“Sometimes attachment parenting means being willing to mourn with our children while gently nudging them along the path God has laid for them.”
I’ll never forget how it felt to become a mother for the first time: joy, elation, amazement at the strength of my own body, and complete awe for the vulnerable, adorable, and demanding little person that I cradled in my arms. It was exciting to embark on a new chapter in my life, to grow up a little (or a lot), and to stretch my mind and emotions in ways they had never been stretched before.
But, two or three weeks into motherhood, it hit me. I had left my old life behind. My world would never be the same. I was still happy to be a mother and loved my baby dearly, but there were times I found myself mourning my old, carefree self. The days of pacing the floor with a fussy baby, trying to figure out how to take a shower, and sleepless nights seemed to stretch endlessly before me. I had more responsibility now, and could no longer think only of myself and my husband.
Things had changed, and change is rarely simple.
My five-year-old daughter could tell you. She could tell you what it’s like to love a change while at the same time mourning your previous existence. She could tell you that growing up and accepting new responsibilities is sometimes painful, although exciting at the same time.
But I guess that’s what it means to die to self. It’s hard. It’s painful. But it’s also deeply satisfying to reach a new level of self-control. It feels good and natural to sacrifice for those we love. And a spring of joy bubbles up within us when we consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we will be worthy to see the face of God in heaven one day.
My daughter struggled with the first few weeks of her first time at school, but I knew her struggle wasn’t with the school work, the structure of the day, or her teachers and classmates. Her struggle was with the sadness that pervades a soul before joy has time to mature. Her struggle was with the mourning that accompanies a drastic life change. This mourning was good. It meant that my daughter has had a wonderful childhood, and that she has a healthy attachment to her family and home.
But then I had to ask myself, “Is she ready to learn how to let go a little? Is she ready to die to self and grow in virtue? Is this sadness conveying a real need or just a strong want?”
I know my stubborn, strong-willed, spirited daughter well, and I knew she was ready. And so I met her need of mourning her old life with her while conveying my confidence that she was ready for this next step.
I didn’t become a joyful mother overnight, and I couldn’t expect my daughter to instantly become a joyful kindergartner. But she is making progress. She talks about how much she likes school, even though I know a part of her still yearns to stay with me each morning.
Sometimes attachment parenting means being willing to mourn with our children while gently nudging them along the path God has laid for them. Sometimes attachment parenting means being the one they can cry with, pout with, and complain with when life seems to get just a little too hard. But then they realize that we’ve taught them the joy of the triumph of the Cross–the dying to self that reveals to them the strength of God that is always ready to help a selfless heart.