On Adult Attachment to Children

There is nothing like the wordless sadness of a beautiful face dear to you. I’m referring to the small, huggable, wide-eyed ones when overtaken by uncertain illness.

“Mine!” is one of his favorite words, claiming property his bigger brother shows an interest in. The malady, however, offered nothing he wanted to keep.

The upbeat mood of the smiling, sweet-as-chocolate cherub melts in a few minutes. Energy departs, spirit evaporates, words transmute into inexpressable discomfort. The flush of heat rises, but the body descends.

The sick two-year-old loses his chatter.

My youngest grandson does not reach for a hand — doesn’t lead you to a toy, or a place, or try to have you for himself instead of sharing you with his six-year-old brother.

It must be tough to be a little fellow, hard to make your imperfect utterances understood.

Now he wants the hugs only a mom and dad can supply — seeks their comfort and embrace, the safety he can’t describe.

You watch this happen. COVID fertilizes your fear, growing like Jack’s speedy beanstalk. The concern is new, though other epochs had their own dangers — smallpox, polio, plague …

The moppet slumps into slumber. You depart, but the precious person grips your heart, now shadowed by a cloud.

The day passes. Your wife’s sleep is fitful.

The golden boy holds the sorrowful power to instill worry.

Daughter #2, his mother, sends a message early the next day.

A long nap, his parents’ knowing, double-duty attention, food, and more sleep sweep the danger away. The tentative all-clear sounds.

The news makes the sun shine brighter today. The superpowers of small children extend to the stars.

Sir Francis Bacon wrote, “He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief.”

What the writer didn’t say might have also been spoken about love. We are held fast by our loves, the closest friends, our offspring, and our grandkids, too.

Those attachments can do far worse to us than the bit of concern we had that day. Much, much worse. Many near misses and joys await. Best not to borrow trouble.

But this two-year-old deserves credit. His bounce-back brought the sky’s warmest blue. Only the dearest hearts inside you do this. He sprinkles fairy dust and doesn’t even know it.

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The first photo dates from 1934 and was published in Modern Screen magazine in 1950. The two-year-old girl is Elizabeth Taylor, with her mother Sara Sothern and brother Howard.

The second image was taken by Rita Martin and shows an unnamed child in 1912. Both of the photographs were sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

10 thoughts on “On Adult Attachment to Children

  1. I’m so glad your little guy is feeling better. Always wish it could be us rather than them, when illness strikes.

    “We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love.” Sigmund Freud

    So true!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha! I can relate (now) … here are some similar observations, if they might be of interest to you: http://graciewilde.com/2021/08/09/nothing-is-perfect-and-everything-is-perfect/

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  3. Someone told me when I was first pregnant, “Once you have a child, your vulnerable heart walks around outside your body.” Though my sons are now young adults, I still find this to be true.

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  4. I’m glad to hear that your concern for her grandson has lifted now that he’s better. As you’ve mentioned, our concern doesn’t go away as our loved ones age.

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  5. Thank you, Rosaliene. A strange but necessary bondage.

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  6. I wonder is it harder to have to go home and wait, helpless, through the night or to be there, sleepless, doing your best to provide comfort?

    So far, I have only tried tried the later…

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  7. If you are a grandparent, your options might also depend on what your children want. They may need reinforcement that allows them to take a rest for part of the night, or they might feel better if you keep a distance. As to which solution feels better to those of us who are grandparents, I don’t have any certain, one-size-fits-all answer. We do our best, Rebecca, and usually, the sun comes up, and the worry passes. Good luck, Rebecca, and thanks for commenting.

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