, people want to talk like they are fulfilling important roles, engaging completely in that which matters most in life, because they don’t want to do what it takes. I would, in some self-defense, argue that co-sleeping is not the be-all-end-all defining characteristic of being a fully attached parent. Sleeping with a baby IN the bed DID NOT work for me. I did carry and hold much and was there with devotion when I was awake. That said, yes, it was all totally worth it; and we are all still quite “attached” to each other, although it looks different now.

    • Beth, 4th and middle child, says my middle sentence needs some clarification. I mean people say they are parenting and loving when they are not, that is why we end up needing to add words to the original words in order to make them mean what they really mean.

    • Gotcha. Totally understand that many devoted parents don’t co-sleep. 🙂 I was simply thinking of savoring the weight of that precious infant napping on your chest without worrying that sleeping ‘schedules’ and spotless houses are essential.

  5. “days without needing to speak to me”. I can’t even imagine that as I listen to my 5 year old fill every second with talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, and if he should happen to weary of there are two more little ones dying for their chance to break into/over our conversation. As much as I often want to shush those little voices I imagine I’ll miss them when they’re not around! 🙂

  6. It’s funny how when my 18 month old niece is here (all the way from England) I can spend an hour just sitting in a chair holding her while she slept. When it was my babies I was constantly worried about all the stuff I could be getting done while they were sleeping. SIGH! Wish I’d spent more time just sitting.

  7. ::sniff, sniff::

    My oldest is only 10 but he’s off at camp and I already miss him! I can’t imagine what it will be like when he won’t be home on the weekend.

    So poignant, and so true.

  8. So. True.

  9. We were completely the “attachment parent” you talk about. Except I think we retook our bed when the youngest was 5. Honestly, there was something comforting as a momma to have this little thing folded against me like a second skin. J slept against the back of my legs with his little face buried in my back….

    Now, he is off to college in a few months, I mean, weeks.

    However, I am thrilled to report that a) he has decided to go closer to home after his orientation/indoctrination of the Univ this weekend – hooray! and b) my other child is blessing us with a grandchild in February, we just found out….

    Hmmmm. So, maybe I am not as done as I thought ….

  10. I guess I did attachment parenting with my kids–I just didn’t call it that. I am convinced that all the attachment and security I gave them when they were young, and whenever else they needed it, which included laying down with a 15 yr old each night few months until she could fall asleep, and sitting outside a 12 yr olds room, when he just needed to know I was there, is what allowed them to grow up to be secure, confident adults.

    My little one leaves for college all the way across the country in August–but this is still closer than the year she spent abroad after high school.

    I had a friend/mentor who told me, way back when my first was an infant, that we need to fill up their tanks when they are with us so they have something to draw on when we are apart. I still believe that and am so glad I followed that advice.

  11. I’m getting teary. I did a lot of this with my older son (now 10), but I think I missed out with my younger son (7). When my older one was a baby he would wake up at 5:00 a.m. without fail. I would take care of his needs while my husband got ready for work and then he would get in bed with me and go back to sleep for a while. I usually read him to sleep at naptime and bedtime.

    I feel like I missed a lot of this with my younger son (7). I was just too busy with a three year old to let the baby take naps on me. And because of asthma and other issues he often slept upright in his bouncy seat and never in the bed with me. I just get sad thinking about what we both missed out on.

    And even though we have a few more years until one of them leaves the house I cried all the way through “Toy Story 3”. I can’t even look ahead to that day.

  12. This makes my heart hurt! Our oldest son went to college last year and our oldest daughter got married. It was oh so hard! It was necessary and right and Biblical but it hurt my heart. I’ve done a pretty good job of letting go but there’s still a loss and a change. Isn’t that good of God to help me understand what my adopted kids feel?

  13. Thanks for a peek at the other end of the spectrum. My boys are 3 yrs. and 8 mo. I already feel like time is going by so fast, so I am savoring every moment!

  14. I read this while nursing my 3rd laying on my bed. So sweet. It’s funny, I’m actually looking forward to what you described (while also enjoying the stage I’m in, of course). I see my parents now, their youngest…the 5th…in his 3rd year of college and us all together with the 8 grandkids. I love their legacy and I’m looking forward to it myself!

  15. Beautiful perspective on attachment parenting. 🙂 Our “college guy” is getting married mid-year this year. Next in line will be a Senior. Next starting high school. One more just in her normal full-Texan-sized-spunk and then the baby starts K. Can you say overload?? Someone please pass the chocolate. 🙂 I, too, am SO thankful for all the mothering I poured in over the years. No regrets. (even though at the time I thought I might die of sleep deprivation from time to time) 🙂 It really is a wonderful thing for your big kids to grow up. We’re just stepping over into the adult-children thing and I feel like a “new mom” all over again. Sigh. Will be back for more wisdom, Mary! Keep sharing! 🙂

  16. Thank you for posting this. So many of the “Christian” Mommies around here are big fans of Babywise and it just kills me. I have often felt so alone.
    More Mamas need to follow the instincts God gave them and listen to their children and their hearts.

    Thank you for being a voice of love and AP. You are such a breath of fresh air.