The other night, in the wee small hours, I woke to find Miss Eight standing quietly beside my bed. As most mums are at around 2am, I was tired and time to think was minimal. I found myself opening the duvet and scooching over. She snuggled in beside me, and as quickly as she nestled into the spot between me and the edge of the bed, she went back to sleep. I didn’t — I lay awake and thought about how my parenting has changed over the last 16 years.
When my eldest daughter was her age, I would have gone with a strict strategy as to how to get her back to sleep in her own bed. She would have been allowed to snuggle for a short period of time, and then she would’ve been shifted back to her own room to resettle. Being dependent on me seemed wrong back then, I needed to make sure she would survive to some degree on her own. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think there’s a blanket (pun intended) rule for scenarios like these, and I definitely still have nights where the best thing to do is walk my baby right back to her bed. But that night with my eight-year-old reminded me of something I learnt through the Circle of Security training. The power of, ‘being with’ our kids.
What ‘Being with’ looks like
‘Being with’ isn’t about always physically being with our kids. It’s not a call to take flight and be a helicopter parent. It’s about being emotionally available for our kids. We’ve got to show up for them when they show up with a need – no matter what time of day.
The day after Miss Eight had spent the night snuggled up to me, I gently asked her what had happened in the night and why she’d needed to show up at my bedside. It turns out she’d had a nasty nightmare. Quite profoundly, she said to me, “I needed my safe place”.
My daughter has learnt that whenever life gets overwhelming, all she needs to do is return to her safe place, or as we call it in the Circle of Security, her secure base. I’ve learnt that the more I welcome her to that place, whether it’s in the middle of the night when she’s had a bad dream, or when she’s trying to work out her feelings in a fight with friends, the more she feels secure and safe in her relationship with me.
It’s the day-to-day, opening-the-duvet moments that help my daughter to build a healthy sense of attachment. Welcoming her in is the best way I can do ‘being with’ her. Am I going to meet every need? No, but I have learnt that ‘good enough’ parenting is good enough for me. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent.
Sheridan Eketone is a Presenter and Facilitator Trainer at Parenting Place, and a proud mum of four amazing kids.