Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Lesson In Security

When I was a freshman in high school, my grandpa died. And as a family we made the 12+ hour car trip to go to the funeral and be a part of the family.

We stayed at my grandma's house. My parents and brothers slept upstairs and I slept downstairs in the livingroom on the couch. One night I woke up to a guy rubbing my leg. Twice. I kicked him. Twice. And then I went upstairs to sleep with my parents.

Yes, as a freshman in high school, I went and slept with my parents. Why? Lots of reasons.

I knew the difference between good touch and bad touch. Not necessarily because I was "told" the difference, but because I grew up with good touch. Lots of it.

Also, I was obviously secure enough in my relationship with my parents that I could, even as a teenager, seek them out in the middle of the night in a strange house because something was wrong.

Why am I telling you this? Because it's important.

Recently one of my facebook friends asked how to get his five-month-old to sleep on his own. My response was that he shouldn't have to sleep on his own. Mom and dad are their children's security. And as they grow older, even if they aren't sleeping with you, you are still their security. And if the roots of security are there, your children, even as teenagers, will know even in the middle of the night in their grogginess that they can come to you if they need to. Period.

I taught high school for four years. Several times each year I had a girl come to me with a boy problem. It's just how it is. But of those several times, I remember a select few and their reactions when I said, "You know you dont' have to . . . " The stunned silence and then the anger that suddenly flooded her face made me cringe. I distinctly remember one storming out of the room, not mad at me, but mad. And another one responded with, "Why didn't anyone tell me that?!"

Things could have been so much different that night when I was sleeping in that livingroom. But I knew that I didn't have to.

No, we did not co-sleep with our parents, but their bed was not off limits. We were always close to our parents, physically and emotionally, and our needs were always met in a timely manner. We knew that we could count on them and it was as simple as that. We were their priority. They were our security.

Before we had children, my husband and I took a vacation and went to the coast for a week. I distinctly remember walking up a path behind a family with two girls who looked to be about age 10 and 13. Both of them were holding hands with their dad on the way up the trail. I remember thinking that is how I wanted it to be when we had our kids.

Now, watching our girls attack their daddy when he gets home and seeing them pile on him to read books every night, I know that they are getting their fill of appropriate touch. And to me, that is one fo the very best ways to build their security and protect them from the realities of this world. They are still little, yes. We do our best to keep them safe. But some day they won't be little any more. And when they are big, I want them to be able to come to us, even in the middle of the night, crawl in bed and feel safe.

Please don't push your children away. They need you. You are their security. They are your priority.

By Heidi Donnelly