Touching Other People’s Kids

My normal daycare dropoff and pickup routine is pretty standard. I crouch down, and give a goodbye hug and kiss (or a hello hug, and kiss as the case may be), do some soft 1-1 conversation with Potamus at his eye level, and then I either head on out to work, or we head on out together. After six months of him being in his toddler classroom, the students are beginning to recognize me, and seem to know our little routine (which differs drastically from the routine I see other parents engage in).

For the most part the children enter into my zone of proximity without it causing my discomfort. There’s ones little blonde boy, clearly the oldest of the group, who always says “potamus’ mommy, potamus mommy'” while trying to both acknowledge me and get potamus’ attention so that he can go home with me. Sometimes the kids crowd close as I give Potamus his hello hug at daycare pickup, but none of them actually…touch me.

In the past two months, though, I have had a few interactions with this one little girl that have left me feeling uncomfortable and unsure of how to react. She touches me. And I don’t mean like the blonde boy, who patted me once and said “Potamus’ mommy,’ but I mean she hugs me. These kids are between 2-3, so it’s at that huggable age, I guess, but I’m left with this gut feeling that something seems…off?

Today I came in and this little girl ran over to me. Potamus saw me and was making his way over, and when I crouched down with my arms open to give him a hug, she pressed herself into me. Flung is more like it. While she didn’t quite give me a full hug because I was turned to the side to hug Potamus, I could feel her little belly up against me. And then she lifted her shirt. And then she said “owls, owls,” pointing to the owls on her shirt.

Maybe it’s my overly sensitive to touch teacher training, or my experience as a crisis social worker, but I viscerally react to this little girl throwing herself at me. Part of me is sad that she’s seeking out attention from me, and part of me feels worried because she’s the only one. All the other kids seem to have the same level of wariness that Potamus has to strangers, and while they certainly seem to resonate with my ability to get down on their level, they don’t interact to such an extreme cling way that this little girl does.

I feel so torn. I don’t want to reject this little girl’s hugs, because children should not be shamed for wanting affection. But I also don’t want to encourage it, because with the exception of Mari’s children (who I don’t hug, either, but would if they initiated), I have zero interest in touching other people’s children.


Thoughts? Am I overreacting to this little girl?

Mother Identity Dysmorphia


Not too long ago I tackled the Teacher Identity question in my On Being Labelled “Nice” by my students entry. Because, frankly, I don’t think of myself as “nice,” very often. And, this question sorta popped up over the weekend when I was thinking about my style of mothering.

Now, it sorta goes back to my view of my own (adoptive) mother, who was very guided by her head, intellect and kept safe by forming strict boundaries and rules. Doing something was “because I said so,” and there was little wiggle room to negotiate out of something. Now, these aren’t bad traits to have, but I think that sometimes it’s okay to examine the entirety of a situation before you hang your hat on ‘these lima beans must be eaten or you’re going hungry.’ I’ve heard of parents making their kid go hungry if they didn’t eat the dinner they cooked, but my mom made us eat it…eventually. Don’t want it for dinner? Fine. You’ll have it for breakfast. Don’t want it for breakfast? Fine, you’ll have it for lunch. The longest I made it was to breakfast the next day (I usually caved and just ate it for dinner), but my sister once made it 24 hours before finally caving.

I think that’s a bit extreme.

So, while I don’t necessarily think that I am quite that extreme, I feel that I am somehow destined, in some small way, to be my mother. I don’t know why…maybe it’s because I long to have the mother I wanted growing up, the nuruturing BFF type relationship that certainly won’t ever happen between my (adoptive) mom and I (and certainly won’t happen between my biological mom and I, since she’s severely damaged by years of drugs/alcohol). For some reason I have internalized the “just like your mother” line, when, in reality, I’m actually not a lot like my mother at all.

Sure, as Boof says, I have this “bright and shining energy” around people I like and in situations I feel comfortable. He went as far as saying “you have a glow, it’s warm and brightens a room” (which, if you know Boof, that’s actually quite a high compliment). And he then proceeds to say, ‘and when you don’t like someone, or you feel uncomfortable, your energy is cold an reserved. While most people we encounter vary between apathetically lukewarm to warm, you are bright and warm or cold and cool.” Hmm, sounds a bit “bi-polar” in the colloquial-and-not-DSM IV-diagnosis-sense. I’m either hot or cold. So how does this relate to motherhood?

I tend to think of myself as a cold mother.

But, at nighttime, when Potamus has the choice whether to sit and snuggle in his bed with me, or bounce on the exercise ball with Boof, he dives into my neck and buries himself there, almost pleading when Boof picks him up to bounce to sleep. I am the one he goes to for comfort, and while I know that we, too, went to my mother for scrapes and boo boos as kids, we certainly didn’t do the snuggly thing…that was reserved for my (adoptive) dad, who has a much more snuggly personality.

So what, my kid likes to snuggle with me. Does that make me a ‘nice’ mom? A warm mom? A nurturing individual? I said, “well, I guess baby porcupines snuggle with mama porcupines,” which brought a laugh from Boof…but I guess that’s how I see myself…like a porcupine…prickly and standoffish, though my kid’s experience of me is clearly different. Boof responded, “um, you’ve been nursing our kid for a year and a half, you wouldn’t do that if you weren’t nurturing.” “Also, the only times I’ve seen you be cold to him is when you’re half asleep, or one time when you were awake, but it’s mostly only ever when you’re really tired.” Oh. Hmm. I guess that’s a point, though I might do it out of obligation or because I don’t want a tantrum. Regardless, it seems like my kid, the world around me, and even my very own husband seems to think I’m a nuruturing, “nice,” loving and patient mother.

So why don’t I think that?

Now don’t get me wrong, for living in this digital mommy-wars age, I actually think I’m a kickass mama…for the most part. I really enjoy my kid, we do a lot of really fun things together, and I enjoy snuggling up to him at the end of the day. So why is there this nagging not-nurturing-enough thought in my head? Am I worried that one day I’m going to just crack and bust out the cold-ass-bitchiness in relation to him? I dunno?

Do you ever feel that how you perceive yourself isn’t quite how other people perceive you to be? How do we combat that?

Separation Anxiety…whoa!

Oh my goodness, I am two days into Winter Break and Potamus has developed full-fledged separation anxiety symptoms. Seriously. From out of nowhere. Or maybe my being home for 5 days in a row has triggered his primal neediness for his mama, but whatever it is, it’s causing a ruckus in our household.

On one hand, I am quite flattered that my baby has not forgotten who his mama is. I love spending time with him, going on outings to places like Little Diggers, and visiting friends. But Boof is an equal co-parent and has been a stay-at-home daddio for the past 8 months, and is equally capable of doing tasks around the house. And before the past few days, Potamus has fluidly been passed between the two of us for such tasks as bathing, being dressed, diapered, fed yogurt, for storytime and to be bounced to sleep if being nursed to sleep doesn’t work. But the minute Boof tries to do any of these things, in the past three days, Potamus has screamed his head off. If I am not in the line-of-sight at all times, he is freaking out. If I go to the bathroom he is crawling after me. If he wakes up in the night in his new big-boy-bed and he’s nursed within the past 2 hours, I’d like him to be bounced back to sleep, but to no avail. Wailing and beating his tiny little fists against Boof’s large chest. The sound is both pitiful and heartbreaking and does NOT ease my mind about this whole daycare situation. And, while he’s trying to be manly about it, Boof’s feelings are hurt.

Boof claims that once I leave, like today I went to coffee with a friend, Potamus calms down right away and plays happily. But when he was over with grandma, and Boof came home, Potamus crawled over to her and was clingy with her. Yeah. Note to baby Potamus: this makes daddy sad.

I would like to say that I handle this clingyness calmly and rationally. But really I vacillate between feeling empathy for such a little sweetness who is having sad or scared moments and needs his mama, and moments where I want to put my fist through a wall. I’ve been reading some personality stuff online, and this pretty much sums up some of my frustration nicely:

Motherhood can be especially challenging for your restless sign, since it requires consistency, structure and often, sitting still. As a spontaneous Sag, you’re used to following your instincts and whims, and going with the flow. That doesn’t quite mesh with kids’ need for regular meals, bedtimes, school and homework schedules. You may forever be juggling way too many projects, leaving you short on time and attention for your children. Motherhood demands that you cut back on the multi-tasking, even if you still type emails while breastfeeding, or allow occasional time with “electronic babysitters” like TV or iPads. The pre-verbal stage can be especially hard for the antsy, interactive Sagittarius mom. Your idea of purgatory? Sitting still to play endless counting games, stack the same three blocks, or do any of the other mind-numbingly repetitive activities that others call “early childhood development.” You’ll need that proverbial village to keep your children properly raised and entertained.

Needless to say, the clingyness falls under this category of often-annoying to me. But I am trying really really hard to just get down on his level, be in the present moment, even if it’s in the middle of the night and he’s nursing to sleep, and have some quality time. And in trying to wrap my head around this sudden spurt of clingy separation anxiety, I came across this quote:

the clingy, attention-seeking nature of our children is actually hard-wired into their brains. It makes biological sense that children evolved to make sure they were under an adults’ radar at all times, to protect them from wolves and other dangers in the wild. There may not be any wolves in our houses these days, but children’s brains are still the same.

Whew, that is SO good to remember. While I knew it bodily, my more advanced intellectual brain wants baby Potamus to operate with a fully functioning frontal lobe, or can understand basic English and have patience to ‘wait a sec while mommy wipes her butt.’