Saturday, February 18, 2006

AP Frustration

Attachment parenting, as defined by Dr. Sears was always my intuitive parenting style.  I loved being close to my babies, nursing, holding (before discovering slings), sleeping close, birth bonding, listening to my baby/child's unique voice and communication, etc.  It was what came naturally to me.  Sadly, I didn't know all the ideals because I was taken in by baby trainers.  I read a number of them.  From the Baby Whisperer to To Train Up A Child, I read, listened, and even tried it.

My reasoning was simple: I want to be a good parent.  Thankfully, my basic understanding of my role as a parent never changed.  I believed that each of my children was an individual person with their own wants, desires, dreams, wishes, and personality.  My job was to teach them and prepare them for adulthood with love and discipline.   My job was to allow them decision making within small boundaries, and then to expand those boundaries as each child was ready.

Lucky for me and for my kids, the methods expressed by baby/child trainers was so counterintuitive, I never followed them for long.

Then I discovered Dr. Sears.  He talked about things that I'd always thought and believed and put it into a set of ideals to be followed.  It was great.  I was so enthused!  I joined attachment parenting groups and everything!

Then I found the downside.

Attachment parents.

Not all attachment parents, I don't think even a majority.  But a vocal set, nonetheless.  These are moms with a "scorecard" as my friend K. put it.  They have their own set of criteria to be followed, which may include natural family living, and the farther away from their picture you get, the less of an AP you are, and the better they are.  Sometimes it can be as simple as one thing (like that we circumcised our son) that makes you not an AP in their eyes.

I've seen them descend on well meaning parents on message boards stating their horror in listening to their question as the answer seems so obvious to them.  I've seen them rip mothers apart who are just trying to find the right thing to do.  For things as simple as leaving a crying baby for a few minutes because they had to go to the bathroom, or, one mother who had to throw up because she had morning sickness.  They were bad mothers who were allowing their babies to cry-it-out.  Please.  I was criticized for using time-out.  Another was critisized for leaving her baby with another care giver to spend time with her husband.  They were mean.

What I loved about attachment parenting is that it cut out so much guilt!  I follow the ideals in the way that works best for me and my children and can let the rest go!  I can set up simple discipline and boundaries and teach my children trust and responsibility.  I love it.

What these mothers offer is more guilt.  It's frustration, judgment, and hostility.  They can make a mother feel like a piece of garbage.  And it's wrong.

I keep thinking of joining an attachment parenting group in real life, with other kids and moms to hang out with.  Ultimately, I continue to decide against it.  I'm finally at a point in my life where I don't have to compare myself to other women and other mothers in an endless struggle to get it right, or fit into someone else's idea of what I should be like.

I'm happy with the kind of mother I am.  I don't do it all right, and I don't do it all wrong, and I'm sure one day my kids will be happy to point out all of my faults.  But I'm happy, and my kids are healthy.  And they're good kids.  They're not perfect, but they're nice.  And that's enough for me.

This is what I wish I could tell all Attachment Parenting moms:

Belief in baby's cries doesn't mean that babies will never cry.

While I believe that my children are communicating with me, the answer (with an older baby or child) is sometimes no.

Meeting a baby or child's needs doesn't mean giving them everything they want.

Attachment parenting should be intuitive, not hard and miserable.

Attachment parenting doesn't mean that the parents aren't in charge anymore or don't discipline.

Attachment parenting is about the ideals set forth by Dr. Sears, not cloth diapering, organic eating, or wooden toys (as great as all those things may be).  That's Natural Family Living.  And not all parents interested in being AP are going to be interested in Natural Family Living.  Don't try to force them.

Attachment parents have got to get better about supporting and helping one another, and not making other parents feel bad.  Don't we get enough of that other places?

If you've been turned off to attachment parenting because of what you thought it was, or because of an attachment parent, give it another look.  It's a great way of looking at parenting and the relationship that you're developing with your kids.  Ultimately that relationship is going to last longer than anything else.  And I want mine to be good.  They won't always like me, but I hope they'll respect me.

Now, I'm off to play!

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