I’ve been beating the attachment parenting drum a bit over the last two weeks due to some stuff I’ve been reading and hearing that’s made me sad. For example, someone said to me two weeks ago about how she was going to make her baby like that new buggy come hell or high frickin’ water because she was the parent gadamit, and the baby was not going to win this “fight”.On Friday, another mum told me that she didn’t see anything wrong with “smacking” (read beating) a child if they are “naughty”.
I put quotation marks because, truly is parenting a fight that has to have a winning and losing side? and do people see nothing wrong with being in a battle with someone less that a quarter their size who is defenceless? And I believe what the second mum is saying is that she doesn’t see anything wrong with hitting a child, again less than half her size when they are acting in a manner that she feels is inappropriate.
So someone asked me last week what exactly is attachment parenting.
I suppose there are different terms. You can take the Dr Sears version from his website: “Attachment parenting is a style of caring for your infant that brings out the best in the baby and the best in the parents” or read a whole lot of really good articles on The natural child project website here or research the original attachment theories by Bowlby in this really great 44 page article
I feel that when most people think attachment parenting, they think of full-term breastfeeding, co-sleeping, carrying your baby in a sling, cloth nappying, letting your child run your life for you, or imagining your kids can do no wrong and don’t need boundaries. Which is so not true. Attachment parenting is none of those things. It may enhance your attachment to your child and help you cope under very difficult circumstances, and has helped me a lot, but it isn’t all there is to attachment parenting, not by a long shot.
But what does attachment parenting mean to me? well, I think it’s very simple. I try to imagine that if my child were the same size, had the same power and life experiences that I do, how would I treat her? If she did something wrong and we had a budding friendship that I really wanted to keep, would I yell at her if she did something I disagreed with? Would I not apologise if I got things wrong? Would I be patient and try hold her hand or give her a hug when she’s in distress? yes, I would. So that’s what I try to do most days.
I don’t always get it right and there are days when her tantrums nearly have me in tears because no, I won’t let her throw her toys off the balcony onto the pavement where people are standing or let her fry her own egg for breakfast, that’s just not happening.
But I stand there and try to be supportive while she cries and kicks and tries to work through her frustration and distress and if she wants a hug from me at the end, I’m right beside her. And yes, I do lose my temper at times and have to walk away otherwise I will be too angry to not do something I might regret, like when I find a whole bottle of my new moisturiser rubbed into her doll’s hair, clothes and the carpet for the umpteenth time. ( I really would have strangled her that day if I hadn’t disengaged and gone off to cry on my own)
While every day she becomes older and more experienced in her world and ours, I constantly remind myself that two years ago, she couldn’t speak, walk, or even sit on her own. She’s only been here a little while and it’s my role to teach her how this whole thing works and the only way I can do that, the only way any one of us can cope in a new world, is by having a relationship with someone who is willing to take that step and show you how it’s done, without judging you every time you get it wrong.
I usually look at it this way:
Imagine your child is an alien being that you wanted to visit earth for a long time. you spoke to her about how wonderful it would be when she arrived and kept talking and singing and loving her for nine months even before you knew who she was or what she would look like. Then when she does arrive, you have to teach her your language and ways and how your world works. If she’s clumsy would you hit her? If she’s finding it hard to sleep would you ignore her cries of distress? and instead yell and curse and “make” her sleep?
Well, I wouldn’t. I’d want it to work because I’d know that I always had a choice to not invite her into my life. Everyday she learns my language and gets more confident about the place she has here. She can’t go back to her “world” and is stuck here with a person she also didn’t know before entering my world.
She may be only a fifth my size and unable to form a coherent argument at the best of times but she and I are in relationship and I want it to be a loving one where I am happy and she is happy with both our needs being met.
And for me, that’s what attachment parenting is most about.