Sunday, October 05, 2014

Thank you Lord for my clingy child

Abigail came out of the womb clinging.

She clung to my leg. She clung to my neck. She clung to my back. She clung to my lap.

Her big brothers had been clingy. They went through stages of separation and anxiety.

But not their entire childhood.

Ask anyone ... and I mean anyone who knew Abigail personally between 0 and 3 years of age, and they will confirm these findings.

And if they happened to know her well between 1 and 3, the answers will be even more in the affirmative. 

(Please leave a comment with your nods of agreement to help prove my point!)

Oh that clinginess!

In the Azores, I semi-regularly attended a playgroup on Tuesdays run by a Child Development specialist. 

Each week, my boys would take off to go play. 

And Abigail would sit on my lap.

Trying to get her to "branch out" a bit, I would sit on the floor in the middle of the room.

No bother for Abigail. She'd sit in my lap. And she would NOT move the entire time. 

Each week, the kids would play, and then they would gather together for a bit of singing time. Part of that singing time included a little game. Each child would get a turn to pick a toy out of a bag. Then we would sing a song about that toy. 

Well, each kid except Abigail that is. She refused to take a toy out of that bag. Even if I inched up with her, she would not do it.

Six months after we started that class, Abigail shocked the entire room. The teacher always gave her a turn even though she always refused to accept it. But this time, when the teacher asked Abigail to pick something out of the bag, Abigail did!

I'm pretty sure I fainted.

"Progress!" the teacher said. "We made progress today!"

Six months!? Is it really called progress if it takes six months?

One of JB's commanders, whom everyone just called "Chief" was one of these single women that children just LOVE. She plays with kids and holds kids and gives them tons of attention. We called her Ms. Chief and the boys were always excited to see her.

But not Abigail.

Ms. Chief told me that Abigail was the very first child she was absolutely unable to win over despite implementing every trick in the book.

"Don't take it personally," I told her. "You are amongst great company."

In Turkey, the CDC (Child Developmental Center) is known for taking care of children. That is what they DO. They are used to crying kids and behavioral issues and everything in the book.

When we were packing out of our house in Turkey, I took our ten month old little girl and her big brothers to the CDC for some free childcare. (The Base gives you hours to use at the CDC when you are moving.)

I told the people at the CDC how shy she was and how impossible it was for me to leave her with anyone. They told me not to fear. A little attachment issue was nothing they hadn't seen.

About two hours later, the CDC called. I had to come and get Abigail. "We cannot," they told me, "get her to stop crying. None of our tricks worked. We are out of ideas."

So let me tell you that this clinginess and NEED for Mommy (and Daddy, eventually) was sweet. But it was exhausting.

She wanted to be on my lap or in my arms at all times of the day in every way.

At home, it usually was manageable. But if we went out, there was no way I could leave her for a second. All hell would, literally, break loose. And if I invited anyone over, than she clung at home.

If we went anywhere, she stayed on my lap the entire time. She sat in her stroller. She didn't want anyone else to talk to her. She definitely didn't want them to touch her or try to hold her. She would not smile at other people. She would not usually even acknowledge them.

I couldn't put her in the nursery. (They called me every single time.) The old saying, "Give 'em a minute and they will stop crying" was not even CLOSE to accurate when it came to Abigail.

And yet, I'm now, thanking God for it.


Well, see, it wasn't until now, just recently, that I have begun THANKING GOD for the clingy little girl she was.

Abigail had two big brothers that wanted to go places. They wanted to ride their bikes and jump in the jumpy houses and play at the playground. I can't imagine what life would have been like if I would have been chasing three kiddos around. 

As it was, I never had to chase her. I always knew where she was.

She was with me.

She sat in her stroller willingly. She always stayed on my lap. She never itched to get down.

This past month I have decided and come to realize that Abigail's clinginess was the ...



How did I just suddenly come to realize this?

Well, I met her sister.

See this photo below?

I managed to quickly snap this photo of shy older sister meeting Ariel while her little sister was running like a mad woman all over the toy store. If I strap Hannah into her stroller, then she just screams, annoying the patrons and not allowing us to hear Ariel sing. So I let her out, and she disappears. Putting things in her mouth, knocking things over, hiding behind shelves. 

At restaurants, she screams when in a high chair. But if you take her out, she just dives to get down. She doesn't want to sit. She doesn't want to be held.

She wants to go meet strangers and go home with them.


Hannah wants no part of clinging to me. 

She walks up to complete strangers and in her little sounds-like-a-bird chatter, begins to tell them a story.

If she sees another child, she will immediately seek them out -- hoping to snag their pacifier or stroller for herself. 


Not even on her radar.

I'm blessed that her big brothers and sister are a little more independent than the boys were when Abigail was little. They know how to stay close. They can help look out for her. I can trust the three of them to stand and wait while I go to track down my one lost lamb.

Had Abigail been like Hannah?

I'm not sure how I would have managed with three children under three.

And so, it is, through meeting my clingy child's not-even-close-to-clingy younger sister, that I offer this encouragement to you parents out there parenting a shy guy. 

Thank you oh God
For my clingy child.
Thank you for all the lap sitting
and neck squeezing
and arm fat pinching.

Thank you Lord that I didn't have to chase my cherub through the airport
or resort to a leash.
Thank you that I didn't have to strap her down
to keep her from running off.
Thank you for the many hours I was able to sit and talk to other moms
while my little one sat pouty faced on my lap.

I always knew where my babe was.
I never feared her going to a stranger.
I never worried of losing her in a crowd.
I never contemplated how to keep her entertained.
I never couldn't finish a meal in a restaurant.

Thank you God for the extra snuggles
And deeper hugs
And intimate moments
We spent stuck to each other like glue.
For her breaths muffled into my neck.
For her eyes that only saw me.

Thank you Lord for my clingy child.

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