During our birthing classes with our midwife I remember her talking about "attachment parenting" and how she did a "modified version" of it (whatever that meant). I had a difficult relationship with her and so I didn't really think much of it, but then I kept reading about it, especially in The Baby Book. They outline it as follows:
Eight principles of attachment parenting
Per Dr. Sears' theory of attachment parenting (AP), parents attempt to foster a secure bond with their children by promoting eight principles which are identified as goals for parents to strive for. These eight principles are:
1. Preparation for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
2. Feed with Love and Respect
3. Respond with Sensitivity
4. Use Nurturing Touch
5. Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
6. Provide Consistent Loving Care
7. Practice Positive Discipline
8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life
These values are interpreted in a variety of ways. Many attachment parents also choose to live a natural family living (NFL) lifestyle, such as natural childbirth, home birth, stay-at-home parenting, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, babywearing, homeschooling, unschooling, the anti-circumcision movement, the anti-vaccination movement, natural health, cooperative movements, and support of organic food.
However, Dr. Sears does not require a parent to strictly follow any set of rules, instead encouraging parents to be creative in responding to their child's needs. Attachment parenting, outside the guise of Dr. Sears, focuses on responses that support secure attachments.
Whew, so that's a mouthful. And to be honest, I'm on board with a lot of it, so I guess I've sculpted my own "modified attachment" approach. I wanted to do a natural homebirth (although I ended up in the hospital with an epidural - I'll save that for another day), I'm a SAHM, we did co-sleeping for 6 months, I breastfed until he wouldn't nurse anymore (and think every mother should give her baby breast milk for at least 12 months come hell or high water), I wore him everywhere, I plan on sending him to school, we chose not to circumcise him, I got him vaccinated, I save pain relieving medicines as a last resort, I'm pretty much a mothering island, so I don't do anything "cooperative," per se, and I'm a big organic food nut.
I'll lay it out more clearly:
1. Preparation for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting - I chose a midwife and natural approaches vs. the one size fits all philosophy of a lot of OB/GYNs. I wanted to avoid pitocin, epidurals, and anything close to a scalpel near my vagina or uterus, believing instead, that midwifery is the more gentle, natural way to progress through pregnancy and the birth process.
2. Feed with Love and Respect - When Hollis was hungry, thirsty, cranky, bored, or tired he got a boob. I was happy to do it and believe 100% that his wants were his needs and his needs were his wants. He was created a perfect model for survival so if he wanted to nurse who the hell am I to tell him he doesn't get to? It was my choice to have him, so it's my responsibility to make sure he thrives... even if it is at 2 hour intervals for 6 months. And it goes without saying today that I never (and I mean NEVER) leave the house without a banana in my purse.
3. Respond with Sensitivity - Always look beyond the obvious.
4. Use Nurturing Touch - Soft, sweet hugs and gentle interactions fuel a loving relationship between us all. Never jerk, jab, poke, smack, or cause harm... I couldn't do that to Levi, I certainly won't do it to my kid.
5. Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally - I planned on having Hollis in a co-sleeper upon arrival home, but I couldn't bear to put him that far away from me. He was so tiny, so exposed, so weak. He slept next to me for the first few months, then in the co-sleeper, with a hand on him until we were all ready for some [quiet] distance.
6. Provide Consistent Loving Care - Anthony and I work very hard to be consistent with policies and active parenting. It's hard when we have such different styles. I like to think of it as a color. Our over all philosophy is Blue and I'm a Dark Blue and Anthony's a Light Blue.
7. Practice Positive Discipline - This is like training a dog. Seriously. Don't scold/punish the bad behavior, just lavish praise and good tidings on the good behavior. It's really pretty fun to have a "party" just because your little one threw a piece of paper in the trash of his own volition. Discipline will come soon enough, but as it stands now, we're just focusing on the positive.
8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life - This one is the most complicated one for me. I'm working on it and keep it at the forefront of my mind. I never want to become a martyr or one of those strung out moms begging Oprah for a makeover and a family vacation with the husband I never see and the kids who forgot about me when they went away to college.
So this is just a State of the Union for this blog, really. For anyone who hasn't already figured it out we don't let Hollis "cry it out," we don't scold, yell at, hit, or disrespect him in any way. I have all too vivid memories of being scared shitless of my parents and I don't want to invoke fear in my kids just to get them to behave. I challenge myself to be more creative and to look behind the behavior and ask questions: is he tired? in pain? bored? frustrated? want attention? want to be alone? need his butt wiped? It's so easy to NOT get pissed when I ask these questions. Seriously.
And what's so funny about this "parenting" philosophy is it's not that dissimilar to my approach to Anthony (and I suspect his to me). We don't yell or scream at each other, we're not mean when we're tired or cranky, we work really fucking hard to think, "What's REALLY going on here?"
Don't think that me writing all this down means that I have it all figured out or that I'm the perfect little parent and person. We all have to come to parenting on our own terms. These are mine and they're working for me. I still have loads of self-doubt, I get bored, I get really pissed that Anthony seems incapable of closing the coat-closet door. But I'm also really damn proud of myself for not being a mean bastard when it'd be easier to do so.
I wonder if attachment parenting has a subcategory called "attachment relating" or "attachment dating". Hmmm, I could be onto something there.