N - O !!!

February 18, 2009, Barton Creek at the Colorado River.

Attachment parenting is an interesting duck. For me and Anthony it absolutely feels right. The tenets (as I previously wrote about) boil down to treating your tiny person with respect due a new life.

There are a couple of things about the entire philosophy that resonated with me the most.

First, a baby's wants are his needs and his needs are his wants. He is not manipulating you like a whiny 5 year old might or like your shitty ex-boyfriend. He is manipulating you and your emotions in order to survive and thrive. I had to hang my ego, and to a certain degree, my intellect at the door and respond on a primal level to him and his mercurial moods. And you know what? It was enormously rewarding because we were never working against each other. I went with his flow, so life was (all things considered) much easier than if I had been trying to bend him to my flow. Although, to be fair, I never even tried so I'm really just speculating.

And second, my baby is a BABY. He is not a "little adult." I'm not sure that even happens until after adolescence! His brain is not capable of the things mine is. He cannot think things through, understand consequences, or control impulses. It's why everyone hates the "terrible twos" so much. By this age, they're into a full-blown Little Scientist phase which is the start of injuries, broken household items, fingers in sockets, cat tails pulled, deaf ears turned to Mommy yelling, "No, no, no! Don't pull that picture," CRASH!!! "... down."

So now I'm struggling with the word, "NO" because we're entering his Louis & Clark stage. He'll be 15 or 20 feet away and wiggled in between something I was trying to keep him from and he'll be pulling and plucking at it, unplugging it, or pushing it around and it will either be dangerous to him or the object and I say, sternly, "Hollis, no, honey! Stop!" and try to put down whatever it is I'm doing to intervene. He waits, quietly for me to reach him, all the while absentmindedly continuing to do whatever it is I want him to stop.

I will then do one of two things. Either show him a way of interacting with the object that is acceptable to me (like softly touching a picture frame, versus pulling roughly on it) or will give him something else to play with in another part of the house.

The internal tug-of-war I'm having is that my initial reaction is of irritation and a strongly voiced, "NO!" It goes back to the two things I hold most dear to my heart regarding my approach to parenting: he needs to explore, he wants to explore, and he's not trying to be a little jerk by ignoring me, he's a BABY, and he can't help it.

I'm not one of those parents who will let him take a marker to the walls, but I will probably give him a designated wall to draw on covered in butcher paper. I'm not super keen about the idea of him pulling out all of my pots and pans, but I will give him a cabinet all his own he can do whatever he wants with. So, I'm really struggling with a substitute for NO. You should see the look on his face. He doesn't know what my face and tone even mean. He's never been scolded or yelled at, never known fear at my hands, and that's certainly not what I'm going for here, but I AM definitely trying to get through to him on a whole new level of contact from our usual Mommy-is-sunshine-and-puppies-all-the-time.

What if I just end up thwarting his attempts at development? What if I become a harridan, always fighting with the natural learning curve of my child? What if I instill a sense of wrongness in him?? (Oh God, that last one would break my heart.)

I feel as though I'm on the right track. I'm thinking about all of this, I'm not punitive with him, I'm aware of my feelings and the reality of having an almost 17 month old. I have to give myself a little credit. But God DAMN, no one ever tells you about the truck loads of self-doubt and guilt that come with that 8 lb bundle of joy. Sometimes I feel like they're arriving by the fleet every day.

1 comment:

  1. Your posts are always so thought-provoking...

    I often find myself wondering what choices I would make for my own child in various circumstances, and when the whole enterprise seems overwhelming (there are just so many ways to screw them up!), I remind myself that I just won't have kids and then a tremendous feeling of relief washes over me. Catastrophe averted.

    But here's the thing.

    Reading your posts, with all your ups and downs (and I'm sure there are plenty more "downs" we don't hear about) makes me think Trevor probably wouldn't have to try all that hard to talk me into having kids if he wanted them.

    Even with these daily struggles around "no" and (piggybacking on Anthony's earlier post) negotiating your own adulthood with the addition of a being who is NOT a little adult, you still make this look like a grand adventure -- one that I wonder if I would ever have the courage to take on.

    You guys are pretty amazing.