For real. This, the eve of his third birthday, also marks one month since Zook last nursed. A few months back, I posted about my little guy giving up his nightly boob. Sad, but not really surprising. He was two and a half… So although we did not nurse before bed, he awoke craving his mama’s milk instantly as his eyes opened. And it went on like this for quite a while. I had no clue that it would go on this long. But it did.
Zook is my last baby. Our family of five is complete. What is apparent to most parents after two children became a blaring reality after he was born: Children are a lot of work. And making sure that they all survive the day is also a lot of work. So I relished in our nursing relationship- the Journey as many call it- because I knew this was the last chance I would have to grow this bond with a child. I never thought of myself as an extended breastfeeder- not that I had any judgments about people who breastfed past a year… or two… or three… I just did’t think it was for me. And then I was that Mama.
He just never appeared to be a toddler or (gulp) a preschooler. He just looked so much like my baby that I was blind to the progression of his increasing age. With each passing month, I thought surely it would be any day. I was sure that after his second birthday, he would give it up but just like so many other things, the books were wrong about this too. After his second birthday, I began scrutinizing about each session. I gave myself such a hard time. And it was stupid because I was the only one putting the pressure on to kick this. My husband was more than supportive- half because he relied on me to “give him a boob” to get our
insanely temperamental sweet child to shut the F up calm down in any public setting. And the other half of the reason he was so supportive was because he saw how much it meant to our little guy. Don’t you think he’s a little old? I would say. According to who? He’d answer. But do you think he still really needs it? I’d say. Look how much he loves it. If it still works for you, don’t take it away from him. He’d say. For real. (Reminder: Hug this man.) So I just decided to go with it.
Slowly, he would miss a morning booby sesh. Then he would miss a day. And then two. And then three… And then. It was gone. Still, one month later, the sadness creeps into my throat. But I am comforted by the idea that he weaned me as much as himself. Had he cut me off, I would have been heart-broken. (Yes, folks, this was about me too.) So he weaned me. Slowly, and on his terms. This happened just the way it was supposed to. It was true self-weaning. It was hard and there were times I wanted to give up- just as much as there were times that I wanted to offer when he didn’t need it. But I let him decide what he wanted- what he needed- and trusted he would find his way. I trusted him to find our way.
Now, I’ll admit that I boarder on control freak (who am I kidding, I am a total control freak but I can’t really admit that because it sounds horrible… but this is Real) and because of this, I have a hard time letting my kids decide what’s best for them. Of course you have to wear a hat, it’s 30 degrees outside! You need to fill out your reading journal! Take two more bites of breakfast! Finish your milk! Now what if we treated them like… humans? Humans who are capable of making decisions for themselves. I know I am making a huge leap here but if letting a near-three year old decide when he’s done nursing has taught me anything, it’s that we don’t give our children far enough credit for knowing what they need and when they need it. We make so many decisions for them. And some of them are necessary but are they all…? I am not so sure anymore.
For some of you reading this, you may be welcoming me to the room: you’ve already made a decision to raise your kids this way. To some, the idea of letting your kids make autonomous choices may seem ridiculous. To the latter group, try to entertain this idea. I’m still totally forcing my kids to wear their seatbelts, brush their teeth and use their manners but if they choose not to wear a hat, maybe I will let them (and shove it in my purse to hand off when they start to cry that their ears are cold) or maybe I will allow them to leave the table without finishing breakfast… they will be hungry but they won’t die. Maybe they would make a better choice the next morning.
I don’t pretend to know where to draw that line and I am in no way telling you how to raise your kiddos. But what I am saying is that our children are crazy smart. They know what they are doing more of the time than we acknowledge. Consider this. My three year old clung to my breast until he slowly decided he didn’t need it anymore. And then he was done. On his terms. I let go of the control. And it worked out really well. Bye, bye Booby. Hello Independence.