My Toddler Is A Stage 5 Clinger

It started around eleven months. I remember it distinctly because we were on our way out of town and she clung to me in the airport for dear life. Before this, my daughter liked to be held as much as the next guy. But this felt different. This was a desperate desire to be held in a moment of pure fear. I thought maybe the sudden clinginess was triggered by the trip. Then I thought she might be a bit “off” because of all the little-seen extended family around that wanted to hug her and make a fuss. Then I thought it was because was going through a developmental leap. Those Wonder Week cloudy times were always a bitch.

But when we came home and got back to our regular schedule, her mommy-obsession didn’t stop. When she was 0ne-year-old, she started day care two days a week. The first time I dropped her off (for only three hours) she was a mess. Hysterical crying and reaching for me like she was Leonardo Dicaprio slipping into the icy black water at the end of Titanic. If you’ve never left your child while they were screaming for you, allow me to try to describe it. You know how awful you feel when those horribly depressing ASPCA commercials with that song by Sarah Mclachlan come on? Imagine those running on a loop for an hour, you are forced to not look away and all the animals in the video are depending on YOU to save them from imminent death. It’s that feeling times 10,000. Fun stuff.

Ten minutes after that first drop off, her teachers called me and said she had calmed down and was happily playing. And when I went to pick her up that afternoon, I watched her playing for a while through the little window in the door of the classroom and she was having a blast. She looked unbelievably delicious and I couldn’t wait to scoop her up and squeeze her. But as soon as she spotted me walk through the door, she ran to me and broke down in tears. It continued like this for the next year every time I left her at day care, with a sitter or even with my husband.

I also started to notice that whenever we were out and about together, it was hard for her to leave my side. When we’d go to playgroups, the YMCA or the park, she would spend most of the time sitting on my lap. We took the same music class for almost a year in the same room at the same time with the same instructor and in every single class she would remain in my arms or lap until the very last song when she would stand near me and sway a bit. All of the other kids would be standing near the teacher with his guitar, dancing or running around the room like nuts. It was sort of frustrating.

My daughter was a late walker. But even when she figured out how to run, she would never wander too far from my side. Other mothers would marvel at how well she listened and wished they didn’t constantly have to chase their kids around all day. I wished mine would go away and play!

A few weeks ago my husband and I had an end-of-the-year meeting with our kid’s day care. They mentioned that over the last year she has become a lot more autonomous and confident. And I’ve noticed she has, too. She still clings to me at home, following me around the apartment like a tiny shadow. But if I start playing with something with her and then very slowly back away as I encourage her to keep playing, sometimes she'll continue to play on her own.

I worry a lot that she’s not independent enough. I worry I’m not encouraging her to play with other kids, when she’d rather just sit with me while I chat with the other parents in a playgroup. I worry she’s not aggressive enough — especially because she is female. When she gets a toy grabbed out of her hand, I want to push her towards the kid who took it and tell her “grab it back!” But I’m not sure how much that will do. In the end, I think your kids are who they are, not who you want them to be and there’s only so much you can do. So for now I’ll let her be and if you see us out and about she’ll probably be happily stuck to my hip.

What do you think?