I stayed home from church this morning because my toddler threw up last night.
All. Over. His. Crib.
Ah, the joys of parenting.
He actually threw up the night before, too, but after an entire twenty-four hours of puke-free bliss, we assumed it had been an isolated event and fed him accordingly.
Alas, we were mistaken.
I have to say, my husband is the best puke-picker-upper in the whole wide world. I don't do well with puke. When I'm around it, it takes everything in me to not become a sympathy puker, if you know what I mean, and while I'm positive that my husband doesn't enjoy scrubbing vomit from various textures of fabric and floor coverings, he does so immediately and without a word, leaving me to tend to the distraught little puker.
I really love that man.
Anyway, my poor baby, my little Mr. K, is two-and-three-quarter years old. Not old enough to explain that he's feeling nauseous, not old enough to understand that he's about to throw up, and definitely not old enough to aim for a bucket, hence the crib-full of nastiness. (Mr. K is not a fan of his puke bucket, not even after we decorated it with vehicle stickers to make it more "inviting").
One thing Mr. K does know at his tender age, though, is that Mama and Daddy love him and will take care of him...no matter what. He is unmistakably secure. As soon as I heard him scream last night, I rushed up the stairs and into his room. I picked him up, I carried him to the bathroom, I wiped his face and his tears, reassured him, gave him a bath, dressed him in clean jammies, sang to him, and snuggled him until he was ready to go back to bed. Then Daddy brushed his teeth and carried him back upstairs, tucking him into his freshly washed bed.
He felt safe.
He felt loved.
He felt like the most important person in the world.
While bathing my pruny toddler last night, washing away all evidence of sickness with bubbles and giggles and rubber duckies, I couldn't help but compare this situation with the first time Miss M was sick in our home, only months after she came to us. She was four years old. Like Mr. K, she got sick during the night, after we had put her to bed.
We found her in the morning, wide awake and caked in dried vomit.
Why? Why didn't she call for us?
She didn't feel safe.
She didn't know she was loved.
She had learned early in her life that she wasn't the most important thing to anybody.
Attachment is a real thing, people. It isn't just a parenting style, it isn't a belief, it isn't some sort of philosophy about never disciplining your children and letting them do whatever they want. Attachment is something that every single child needs, and especially in those critical first three years of life. Children need to know that their cries will be heard and their needs will be met and that they are important and valuable and priceless just because they are, and not because of what they do.
Hug your babies. Hold them. Rock them for hours, sometimes even in the middle of the night when your eyelids will hardly stay open and all you can think of is sleep. You'll have the rest of your life to sleep, and only these precious few years to shape your baby's world. Give your babies your time.
And those toddlers, discipline them in love. Don't spoil them, teach them to obey and to help and to do nice things for others, but also read books and share secrets and plant sloppy zerberts on their bare little bellies. Hug them and wrestle with them and tell them you love them. Every. Single. Day. Spend as much time with them as you can, treasure them, and they will learn that they are treasures. Give them the best chance at life: teach your little ones that they're important.
It took several years, but Miss M now readily seeks us out whenever she doesn't feel well or is in pain. We can't always fix it, but we're so thankful that she now knows that we love her and seems to understand that we want to take care of her. We're working on helping her to believe that she is priceless...a child of the King, created in His image, and worthy of being loved.