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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

WHAT IS ATTACHMENT PARENTING ANYWAY?

Welcome to the July Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Philosophy
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared their parenting practices and how they fit in with their parenting purpose. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
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Before I had kids, I had a slight idea of what my parenting philosophy was: I basically knew that I wanted an open, respectful relationship with my kids. But that was it. I was never much of a babysitter; I had never been around kids before. I had no idea how to breastfeed and deal with sleep issues, much less discipline and deal with the teenage years. I started to become addicted to the forums on mothering.com. I scoured the Gentle Discipline forum and the one about sleep. I was forming an idea of how I wanted to parent.

I read a lot about attachment parenting and natural parenting. A lot of it resonated with me. I decided I wanted to be an AP mama. The idea that being there for your baby whenever he needs you made sense to me. If baby feels secure with mama and at home, he’s more likely to venture out and explore the world at his own pace.

Then Baby T was born. The one parenting issue that I knew my indecisive self would never waver on was breastfeeding. It was my only option. Luckily, there were no challenges in that department. I say luckily because there were challenges in every other department.


When it came to sleep, Baby T never really knew what was up. He never slept more than a two-hour stretch. But it was ok at first. I would get up with him, nurse and rock him back to sleep, and lay him back down. I tried to cosleep, even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I really liked my space while sleeping back then. I had to flip over every time I woke up in the night or it would eat at me. So while cosleeping, I couldn’t really flip over as much as I wanted to. I was so afraid of suffocating my baby, I couldn’t sleep well. And Baby T liked his space too. He would fuss and kick until I moved him to the center of the bed, where he wasn’t touching anyone. Baby T ended up sleeping in the crib from about 2 months on. But I would bring him into bed with me in the early morning hours, and he would nurse until his 5 or 6 AM wake-up.

Then, he started waking up every 20 minutes. This was after I had already gone back to work. I was exhausted. I was hallucinating at work and a monster at night. I broke down one night. I let him cry for 20 minutes in his crib, because I couldn’t get up with him anymore. I needed to sleep. It was 21 minutes, to be exact. He stopped crying and fell back to sleep. I felt so guilty. Had he given up on me? Would he lose all trust in me and become a serial axe murderer because of it?

And did that mean I had to shed my label of AP mama? I changed the subject when sleep came up with my friends. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had done the unthinkable. And considered doing it again. I hemmed and hawed about cry-it-out. Every parent who did it said the same thing: “After three days, your child goes to sleep like a charm,” or “they learn to self-soothe.” Which was so enticing. Except for one thing. I don’t believe babies ever can self-soothe at a young age, and I believe that the reason they end up sleeping like a charm is because they have given up. They know you’re not coming back for them, so why should they bother crying? But then those awful nights would arise where I was at my wit’s end.

You eventually get used to the lack of sleep. But what I couldn’t get out of my head was the thought that every stage my baby went through would last forever. Would I be nursing him to sleep when he was 30? Would he need me to rock him to sleep always? I never let him cry it out again though. And one night when he was maybe 8 or 10 months old, I put him down in his crib after nursing him, and he was still awake. I said goodnight and left the room. And he went to sleep happily. Baby T has been a miraculous sleeper ever since. Maybe it was because I had finally relaxed about the way I was mothering.

When it comes to babywearing, I firmly believe that you can’t hold your baby too much. But Baby T was (and still is) a clingy kid. He likes to be held. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because I had him in a sling all the time. Other times I wonder if it’s for another reason—because I wasn’t home with him all the time.

Which brings up another subject: daycare. Could I even be an AP mama if I couldn’t afford to stay home with my baby? I avoided using the term. When I described myself online or in forums, I never said I was an AP mama. I felt like a poser.

And then there’s the issue of feeding. I caved, and at 5 and a half months, I gave Baby T some mashed avocado. I was bored and wanted something new to do with him. He gagged on it. I never pushed the food issue after that, but heard about baby-led weaning so much that I decided to try that when he was about 7 months old. He gagged on everything. All foods, whether purees or finger foods, made him choke. I was afraid to give him too many purees because I read about how unnatural that was, but then I was afraid that if I didn’t expose him to different tastes at a young age, he would be a picky eater. I was still nursing him, though, and was tempted to exclusively nurse forever. Nursing was the only easy thing.

Then Baby T became mobile. He started crawling, pulling up on furniture, and walking. He got into everything. And I let him. This was the easiest part for me, but the hardest for everyone else. I didn’t think it was appropriate to tell an exploring child “no” unless he was doing something dangerous. If he wanted something breakable on the bottom shelf, I simply moved it out of reach. Hearing parents repeat “no, no, no” over and over to their children made me cringe. Your child eventually starts to ignore you.

But then he got older and the era of the tantrum began. I found that if I let him do things on his terms, life was much happier for all of us. He loves helping. So if I wanted him to put down his toothbrush even though he wanted to take it to bed with him (which I wouldn’t allow because I have a fear of him poking it into his throat or his eye), I would make it a game: throw it into the sink! And he would giggle and yell, “THROW!” And it would be done. This is how we avoided a lot of tantrums around the house.

But then I read something about disciplining children that said something like: why do you give your child several chances to do something like put a toy away, when if they were running into the street, you would want them to respond to you on the first try? Shouldn’t you get your child to respond to your first request every time? I thought about that: was I doing something wrong?

The discipline thing was the scariest. I knew children needed some sort of structure for their chaotic minds, but at the same time, they can only take so much. Their brains are still developing, and they are learning so much every day. How can we expect them to be structured like adults? I was afraid of forcing unnatural behaviors on my child, yet I was also afraid that if I didn’t enforce some “discipline,” my child would end up—right—a serial axe murderer.

Sometimes, I felt like that mom who, at playdates, lets her kid run wild. Something a wise friend of mine once said was that she only said “no” to her kids when they were doing something illegal, immoral, or unhealthy. That completely resonated with me, and that’s what I tried to do. But would my kid become an out-of-control heathen?

The answer was no. This worked for us. When I give him 5 minutes to debate about whether he should throw his toothbrush in the sink while we make funny faces at each other in the mirror and let him play with the running water, he eventually throws it in, I clap and smile and thank him, and our house is at peace. When he tells me he doesn’t want to get out of the bath, I don’t make him. It’s not like we have anywhere to go. I’ve turned a lot of things that could otherwise spur tantrums into a game. When I want him to follow me to the bedroom, I march like a dinosaur. He can’t help but do it too. He does a lot of things “all by himself” and he’s proud of himself for doing so.

And when he’s running toward the street and I yell “Stop!” He stops dead in his tracks.

I’ve listened to my kids. Their needs change and I revamp my parenting style. I never do just one thing. You could say I’m the queen of inconsistency. Which again scares me, because the one thing you always read is “be consistent with your parenting style.” Well, you know what? My kids aren’t consistent with their being-a-kid styles. So I’ve learned to take each day as it comes and respond to each baby as he needs it at that moment. I have stopped reading about parenting and really learned to listen to myself and my family. And that works for us. I still second guess myself sometimes. I still fear sometimes that whatever I do now will set the stage for a lifetime of misery. Will my child be too wild? Will my child reject authority?

But I have learned to listen to myself more than to the books or articles I read. I know that I want to encourage my children to grow at their own pace. I know that I don’t want to spank them or hit them or yell at them. I know I don’t want to be the figure of unreasonable authority—I want everything I say to have meaning to them just like everything they say has meaning to me; I want to really communicate with them. I know that I want them to feel comfortable exploring, even if it means using fingerpaint on their arms instead of on paper. And I know that I’m doing everything I can to achieve that. I’m doing what comes naturally to me.

Little M started out sleeping through the night, and now he’s the same kind of sleeper that Baby T was. But the difference is that he will snuggle next to me in bed all night long. I never even have to sit up. I never thought I would cosleep, and now I sleep wonderfully with my baby snuggling next to me. I have even cured myself of the need to flip over every time I wake up. And tonight, when Baby T was crying/whining/tantruming loudly for seemingly no reason, I held him close to me and sang him a lullaby. He wanted this, he wanted that, he didn’t want to go to bed. Sometimes I can be the most empathetic when my kids are the most worked up. That’s when my all my patience floods to me. Maybe because that’s when they need my love the most. In my arms, Baby T laid his head on my shoulder and relaxed. And when he got in bed, he curled up, closed his eyes, and fell asleep peacefully.

Am I an AP mama? I don’t know. I still don’t like labels. Am I attached to my kids? More than anything in the world. I would do anything for them and want to raise them as gently and openly as possible. I want them to have the utmost trust in me and know that I will pick them up when they’re feeling uncomfortable and kiss their tears when they’re feeling sad. I have found a world of patience in myself, and when my kids are agitated for any reason, I feel like I have all the time in the world to be there for them and soothe them.


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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon July 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • Between Love and Fear: On Raising our Children Sensibly — Mamma Earthly at Give an Earthly discusses the fear factor in parenting and how she overcame it, despite societal pressures.
  • really, when do i get my cape? — Sarah at small bird on fire is a working city mama trying to learn how to set aside her expectations of perfection and embrace the reality of modern parenting.
  • Baby, Infant, and Toddler Wearing — Child wearing is part of Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured's parenting philosophy. In this post, Sarah describes benefits of child-wearing and gives tips for wearing babies, infants, and toddlers (even while pregnant).
  • First Year Reflections — As her daughter's first birthday approaches, Holly at First Year Reflections reflects on how she and her husband settled into attachment parenting after initially doing what they thought everyone else did.
  • Making an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a guest post from Sam about the unexpected lessons giving a four-year-old an allowance teaches the child — and the parent.
  • How to be a Lazy Parent and Still Raise Great Kids — Lisa at Granola Catholic talks about how being a Lazy Parent has helped her to raise Great Kids.
  • Philosophy in Practice — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how her heart shaped the parenting philosophy in her home.
  • What is Attachment Parenting Anyway? — Gaby at Tmuffin describes the challenges of putting a label on her parenting philosophy.
  • Of Parenting Styles — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom talks about how she and her husband tailored various parenting styles to fit their own preferred parenting philosophy.
  • Moment by Moment Parenting — Amy at Peace 4 Parents encourages those who care for children (including herself) to explore and appreciate parenting moment-by-moment with clarity, intention, trust, and action.
  • Maintaining Spirituality in the Midst of Everyday Parenting, Marriage, and Life — Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured shares her perspective on finding opportunities for spiritual growth in every day life.
  • Parenting Philosophy — Lily, aka Witch Mom's parenting philosophy is to raise child(ren) to be compassionate, loving, inquisitive, and questioning adults who can be trusted to make decisions for themselves in a way that avoids harming others.
  • Long Term — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis thinks about who she would like to see her daughter become — and what she can do now to lay a strong foundation for those hopes.
  • Connection, Communication, Compassion — She's come a long way, baby! After dropping her career in favour of motherhood, Patti at Jazzy Mama discovered that building solid relationships was going to be her only parenting priority.
  • My Parenting Inspirations - Part 4 — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at her biggest parenting inspiration and how that translates into her long-term parenting philosophy.
  • A Parenting Philosophy in One Word: Respect — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction summarizes her parenting and relationship philosophy in one word: respect.
  • Knowledge and Instinct — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that knowledge and instinct are super important … as are love, encouragement and respect. It's the ideal combo needed to raise happy and healthy children and in turn create meaningful relationships with them.
  • THRIVE!The Sparkle Mama wants to set a tone of confidence, abundance, and happiness in her home that will be the foundation for the rest of her daughter's life.
  • On Children — "Your children are not your children," say Kahlil Gibran and Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • This One Life Together — Ariadne aka Mudpiemama shares her philosophy of parenting: living fully in the here and now and building the foundation for a happy and healthy life.
  • Enjoying life and planning for a bright future — Olivia at Write About Birth shares her most important parenting dilemmas and pours out her heart about past trauma and how healing made her a better parent.
  • My Parenting Philosophy: Unconditional and Natural Love — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about her parenting philosophy from a year of following her instincts as a mama.
  • An open letter to my children — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine writes an open letter to her children.
  • My Starter Kit for Unconditional Parenting — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses her wish to raise a good person and summarizes some of the nontraditional practices she's using with her toddler son in order to fulfill that wish.
  • Responsiveness — Sheila at A Gift Universe has many philosophies and goals, but what it all boils down to is responsiveness: listening to what her son wants and providing what he needs.
  • Tools for Creating Your Parenting Philosophy — Have you ever really thought about your parenting purpose? Knowing your long-term goals can help you parent with more intent in your daily interactions. Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers exercises and ideas to help you create your own parenting philosophy.
  • Be a Daisy — Becky at Old New Legacy philosophizes about individuality and how she thinks it's important for her daughter's growth.
  • What's a Mama to Do? — Amyables at Toddler in Tow hopes that her dedication to compassionate parenting will keep her children from becoming too self-critical as adults.
  • grown-up anxieties. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life explains her lone worry concerning her babies growing up.
  • Why I Used Montessori Principles in My Parenting Philosophy — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells why she chose Montessori principles to help her now-adult children develop qualities she wanted to see in them as children and adults.
  • Parenting Philosophies & Planning for the FutureMomma Jorje considers that the future is maybe just a fringe benefit of doing what feels right now.
  • Not Just Getting Through — Rachael at The Variegated Life asks what truths she hopes to express even in the most commonplace interactions with her son.
  • Parenting Philosophy? Eh... — Ana at Pandamoly shares the philosophy (or lack thereof) being employed to (hopefully) raise a respectful, loving, and responsible child.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Being Present — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses the changes her family has made to accommodate their parenting philosophy and to reflect their ideals as working parents.
  • Who They Will Be — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro shares a short list of some qualities she hopes she is instilling in her children at this very moment.
  • Short Term vs. Long Term — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes recounts how long term parenting goals often get lost in the details of everyday life with two kids.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Practicing and Nurturing Peace — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle sets personal goals for developing greater peace.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 1: The Yamas — In part 1 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie guest posts at Natural Parents Network about how the Yoga Sutras provide a framework for her parenting philosophy.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 2: The Niyamas — In part 2 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie explores how the Niyamas (one of the eight limbs in traditional Yoga) help her maintain her parenting and life focus.
  • Our Sample Parenting Plan — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shares hopes of who her children will become and parenting strategies she employs to get them there.
  • Philosophical Parenting: Letting Go — Jona at Life, Intertwined ponders the notion that there's no right answer when it comes to parenting.
  • Unphilosophizing? — jessica at instead of institutions wonders about the usefulness of navel gazing.
  • Parenting Sensitively — Amy at Anktangle uses her sensitivity to mother her child in ways that both nurture and affirm.
  • how to nurture your relationships — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog believes that sometimes all kids need is a jolly good listening to …
  • Philosophy Of An Unnatural Parent — Dr. Sarah at Good Enough Mum sees parenting as a process of guiding her children to develop the skills they'll need.
  • Life with a Challenging Kid: Hidden Blessings — Wendy at High Needs Attachment shares the challenges and joys of raising a high needs child.
  • Flying by the Seat of My Pants — Heather at Very Nearly Hippy has realized that she has no idea what she's doing.

8 comments:

Holly said... Best Blogger Tips

Ha. The beginning of your post reminded me so much of myself when Rivka came along. I think I only babysat once or twice when I was younger and I hated it. After watching one child when her mom decided to stay out all night (and not tell the babysitter!), I decided I was never doing that again, couldn't handle the stress.

When Rivka was born, I begged my husband to stay home with me the first week, I had no idea what to do with her! I eventually figured it out, but boy was I terrified at first.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said... Best Blogger Tips

I never had a parenting philosophy before I had kids either. I developed it as went along. I am definitely what others would consider an AP parent. My family goes against the grain with the rest of our extended family. But time will tell. As my kids have grown now, 13,11 and 7 I am amazed at how caring, intelligent, independent and compassionate they are.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said... Best Blogger Tips

Love, love, love the "illegal, immoral, or unhealthy" line. I'm probably a little more uptight than that (please don't smear playdough on the floor), but I agree - overusing "no" is counterproductive. I think your experience is pretty universal - not a one of us is 100% sure of ourselves, we're all learning as we go. But that's the beauty of it - we're learning right along with our kids.

Sarah Smith said... Best Blogger Tips

I didn't hear of using "no" as little as possible until my daughter was two. When I first read it, I thought "no way, I'd be a pushover!" But then, like many things, it had some time to stew in my brain and I realized it really is great to say "yes" as often as possible. My daughter, for some unknown reason, likes to ask permission for every single thing she does. So it was easy to fall into saying "no, you can't pour water there" or "no, you can't mix up your play-doh". I remind myself daily to remember to say "yes" and to encourage her to take some chances. But she still asks permission for everything, and will even ask her dad right after I have already said "yes". Kids are funny,. and we certainly could never have predicted just what they'd be like.

earthlytreasures said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh gosh I can so empathise with much of this, especially the sleeping/co-sleeping issues (reliving that currently with no. 2!). Every day I question some of my thoughts/feelings about our parenting style and whether I am a "good enough" AP mum... To many it seems that you either are or aren't a natural/attached parent, with a very strict rulebook to follow on the Dos and Don'ts - but in real life, and as individuals/couples/families, we are all simply trying to do the best we can with the tools we have available to us. It's so easy to slate others for "not trying hard enough" but surely we should all be following our own parenting instincts, our own paths, as truly "natural" parents? Thanks for a thought-provoking post :)

...sarah. said... Best Blogger Tips

How I relate! I formed so many opinions about how things should be done prior to my son's birth, but he has really shown me that I didn't know anything. The most effective mode of teaching my son how to live has been (exactly as you do) to stop trying to control every scenario and let him make a few decisions for himself. We affectionately call it "free ranging", when kiddo rules the roost and the only corrections we make are the ones that keep him out of danger. What we are winding up with (As a result? I don't know.) is a son that is sharply intelligent, capable, and confident. What better gift could I give him?

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said... Best Blogger Tips

I think if you identify with being an AP mama and the label's helpful to you, then you are. I like knowing about and identifying with AP principles because it gives me a framework to strive toward — but always listening to my kids' particular needs along the way. In both cases, we don't always end up exactly the way other AP families might operate, but (a) I'm not perfect and (b) we have to do what works for us.

I think your idea of the toothbrush throwing game is brilliant, actually. Why bother picking a fight over something small just to prove you're more powerful, right? You're laying a foundation of respect for your kids that they'll respond to when something's crucial, like running into the street, as you mentioned.

Rebecca said... Best Blogger Tips

I smiled wryly about the co-sleeping issue. I did much of the same with R; tried to co-sleep but couldn't sleep so at 2-3 months he would start off in his crib in his room and then join me when he woke up (2hrs-4hrs later). When he was one year old or slightly older he started waking up every hour and I needed to sleep. So we did let him cry some, with communication and hand holding and encouragement to go back to sleep. I'm still not sure if I like the way we did it. But he started sleeping until 5am and then joined us in bed for nursing and cuddles. I don't know how we'll do sleep with J. He's in a co-sleeper attached to our bed and it's working out beautifully. He's done a few 7+ hour nights and I'm hoping for more.

Again, you have posted something that resonates with me (I know you posted it a while ago but I've only recently found your blog). I struggle with the label of AP. I know I don't "qualify" by most standards, but I am doing what I can. And I am loving and listening to my children and so incredibly attached to them. Thanks for the honesty!

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