I’ve been pondering the growth of my child from the time he was a little dependent baby, to a more separate little boy. I’m feeling the swing lately, between clingy, crying child and a mindful boy who knows exactly what he wants. I was wondering if this process had a name, and I found something that could describe it. Margaret Schönberger developed a theory of separation and individuation: where she tracked the way a child separates from its mother. Perhaps this may help me in the puzzle how how we are becoming separate and working through this process.
These are the phases she outlined:
1. Normal Symbiotic Phase: (until 5 months) The infant and mom are as one and the baby does not feel separate at all. It’s like they are in a separate little bubble apart from the rest of the world. I know I felt like this, especially in those early winter months. We were in our little cocoon.
2. Separation (from mom) -Individuation (development of ego, identity and cognition) Phase: Begins to connect with environment:
This phase is further broken down into:
-Hatchling: (5-9 months) Infant is interested in surroundings, but uses his mother as a point of reference. This is the baby wearing phase where baby can peek out and see the world, so long as mom is close. I actually wore Nicky until 18 months. By that stage he was really getting too heavy!
-Practicing: (9-16 months) Although the infant still sees itself as one with mom, he can now explore the world. I remember when Nicky started crawling, he had a lot of fun, crawling in the dirt. It was a real milestone when he managed to walk.
-Rapprochement (15-24 months) The child once again becomes close, although able to move to create separateness. He wants mom to be in sight.
The reason I started thinking about this process was that it was mentioned in Jamie Glowacki’s book Oh Crap Potty Training.
This was her argument against “waiting until they are ready” which may be when they are three:
Once a child is 3, they hit individuation…the process by which they begin to realize they are their own person and have their own free will and choice. Hmmm. What do you suppose will happen if they decide they don’t want to use the potty? That the diaper is working just fine for them? I’ll tell you what will happen: you’ll have a disaster filled with drama. It’s really hard to potty train children over 3. They have free will and choice and they know how to use it.
Well it seems to me that Jamie had her timing all wrong, if we follow Margaret’s theory, which started alot earlier. But she’s right about potty training and the exercise of the will.
It sure feels to me like Nicky is asserting his will.
– Refuses to go to the potty first thing in the morning, (“No pee!”) just because I’m taking him there. He manages to hold it in the car trip to dad’s work and back.
-I will ask him repeatedly when I go to the toilet does he want to go? Sometimes he does let me know and we go. Other times? Just pees in his pants.
-Refuses to pull down his pants because I am asking him to. But won’t let me undress him because he wants to get out of his onsie himself. (Okay he didn’t do the whole thing by himself, but he managed to pull the zip down and take his arms out).
-Refuses to wear a jacket. “No jacket!” even though it’s cold and he is not well. In fact I had to dig my heels in when he really got sick. “No outside without a jacket!” We made a game of it and he got to put two jackets on!
-Refuses supper and wants his own kind of food. Since I’m trying to phase out the biscuits (can I get a whoop whoop! No biccys at night this past week!) his new thing is bananas. So for instance, he won’t have his noodles but he will eat three bananas.
-I’m not letting him have juice at night,only water and boob. He was not impressed and threw the water across the room. If he’s really thirsty, we look for the water.
-He has a ritual when he gets out the bath of holding his towel together in a certain way and putting objects of affection in his hands in a certain way. If the towel does not line up right we have tears.
-Nothing can be “broken!” (sob, sob!). Even if it looks a bit broken, it will not be eaten. The banana broke in half: forget it – he will not eat it. And don’t get me started on “the perfect biscuit“.
I’m sure there are a lot more examples of how Nicky is showing me that he is a separate little being with certain ways of doing things, and wanting to do things his way. The one thing I am noticing, however, is that I get less of the clingy baby behaviour and more of the growing boy I love if I give him some attention first. So if I have to move bath time earlier so that we can spend quality time together in the tub, rather then him crying while I put away laundry, so be it.
As far as separation goes: I am going out more and more and he is doing just fine. He says “Bye!” and caries on watching his Cars movie.
But there is a part of me that clings to my child. I breathe him in, celebrating his miracle life and never want to let him go.
The other part of me just really enjoys having a break.
I’m sure we will continue on this path of establishing our separate identities as time passes. The truth is that both of us are growing through the process.
In other news DH is moving offices this weekend and Nicky reminded me what a cute kid he is by climbing into cupboards, climbing on top of desks and finding other interesting things to do. He found a flag to wave, a crown to wear and even some pencils to draw with. I am so blessed to have him around.