With our first child, my husband and I were very focused on making sure she met all of the developmental milestones and progressed at the right pace. We pushed her (and still do) to learn things on her own and showered her with praise when she did. We encouraged her to be sociable and friendly with others. In a word, we taught her to be independent.
With our second...well, not so much. Of course, we would have worried if she'd missed an important milestone or seemed to fall behind, but it wasn't an issue. And of course, we praised her for learning new things.
But on the independence front, I don't think we've done as well. I used to call her my little spider monkey because of the way she'd hang onto my neck and refuse to let go. She'll beg to be picked up and carried rather than walk herself. And tonight, she's only just fallen asleep after, oh, about an hour of crying for mommy and daddy when we tried to get her to go to sleep on her own.
I see it mostly as my fault. She was my last baby, so I have held her tighter and closer to me, not wanting to move beyond that precious time. As a baby, I nursed her and cuddled her. She's so darn cute, we find we both want to coddle her. (The reason she won't go to sleep on her own, incidentally, is that we've gotten into the bad habit of lying down with her in her bed until she falls asleep. Bedtime has become an extended and time-consuming process.) But in the grand scheme of things, are we really doing her—or ourselves—any favours?
It is so hard to let go of your children. It feels like letting go of a part of yourself. Naturally, you want them to grow up, but a part of you wants to keep them two (or three, or four, or eight or whatever) always.
But they can't stay babies forever—nor should they. They need to grow and move on, and so do we.
So it's tough love time now, but I'm sure that in the long run, she'll know how much she's loved. After all is said and done, we tell her—and show her—every single day.