Although I have been at work today, it has been impossible to miss many of thr headlines. I am, apparently, a pack-horse parent. That is, I “strap my 4 year old to my back” and “don’t let him walk”. Excuse me, but what a lot of old waffle. Unfortunately, this is the myth that the Daily Mail, elements of the BBC and Loose Women have been advocating today. If it were true I would not have as many preschool carriers in the library as I do. Carrying ‘big kids’ is something I have blogged about before and a topic I feel passionately about.
Very few, if anyone, starts out their carrying journey by ‘carrying a 4-year- old’. We start carrying a baby and they grow and we grow in strength with them. They learn that they can come to us for a cuddle and no we won’t turn them away. Our bodies adapt to their changing needs; from front carrying, to hip and back carries, and even tandem carrying.
Toddler and preschool children need, want and seek security, love and warmth as much as small babies. Their mothers and fathers mean safety. Attachment Theory has for the past 70 years taught us that meeting children’s basic need to be love and cared or is not in their best interest. Children who do not have positive or secure attachments suffer developmentally. The strategies we develop to communicate are aversive in their nature – designed to protect us – but without positive reinforcement disappear and stop being used: children can, and will, go into themselves, stop communicating and hide from the world around them.
Children, do not stop needing this support and encouragement just because they can have a conversation and walk. It is not up to the media to tell parents how to parent: that is up to the parent to decide. If that means using a sling or carrier (or even a buggy) to carry their 2,3,4,5 year old, that is up to them. No arguments, no discussion needed. It is their choice. Physiologically it can take the body 90-120 minutes to calm down to normal levels of stress hormones and emotions after they have been upset or frightened. Where else better is there for a child to be when they are trying to regain normal feelings? Even if they appear calm and relaxed there are often hiccups which can pus them back into flight mode.
Although we are “born with legs” those legs do not allow us to walk immediately at birth, it is a skill we need to learn and practise. Like any skill, learning it is tiring and takes time to master. It is therefore natural that sometimes children won’t want to walk yet nobody bats and eyelid if you give child a piggy back. What exactly is the difference? What if those little legs just can’t walk at the speed we need to go at? Do we dawdle at toddler-speed or use devices which can help us reach our targets and goals? In all other elements of life, labour-saving, time-saving devices are praised.
The world is a busy place. How would you feel watching it all from knee-height, unable to fully understand the magnitude of it? Now imagine how exhilarating it would be to see if from the same height as an adult? To talk about what you can see, to ask questions and hear answers, bury your head into Mum’s neck if it gets too much? That is why I carry my children.
Carrying children is normal! Do not let sensationalist headlines and daytime TV tell you otherwise. Do what feels right for your child/children. If it feels right, then it most probably is right. Carry your children for as long as you need and want to, whether that is for days, weeks, months or years. The benefits, far outweigh the disadvantages.