I was at a birthday party for my friend’s daughter when it happened.
My baby was propped on my right hip—right where he always sits—when my toddler shimmied over and clung to my pant leg. “Mommy, Mommy, hold me, Mommy!” his little voice pleaded. So I picked up my toddler and held him on the other hip.
When I got tired, I tried to put my baby down. He hates when I put him down. He promptly burst into his best rendition of “Whine Like a Banshee” until I picked him up again. I switched gears and set the toddler down instead. “Mommy, I need you,” he moaned in his most convincing voice.
So I found an armchair big enough for the three of us and snuggled them both until they’d had enough. The toddler got down first when a giant Lego structure caught his eye. The baby stayed in the chair with me until he noticed the snack table.
He pointed at the snacks and urged me over. I picked him up, put him on my right hip, and went to make him a little bowl of cheese. The baby was happily nibbling away when a woman, presumably a relative of my friend, leaned in, “You better put that baby down, you know? He’s never going to walk if you carry him all the time. Put him down, or you’ll spoil him,” she demanded.
I laughed. I always laugh when I’m embarrassed.
“No thanks,” I stammered as nothing eloquent came to my mind in that moment.
“Yup, you’re going to spoil him rotten, and the other one too,” she said as she gestured toward my toddler.
I continued to hold my baby, like I always do, for the entire party. I laughed and joked and had a fine time, but on the inside, I was raging. Why didn’t I stick up for myself? Why didn’t I tell her to mind her own business? Why did I just let her overcome me with her unsolicited parenting advice?
So as I sit here, safely behind the shield that is my computer, I finally have the guts to respond to her.
If holding my babies means I’m spoiling them, then bring it on. I’ll have the rottenest kids on the block, because never, will I ever, deny my babies the warmth, safety and comfort of my arms. Got it?
You know what? Some adults pay other adults to hug them. Yeah, it’s this new thing. They’re so deprived of physical affection they get together with strangers and just hug. You should join one of those groups. It might soften you up a bit, make you human again.
Call me green, but I always thought spoiling my kids meant indulging their every material want. I thought it meant buying them an over-abundance of flashing plastic shit to play with instead of meeting their true needs. My kids have all that blinking, flashing shit, too, but they’re the type of kids who need a great deal of “on” time—that is to say, time on me. They both need and want to be held a lot. And I always comply because I am their mom. It’s my duty, my honor, my job to hold them. It’s called parenting.
Allow me to brag about all the things I can do while holding my baby: I can apply face cream, put on makeup, brush my teeth and blow-dry my hair. I can pee from start to finish (including hand-washing) without ever setting him down. I can cook, vacuum and tidy all while he’s propped on his favorite spot, and all the while, my toddler bounds away and back to us for snuggles, hugs and conversation.
So, I will continue to prop them on either hip. I will wear them in whatever baby carrier I can find. I’ll wrap them in the Moby, clip then into the Bjorn, and strap them to my back if I have to. I will always pick them up when they ask until they stop asking, because one day, they will stop asking.
When they do stop asking, that’s when I’ll know I’ve done my job. Hopefully that won’t happen until they’re grown and gone and parenting babies of their own who demand constant affection. And hopefully my boys will know from experience, just how to meet their own babies’ needs.
Oh, just a second. I feel tiny fingers tugging my pant leg. Someone wants to snuggle, and the other one wants me to carry him, just because.
So if you’ll excuse me, I have to go spoil my kids.