Separation Anxiety for me has been a big deal from the day I gave birth to my first boy. The enormous responsibility that I had just assumed enveloped my entire being. I seriously could not see past my duties as his Mother. It became everything to me. With any chance I could get I would research with my trusted Google search engine on my phone. In fact I did this even when I was holding him or breastfeeding him.
I remember having a slight case of separation anxiety as a child myself. Actually it wasn’t slight at all. It was quite memorable because I’m referring to it now. It was when I began primary school. I didn’t want to be there. I vividly remember running out of the classroom a few times. My teacher back then was pregnant with her first baby. When I look back at it now I feel horrible for making her run after me!
And now as I’ve entered the world of Motherhood I have developed separation anxiety again. In the first two years of my first baby bear’s life I just couldn’t come to grips with the idea of being apart from him. I only eased from this condition when he was two and half, after the birth of my second baby bear. It was time to find a nice kinder program for him. This was for both of us. He needed to begin socialising more with children his age. I needed to let him become independent.
He transitioned into his class very easily. I remember picking him up the first day and hearing a funny piece of feedback from the manager. She basically said to me, “This may sound horrible, but he didn’t once ask for mummy”… What??? I instantly laughed because at the drop off time I don’t remember having one bit of a struggle. He didn’t show any sign that he was going to have a meltdown relating to separation anxiety. But later at home, at the end of my day, I thought to myself “maybe my clinginess didn’t have a bad effect on him”…
Well, he’s 3 and ½ now. And he has well and truly established the feeling I thought we had successfully avoided. Here I was thinking I did well with one part of my parenting techniques. I thought my boy didn’t have an issue with being away from me, or his dad. But it’s kicked in now. He has been difficult in every setting we are in. Be it at home on our own or with people over, or out in public. The separation anxiety has turned him into an even more affectionate child. Without fail every few minutes of our day he is asking me or his daddy for a huggie! (Huggie is his special term for a hug)
I didn’t recognise it as separation anxiety at first. It seemed more like seeking attention because his little brother is taking up a lot of the time that used to be all his. So I dealt with it in my own way. I’ve encouraged his extra spouts of affection. I love getting huggies from my baby bears. But then when I’m in the middle of stirring a hot pot of dinner over the stove and he asks for a huggie I just give him a look. He looks back with his funny smile and arms stretched out. Really, can he really not get the look I just gave him?
So this phase has been going on for about 4 months now if I remember correctly. As I mentioned earlier he’s not reserving this behaviour for certain things. He has even been like this at his regular weekly swimming lesson. At first I felt so bad when the teachers took him over to a part of the pool on his own for special one on one time. They’ve done this a few times now. I’ve expressed gratitude and concern that it would take time away from the rest of the group. They explained to me that they’re prepared for a child who may react like this and that’s why they have two instructors working together. I was relieved and ever more grateful.
Earlier this week we were at the swimming lesson for a new term. I thought we were going to do well because we sat together waiting. We laughed and joked about him splashing me with his big swimming kicks in the water. But he buckled again. He didn’t want to get in. There was no way he was going to participate. I hovered near him thinking I could help.
But then one of the leading teachers approached me and had a very helpful and informative chat with me. He brought up the topic of separation anxiety in boys of this age in particular. I listened carefully and wanted to kick myself for not thinking of this earlier. He pointed out to me how boys developmentally are a little slower than girls. Some girls go through the separation anxiety a lot earlier than the boys and once they’re at the level my son is at then they’re ok. But some boys go with the delay and begin reacting like this after the age of 3.
Wow, so much to learn with parenting and it’s just the beginning yet.
I recall my maternal and child health nurse telling me a very interesting fact as well. The increase in affection was due to the major transition development that happens in their brains between the age of 2 and 3. This change can be compared to the phase that children go through in adolescence. It’s so much for such a little person to take in.
And so, here I am researching the topic of separation anxiety on google. Because it’s not enough to just have a good chat about it. I’m a mum with a liking to keep reading about it. I want to know if my approach is right and if there is more that I can do. I found an article that listed a few ways of how to get through the separation anxiety with my boy. It’s called Separation Anxiety Age-by-Age on the parenting.com website.
Reading through this article I reach the list of ways to deal with separation anxiety. I tick a few of the items but a few of them I couldn’t mark off as done. The very first suggestion is to start early…like exposing your baby from 6 months at least to being looked after by someone else. Ha-ha! Besides leaving my boy in the care of my hubby a few times, the first time ever I left him with someone else was when I had to rush to hospital to give birth to my second boy. So I didn’t pass this test. And guess what…I’ve done the same with baby bear number two.
But there are some pointers I read that I am proud to say I have actually adopted with my own problem solving skills. One-on-one time has been very important for me with both of my boys. Both my husband and I try to do this with each of them separately. We want them to get the best of both of us. To achieve this we know that we need to allow time for each of them. Prepare situations outside of the house and as well as at home. So yesterday, one of our examples, we each had an outing with one of the boys. I took my big baby bear to do the grocery shopping with me. I planned it with him from the moment we woke up in the morning. As I prepared breakfast I asked him to help me write the list. I gave him the job of carrying it in his pocket. It went really well. I think he enjoyed this time as much as I did.
This morning at his kinder drop off I was expecting him to hold onto me and ask for huggie after huggie after huggie… To my surprise he asked for just 2 huggies. He was specific and knew what he wanted. I like that. After two big bear hugs and a kiss goodbye, for the first time in months, my boy turned around and sat with the rest of the children. I walked out and turned to see if he was ok. He wasn’t even looking back at me.
I think I’m going to develop my mummy separation anxiety again now…
However, this victory doesn’t mean I’m done. There are other things I know I need to work on. Bedtime has been out of whack because of several reasons. It’s mostly due to the big attachment my boy has developed with his daddy. He loves him so much and wants to spend as much time with him as he can get before he has to head out to work again. So routine needs to be sorted, we’ll see about that.
Most importantly, I won’t give up. With all the frustrations I always bring myself back down to earth with my main aim. That is to care for my both of my babies with the best of my abilities.
Image credits – Garden of Eden Photography