I’m reading the blogosphere/social media hoopla over the Times Extreme Breastfeeding article while I’m riding on a train. I’m completely by myself and I’m on my way to meet my college age daughter to bring her home from her first year of college. From this vantage point, the idea of kids being too coddled, restricted in their growth by too much love strikes me as ludicrously absurd. Because kids do grow up of course. You can hardly stop it. I find myself feeling completely sentimental—no sickly sappy—over these extreme nursing photos. Those of you who know me are going – what? Lara sappy? It is true. I can’t look at these beautiful pictures without a deep nostalgia squeezing me. I barely notice the captions. The nasty comments. Really? There isn’t so much going on in this crazy world that we have to get our negative ire up over some magical age at which someone should no longer breastfeed their child? Look at those sweet, contented faces—you really see pathology in that?
Oh, I remember the comments when she was an infant. You’re holding her too much—she’ll be too clingy and never learn to be away from you. Really? From that first chubby step she’s been walking away from me. And then back. In ever widening arcs. I remember her as a toddler running away headlong into an adventure and then occasionally plunging back to me full tilt to bury her face in my lap and look up at me as if confirming- Yup, still here. And then off again. It is a child’s biological imperitive to grow up. To leave. To separate. Slowly, of course, over a span so long that we don’t notice it is happening. Like many moms do I fretted when she was young. Did I do this long enough? That short enough? Did I push, pull, drag well enough? Of course I did. And then I didn’t. And then I did. And I mucked my way through it with one overriding idea—that I was giving this parenting gig my all despite my many faults.
This year has been the widest arc yet. She is in school six hours away and with the exception of a few visits home at holidays, she has lived apart from me for the past year. When she went away last fall she was a teenager. Still is, technically, for a while longer but as I look out at the trees rushing past my train window I know that the train station will mark a different stop in our adventure. She is smart, independent and has navigated her way through a year of college classes, new social opportunities, weekend adventures and—hopefully—to the train station to meet me on time. What greets me is a young woman who has grown confident basking in my love and resilient growing despite my mistakes.
So, I say nurse. Or don’t. Nurse as short or as long as you want. Hug your babies when they want and never worry that you are holding them too much. And let them go when they pull away because they will always glance back to make sure you are still there.