The Implications of Separation Anxiety (or Why I Want to Hide Under a Rock)

He's crawling!
He’s crawling!

Well, it’s happened: Luca is crawling. Hooray. Ok, sometimes, I am really excited about it. Watching him beam with pride after he accomplished his goal was pretty amazing. My heart melts as I watch him crawl after his buddy Leroy (our unimpressed boxer). It’s so fun to watch him grow into a little person- you know, beyond a little lump.

Unfortunately, as joyous as this occasion is, there are some serious implications that

Just some of the baby-proofing gear...
Just some of the baby-proofing gear…

accompany it. For one, our house now feels like a death trap. I’ve started baby proofing and I’m almost certain I will never be finished baby proofing. We lowered our bed to the ground (yes, we really did) and attached his crib mattress because on more than one occasion he almost catapulted himself off of our bed. For you co-sleepers out there, I’ll do a separate post on this at some point.

Aside from the aesthetic changes around our house, crawling has brought on another VERY significant change: separation anxiety. It makes sense….(This is when I get all psych on you)…Luca has now tasted independence. He can move on his own. Up until this point, he has completely depended on me to get him where he wants to go and I’m not always the best at interpreting “baby.” According to Margaret Mahler‘s theory of development Luca is now the stage called, “Differentiation.” This means that he’s starting to understand that he and are not one entity, but separate from one another. For a little tiny being, who is still completely dependent on me for survival, this is terrifying. Enter: separation anxiety. What’s worse, is that his little brain cannot yet comprehend that things (including me) continue to exist outside of his view. It’s just the way his brain functions right now, there’s nothing I can do about it. Basically, if he can’t see me, I don’t exist. Again, terrifying.

The hardest part of all of this is that the solution is counterintuitive. You’d think that if little Luca was so scared of being separate from me I should just “teach” him that I will come back, right? You know, I should just let other people hold him (while he’s screaming his head off) because then he’ll see that it’s ok… right? Wrong. He’s not asking: Am I safe with this other person? No, he’s telling me that he doesn’t want to be with other people right now because he needs extra reassurance that, despite his independence, I am still here for him. He’s not asking if I will come back. He’s protesting that I’ve disappeared. His little mind just can’t comprehend it yet… but it will, naturally he will develop that ability (it’s called object permanency).

What makes all of this especially hard right now is that I was finally feeling ready to have some space. Luca is 7 months old and I was thinking that now would be a great time to say, start leaving him in the nursery at church for example. Nope. Or maybe take an exercise class at the Y. Ha! Man, it’s like right when I was feeling brave enough to leave him in a childcare situation, he developed this intense need to be with me. It kind of sucks. It sucks because I know that if I push him away right now I will only prolong the separation anxiety because that would feed his fear.

So, here we are. Motherhood is still hard. It never really gets easy does it? I’m finding that my character is being molded in the most painfully beautiful way. I imagine it’s akin to having a broken bone reset so that it can heal properly. Ouch. See, my character was weak before, it was broken. Now, it’s being reset. At times, I love who I am becoming. At others, I actually cry because I so desperately miss the carefree days of pre-motherhood. Life was so easy then, so simple. It didn’t feel like it. Things never feel like they are when you’re in it. It’s only on the other side that we can see seasons for what they really were. I am grateful for those days but I don’t really want to go back (ok maybe for just like a day or a weekend would be nice). As much as I complain, I must admit: I love being a mom. I love watching Luca learn about his world. I love relating to him in a way that makes him feel safe. I hope that by making him feel safe he will be able to have healthy relationships and maybe, this little boy will make the world just a little bit brighter. Yes, I’m tired. Yes, this season is really hard, but overall, it’s worth it.

My little beam of light.

If you liked this post, you may also like:

True Attachment Parenting vs. Helicopter Parenting

When Babies Display Stranger Danger

A Surprising Birthday Gift at 2am



4 thoughts on “The Implications of Separation Anxiety (or Why I Want to Hide Under a Rock)

  1. He is adorable!

    Mothering is hard at times. There have been a few times this week when Cody has been so clingy all day long that I felt like I just needed 30 minutes to myself. That’s the first time I’ve felt that way since he was born. Each stage passes, though, and then we look back and think it wasn’t so long after all. I hope you get some pockets of time for your sanity soon.


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