There are two gifts we should give our children. One is roots, and the other is wings. 

These words came across my FB feed this morning and grabbed my attention. This is something that has been on my mind a lot recently.

I am in the midst of my Pediatrics clinical rotation, and it pains me to see how many very young babies are left alone in the hospital. They are in an unfamiliar setting with no familiar faces, and my heart just aches for them. They are still in the phase of planting their roots and nowhere near ready to spread their wings. The hospital staff do the best they can to be substitute parents, but it’s not the same. I worry that these little ones will grow up without the attachments they need to feel safe and secure when they do go out into the world on their own.

Marshall just turned 21 months old, and he is still firmly planted with me and his dad and not quite ready for independence. He is generally apprehensive and slow to warm up to new people and places. And you know what? 

That is okay. It is normal. He is normal.

Being cautious of strangers and new experiences does not mean he is antisocial or too dependent or weak. When he clung to me during gymnastics class last weekend, his teacher suggested that she take him home so her sons could “toughen him up.” I cringed at her words and hoped he couldn’t tell from her tone that she thought there was something wrong with the way he was acting.

I believe that it is my job to recognize, respect, and support the person that he is. Now and always. And right now, he needs to know that he can lean on us and cling to us when he is uncomfortable. He needs those roots.

The other day while I was nursing him I stared into his eyes and repeated the words to one of his books:

I’ll love you forever. I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.

He stopped nursing, and said and signed “more.”

I’ll love you forever. I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.

Again, he asked for “more.”

We went back and forth several times. It was such a beautiful moment in which I felt confident that he knows how much he is loved and accepted.

My hope for him is that he will always feel those roots. Even when–especially when–he is ready to fly.