A few days ago, I was part of a good-hearted discussion on twitter about how one gets a baby to go to sleep. I have three children and my answer for getting them to sleep has always been the same: I hold them. Then I lay down with them. I wrap my arms around them, and I watch their eyelids flutter shut and feel their limbs go limp and listen as their breath becomes slow and steady.
I know that’s not the answer people want; getting a baby to go to sleep means teaching them how to do it on their own. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Every family has different needs and rhythms and routines, and I trust people can make the choices that are best for them. However, I also know some people think my way is wrong. They think I am teaching my children to be dependent on me. I am, of course, only I don’t feel that’s a bad thing. Dependence is no more a strength or a weakness than independence. Both have their place. However, we live in a culture that doesn’t always value learning how to be vulnerable and cared for. How to need. How to ask for help. How to be soothed by someone other than the self. These are qualities I had to learn when I was older, and I deeply wish they came more naturally to me. These are also qualities I feel are vital when we talk about mental health and the stigma around seeking treatment.
I saw a list on tumblr recently of YA books with little or no romance in them. Charm & Strange was on that list, which was very cool to see. But then I wondered if readers seeking a non-romantic storyline would be disappointed with the book. While there is no central romance, it is a story about learning to trust that other people can be caring and compassionate and genuinely have your best interest in mind. That’s dependence, isn’t it? Learning how to need others and to accept their kindness, and all the messy soul-baring vulnerability that comes with that?
It may not be romance, but in my mind, there is nothing more intimate.