Luckily, around the time of Mia's first birthday, things began to change -- for both of us. It's not that I gave up on cuddling, but I did let my obsession wane. The effect was startling. I felt liberated. The half hour before bed, when I used to try so hard to corral her into my lap for a reading of Goodnight Moon, turned into playtime as we frolicked on the floor together. And she began seeking me out -- for hugs and holding. Sometimes, after a nasty spill or while she was fighting a bad cold, she even rested her head on my shoulder and allowed me to rock her. She also "discovered" my lap. Now, dozens of times a day, she toddles over, clasping a book, and wedges her tiny rear onto my thighs. I sneak sniffs of her scent, loving every second of it.
Sure, it could be a phase. If I've learned anything about parenting over the last year or so, it's that kids are constantly, maddeningly, amazingly changing. They go through clingy periods as well as stretches of surprising independence. And although Mia now has moments of holding, clinging, and clutching, she still prefers to check things out on her own and shows little tolerance for being constrained.
I've mellowed out, and Mia has met me in the middle. But should she wriggle away again, that's okay. I've broadened my definition of closeness. It doesn't have to be skin-to-skin or nose-to-nose. My growing girl and I are connected when I watch her explore, learn, and play, when our eyes meet during peekaboo, when she cackles after dunking her hand in the dog's water bowl, when she demands yet another game of ring-around-a-rosy. As long as I can be with her for these moments and for those to come, I've got everything I need.
Originally published in the August 2011 issue of American Baby magazine.