John and Adam longed to follow the advice of their favorite parenting podcast and teach their 18-month-old daughter Avery to play independently. But when John left her in her playpen to go make dinner, or Adam sat on the couch doing work while Avery played at his feet, they relented to her protests within seconds. They felt torn between a wish to follow what they called “attachment parenting” where they responded to her every need, and to give her space. I began working with them when Avery was an infant around their intense anxiety that something would happen to her. They navigated that first year well, getting out from under the debilitating fear. But when Avery hit toddlerhood, the insecurities returned with a vengeance. We met by Zoom; an unexpected option brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The visit uncovered a surprising benefit of this new way of working.
Both fathers appeared next to each other on the screen, actively engaged in conversation with me about their guilt over letting Avery experience any distress as they tried in vain to follow the expert advice. Behind them I noticed a well-stocked and colorful play area. From where the laptop was placed, I could see Avery explore the toys behind them. The unusual set up allowed me to watch her while she was in a sense “alone” without being observed by her parents.