Sunday, November 14, 2010

The accidental attachment parent

There is a trend in the horse world called "Natural Horsemanship" that I was unaware of when I got my horse two years ago. The first person to tell me about it had a horse that did some neat tricks, but she was harsh and bullied and scared her horse to force him to do what she wanted and I didn't like that. It seemed cruel and it was dangerous. My instructor poo-pooed the trend and I liked how she worked with horses better so I decided to poo-poo the trend myself. She has spent her life observing horses and reading everything she can on how they think and although she has a few stand-bys that don't change - always be herd leader for instance - how she works with each horse seems to change a little depending on each horse. So, watching her is like watching someone who instinctually knows how to deal with every individual horse she encounters (but the reality is the "instincts" came from years of education and experience). So, it was a surprise to find out after doing some research that what my instructor does is "natural horsemanship" and what the other woman does is the opposite of "natural horsemanship".

Confusing, huh? Well, I've run into the same thing in the world of parenting. Here in Seattle "Attachment Parenting" is a big trend and I've actually had some people who are very involved in the "attachment parenting world" put me down in some very rude ways. I've been told I am cruel and neglectful for "forcing my baby to sleep in her crib", I've been told I didn't try hard enough and was incredibly selfish when I chose to take medication for rheumatoid arthritis so I had to quite breast feeding when my baby was 3 months old. I have been told that I am evil for disciplining my child with "threats and punishment". And of course, I should be parenting by instinct instead of consulting professionals and people with lots of experience on what is best for my child. Oh, and don't forget, I had my baby in a hospital, had an epidural and even had the god-forbid worst thing - a C-Section and I didn't get to hold or even see my baby for two whole hours after she was born. So, I started really disliking attachment parenting and not wanting anything to do with it.

How I parent is pretty simple. I think about what my child needs to be a happy, healthy, independent adult and then I read everything I can and ask professionals and people with experience how I can best help her to get there. The best resource I have is when I meet a really well-adjusted teen or adult, if I can talk to their parents, I straight out ask them how they raised their child because it obviously works. Luckily, there are some families at our church like that and our babysitter is such a great kid that when I can I try to pick her parents brain so that I can emulate how they've raised her.

So, here in a nutshell is how parenting has looked for me. I never slept in the same bed with my daughter because it's a tall bed over hard wood floors and is barely big enough for me and my husband sometimes. There is a big crack between the top of the mattress and the wall (perfect for a baby to get stuck in) and we sleep with the blankets up around our ears (perfect to accidentally suffocate a baby when pulling the blankets up on accident while exhausted and half asleep). We felt it was better for our baby to sleep in a bassinet next to the bed the first couple months then in her crib after that. She seemed very happy with that. We do "snuggle" with her in her own bed if she has a nightmare or is just feeling like she needs some extra parental time.

Our daughter loved to be swaddled as a newborn and loved to be worn around in a sling, so we did that a lot. We figured out what made her happy and that's what we did. Sometimes it was sleeping in her little vibrating chair while being swaddled. I had her in the hospital because it was so clean and comfortable as opposed to our messy house with pets everywhere and I did not want to clean up after the birth - I wanted someone else to do that. Also, one of the Hasidic rabbis at the temple next door to my work gave me a message from his wife (a midwife) "She asked me to beg you to have your first baby in the hospital. She says it is not safe otherwise." As it is, the labor went all wrong, I had an emergency C-Section and my daughter was immediately put on a respirator and whisked off to NICU for two hours because she couldn't breathe on her own. I truly believe if I'd tried to have that birth at home my daughter would've died without the quick intervention of the doctors and the medical equipment that was right there in NICU.

Discipline was a hard one for me because I knew nothing about it. My parents were old fashioned and did the typical spanking when you were bad, yell "Shame on you!" and "What is wrong with you?" and the typical Leave it to Beaver type discipline. I didn't want to do that, but I also did not want to go with this new trend of no discipline because we don't want to "inhibit the child" because that would raise a confused and spoiled child who didn't understand why in the real world they had to follow rules and there were consequences for rules. So, I did a lot of research on discipline. A LOT. Once again - best resource has been any parents I could find of happy, well-adjusted adults.

What my research showed and what works for me is from the get-go to teach my child that there is "right and wrong" and if you do the "wrong" there will be consequences. Our consequences are time outs and losing privileges. So, if my daughter screams nasty stuff at me she loses tv privileges for example. Because in the real world outside our family there will be consequences. Plus, time outs work really well for a child to be alone and come down off their huge surge of emotion (usually anger if they're in a time out). Then after the consequences we talk together about why what she did was wrong and ask her what she learned from the experience. So, yes, I am one of the few parents you will see in Seattle yelling, "You get your butt over here now, Missy, or you will be in big trouble!" I've even had a parent say to me in public, "How could you threaten your child like that? How awful!" Whatever. You're lucky I didn't threaten you too nosy-mom.

The bottom line is, I don't fit into the "Attachment Parenting crowd". And they don't want me either. So, what a shock to one day not too long ago read some Dr. Sears (the grand-daddy of attachment parenting) and talk to a child psychologist who preaches attachment parenting - that what I do IS attachment parenting. I look at who my daughter is as an individual and I taylor my parenting to who she is and what is best for her. I do the same with other children when I babysit them - I look at who they are and what I might do with my daughter wouldn't work for one of them if they have a very different personality than hers. I make my decisions on how to parent her on what is best for her - not what is trendy or what a clique of moms tells me I should do.

In short, there are a lot of parents out there who are very self-righteous about how they are the perfect "Attachment Parenting Mommies" but they have insecure, angry, unhappy kids. They are focusing on the externals - stuff they can brag about in their blogs and over coffee at the trendy kid-friendly cafes - but they aren't really focusing on their child and what that child needs as an individual in order to thrive as an adult. If the child needs discipline they won't do it because they don't want to look bad in their clique. If the child needs autonomy they don't want to do that because it doesn't follow the rules of their "scene".

Just like the woman who thought if her horse did Parelli tricks she was a Natural Horsewoman - when in reality she was doing the exact opposite. Attachment Parenting is not how you look or what external rules you follow - it's about not listening to any of that and listening to your child and making the hard decisions to do what your child needs - even if it doesn't make her happy at that moment or it doesn't look pretty. I could be completely full of shit, but that's what I've taken from Dr. Sears and all I know is I have a happy, healthy, independent child who is a joy to have around and is well-liked. So, I'll keep doing what I'm doing and slogging along hoping for the best and relying on the seasoned parents with happy kids to help me with advice - not some trendy, judgmental scenesters.

1 comment:

  1. So, watching her is like watching someone who instinctually knows how to deal with every individual horse she encounters (but the reality is the "instincts" came from years of education and experience).

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha! That's a great description of how you deal with kids.