At a birthday party for one of the toddlers in my daughter's playgroup, Miranda, then 2, would have won the prize for unhappiest guest. It was a beautiful day; the other kids were running through the sprinkler and finger-painting. But Miranda spent the afternoon with her arms wrapped around my thigh, refusing to budge even for cake and ice cream.
When the party ended, I was annoyed -- and then guilty for feeling that way. Of course, by the time we got home, my daughter was her usual outgoing self again. So why had she acted like an extension of my leg all day?
Clinginess may not be a major behavioral problem, but it's certainly one of those little things -- like picky eating or whining -- that can drive you absolutely nuts. Here are ways to keep your sense of perspective (and maybe even humor) as you deal with them.
Barbara Price, a mom of two in Scarborough, Maine, says her daughter, Ainsley, was born clingy. "She constantly wanted to be held and cried when I put her down," says Price. And, like my daughter at that age, Ainsley always stuck close to her mom at the mommy-toddler playgroup.
Why they do it: Young kids have different temperaments, just like grown-ups. Some are more sociable, while others take a while to adjust to new people. When your child is in a new situation or even just cranky, clinginess is his way to communicate his uneasy feelings. And since you give him a sense of comfort, having you nearby reassures him that he's safe.
Kids are also very good at reading body language, says Lynn Arner-Cross, a mom of three and a specialist in Child Care Services for the city of Davis, California. If your baby senses that she's losing your attention, she may feel less connected to you and begin to cling.
How to deal: When your child's attached to you like Velcro, don't try to forcibly pry him off: That will make him even clingier. Instead, let him stay as close as he wants to for about ten minutes, and then gradually separate, says Arner-Cross. Sit near him, talk to him, play with him -- but don't hold him. After a while, move farther away (but stay in the same room). And don't leave without saying goodbye: It'll help him understand that you'll return.
Rosemary Black, a mom of six, is the author of two cookbooks, including The Kids Holiday Cookbook.