It all started when Eve was fairly young and I became more social with her by taking her to playgroups. While the other kids were running around, Eve was attached to my side. She wanted to play with me, not with the other kids. People, even friends, would make comments like, "Don't worry, she will grow out of it." or "I'm so glad my angel is so independent of me." or "It's so nice that I can bring my child here and not have them attached to me." They would talk about how proud they were of their children for not "needing" them. Meanwhile, there I sat, with my daughter not willing to leave my side.
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Early on I would tell Eve that she needed to go play with the other kids or I would get annoyed and ask her to go play on her own. Sometimes I almost felt embarrassed when the other moms looked at me as if it was a bad thing that my daughter needed my comfort. I would look around the room and see all the other moms chatting while their kids were happily playing on their own and wonder what I had to do to get my child to do that. The more I tried to get Eve to go play on her own, the worse anxiety she would get and the less chance there was of her stepping foot away from me.
I would sit with other moms and chat while Eve sat on or next to me. I'm sure many comments weren't meant to be rude, but so many of them cut me. All the kids had their "besties" by no choice of their own, simply because the mom friends had children the same age. Heck, I created friendships for Eve as well, which was wonderful when she was younger, but doesn't seem quite as effective now.
Once I realized that my daughter was perfectly fine, I didn't let the other moms get to me anymore.
I remember crying and wondering why my child was so different, I didn't understand why she was so attached. I wondered why other children were off doing their thing while my daughter wanted nothing to do with them. Once I got beyond that worry, I realized that I needed to foster my child's own personality, not try to make her be like other children. I stopped trying to push Eve to go play and soon realized that she would go play when she felt comfortable. Sometimes we would spend a few hours somewhere and she wouldn't step away from me, other times she would go do her own thing after a while. I was fine with her playing on her own or staying with me the whole time, it felt truly wonderful to not feel stressed about it anymore.
I have taken Eve to birthday parties where she just sits next to me, smiles and watches all the other kids play. Eve has always been such a happy observer, she loves just watching the world around her. I have taken Eve to princess parties where she wants nothing to do with the princess. I heard other moms telling their kids to go see the princess because all the other kids were, I honestly felt sad for those children because they clearly didn't want to play with the princess.
When I get asked if Eve is going to see the princess and I tell them no, I get a sad look, a look like there's something wrong with my child. I don't feel an ounce of sadness that Eve wants nothing to do with the princess, it's her choice, I allow her to make it and I'm not going to force her because it's what the other children are doing. I guess another benefit is that I will never feel pressure to pay a bunch of money for a princess at Eve's birthday.
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The day I realized that I was trying to force my daughter out of her comfort zone because of societal pressure is the day I changed my outlook and grew a new confidence in myself as a mom. Eve found comfort in me and that was, and still is, OK. Once I realized that my daughter was perfectly fine, I didn't let the other moms get to me anymore. I joined my girl in play and often had other kids I didn't know sit and play with me as well.
Eve is 4.5 now, still shy, still guarded and still very choosy with who she opens up to, and that is OK, she is OK. Eve is in full-time kindergarten and I have seen her open up so much over the past few months, she even rides the bus to and from school. I have so much pride in my girl, not because she's coming out of her shell but because she knows what makes her comfortable and she can't be pushed out of that comfort zone. Eve now chooses her own friends, bonds with children she gets along with, not ones that I force on her. I very much see what type of children she is most drawn to and it's always the type that don't overwhelm her. Eve is truly becoming her own little person and it's amazing to see.
For those of you with young children that are attached to you, don't feel pressure to push them away, enjoy them for who they are. Don't allow moms with outgoing children to make you feel like your child is rude. Don't allow anyone to tell you that your child will "get better," because your child is great just the way they are.
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