Nearly everyone has an opinion when it comes to parenting, and some cannot help but express their opinion- whether it is welcomed or not. One mother experienced that on a recent shopping trip in Target with her infant daughter. Kelly Dirkes, who is an adopted mother to several children with special needs, was out shopping with her infant daughter nestled snug against her chest in a sling when a stranger stopped her to give out a piece of advice that was not asked for.
The stranger informed Kelly that coddling her infant like that (instead of putting her in the shopping cart) would lead to issues with the child becoming independent later in life. Carrying the little girl around would make her spoiled. Kelly just smiled at the woman and walked away. After all, that woman had no idea what Kelly or her infant had gone through. Once she was home and had some time to think about it, Kelly posted an open letter to the stranger on Facebook and what she wrote may be surprising.
“Dear Woman in Target –
I’ve heard it before, you know. That I ‘spoil that baby.’ You were convinced that she’d never learn to be ‘independent.’ I smiled at you, kissed her head, and continued my shopping.
If you only knew what I know. If you only knew how she spent the first ten months of her life utterly alone inside a sterile metal crib, with nothing to comfort her other than sucking her fingers.
If you only knew what her face looked like the moment her orphanage caregiver handed her to me to cradle for the very first time — fleeting moments of serenity commingled with sheer terror.
No one had ever held her that way before, and she had no idea what she was supposed to do. If you only knew that she would lay in her crib after waking and never cry — because up until now, no one would respond.
If you only knew that anxiety was a standard part of her day, along with banging her head on her crib rails and rocking herself for sensory input and comfort.
If you only knew that that baby in the carrier is heartbreakingly ‘independent’ — and how we will spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years trying to override the part of her brain that screams ‘trauma’ and ‘not safe.’
If you only knew what I know.
If you only knew that that baby now whimpers when she’s put down instead of when she is picked up.
If you only knew that that baby ‘sings’ at the top of her lungs in the mornings and after her nap, because she knows that her chatter will bring someone to lift her out of her crib and change her diaper.”
If you only knew that that baby rocks to sleep in her Mama’s or her Papa’s arms instead of rocking herself.
If you only knew that that baby made everyone cry the day she reached out for comfort, totally unprompted.
If you only knew what I know.
Spoiling that baby’ is the most important job I will ever have, and it is a privilege. I will carry her for a little while longer — or as long as she’ll let me — because she is learning that she is safe. That she belongs. That she is loved.
If you only knew…”