Failure to launch; independent children

Failure to launch is a funny movie; Matthew McConaughey plays the lead role of a thirty-five-year-old bachelor who still lives at home with his parents and has no plans of moving out. On the surface the story seems rather straightforward, he’s simply grown cold feet to the idea of living by himself. His friends Ace and Demo are no help either as they both live with their parents at home or so it seems on the surface. Present society frowns a lot at such activities, i.e the idea of a grown adult still ‘living off his parents’. It is seen as the movie is aptly titled a ‘failure of the individual to launch’, a failure of his/her parents to nudge them in the right direction. To snip the apron strings.

We are a very independent generation, we want to spread our wings as far as possible, we want to mount the highest peaks without any aid. Parents are coerced to encourage their offspring to stand on their own two feet as soon as possible literally and figuratively. Teachers, health workers, doctors are encouraged to ask children questions that encourage independence, questions which often lead to a certain desired answer. Parents are encouraged to have sleep routines, codes of behavior and learning objectives for each child. It’s no wonder extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping are frowned upon by a lot of people.

Being independent isn’t the absence of weakness or a presence of stable strength.  Being independent is having the ability to shoulder the level of responsibility appropriate for an individual’s mental and physical state per time. Individuals often aren’t aware of what they can handle which is why life steps in to throw challenges at us. For children, parents are often the tools used to point out these milestones, however, learning or surmounting these milestones must be done by the child with or without the assistance of the parent. How does this relate to extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping?

Let’s go back to the movie, Tripp (the character played by Matthew McConaughey) lives at home with his parents as a result of his fiancees’ death.  He sought solace in the one place he knew he would find it, a move born out of a need. Living at home with his parents was not a problem of any sort at first. Going by his mother’s account, his presence pushed the fear of facing an empty nest with her husband into the distance future. However, at some point his presence did become a strain for them not a bad unbearable strain, rather a strain they could do without if it could be managed in a loving way that left everyone feeling happy. Sadly, in real life we have limited options either to let the process run its cause or we rudely interrupt or we intervene in the most gentle manner we can, ready to soothe ruffled feathers through the process.

This is the same with the case of extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping, no one except mother and child should decide when the process has run its due cause. It is not about nutrition as breast milk regardless of age maintains its nutritional value. It is not about independence as no child is self-sufficient at the age in question. Taking into consideration the definition of independence given in the previous paragraph one might be tempted to conclude that extended breastfeeding might hinder a child’s growth. This ideology, however, would be considered unfounded by several studies which have associated high levels of independence in children who experience constant loving and appropriate physical contact with their care givers/ parents.

There are no universal rules or manuals about parenting that fits every situation and life divide. Being independent is very important, a vital component for a balanced adult but we must be careful to help our little ones attain that height without feeling smothered or abandoned. As with everything in the life of your child, you only learn what they need or don’t need by paying attention to them and to your intuition. There is no shame in extended breastfeeding or in stopping at any point, there is, however, a sense of betrayal when your needs or your child’s need are buried under society’s acceptance or any other obligation. Don’t aggressively start the nudge for independence (fashion,mental, diet, health) or ignore the cues of independence either.  

Parenting is the toughest job in the world, but your children will teach you the skills you need provided you don’t juxtapose your desires over them or interpret their needs subjective to your feelings.

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