Monday, May 21, 2012

Don't Judge Attachment Parenting By its Cover

Something strange is happening.  I seem to be embracing the term “attachment parenting” more ever since the Time cover.  I’ve never liked labels.  Labels by their very definition attempt to make everyone the same.  And everyone is not the same.  So labels, by their very definition, fail every time. 

So I never voluntarily called myself AP.  I never embraced that title.  Heck, I’ve never even read a Dr. Sears book, and probably never will.  But there did come a time, when I wanted to find other people who parented the way I was parenting.  I wanted friends - mom friends - and using the AP label was the best and fastest way to do just that. 

Some seem to get all caught up in this word, “attachment.”  They think that AP means that you literally are attached to your kids 24/7.  If you don’t think people think that, just read THIS, written by a DOCTOR. 

And yes, I will freely admit there really are extremists out there that do try and literally stay attached to their kids 24/7.  They are few and far between; most AP parents are not extremists. 

Just like most republicans aren’t Ted Nugent, most computer nerds aren’t Bill Gates, most George Clooney fans don’t have an old VCR tape with every TV performance he ever made recorded on it (looks around innocently), and most people who advocate spanking as a discipline tool aren’t the parents on my local news last night who beat a toddler so bad she had two broken legs and two broken arms. 

Extremists do not discriminate; and honestly, we can all probably find something we are more extreme over than those around us.    But not all of us.  See what I did there?

Most AP moms are NOT extremists.  I can attest to this personally, because I practice AP type parenting like breastfeeding, cosleeping, and babywearing, yet I am not an extremist.  I have also used, at one time or another, a bouncer, swing, highchair, crib, and stroller.  I’ve used formula and bottles.  I’ve made wonderful parenting decisions and huge parenting blunders. 

It has been kind of my goal in life to find the exact opposite of extremist - balance.  I’m just seeking the balance of life. 

My kids balance each other out pretty well.  The 6-year-old hardly eats a thing and sleeps like a log.  The 20-month-old eats like a hobbit and fights sleep with every single fiber of her being. 

It wasn’t my parenting that made them like this.  I didn’t use one parenting style with one and a radically different style with the other.  I parent them both using as balanced a mix of education and instincts as I can.  And that balance has evolved and changed as my education has gotten better and my instincts have gotten keener. 

This is just who they are.  And for me, the biggest part about being an attachment parent is listening to my child’s individual cues.  I don’t parent by the book, anybody’s book. 

The problem with criticizing AP in general is you force everyone practicing these techniques into the same label, and that just doesn’t work.  You can’t look at one AP mom and see an AP standard.  When you do that, you aren’t seeing her, you are just seeing words on a page (or a severely staged image). 

When trying to judge an AP mom, I would instead suggest looking at snippets of that mom’s life.  This way you will be judging her, not a stigma, an image, or a cover of a magazine. 

Here’s a snippet of this AP mom’s life, today’s naptime:

When my 20-month-old daughter rubbed her eyes and laid her head on my chest, I knew it was time for nap.  It didn’t shock me, this happens every day around the same time.  Not the EXACT same time, just around. 

I could have marched her into the bedroom, tucked her in, and left the room.  Then I could have listened to her cry for an hour while I tried to ignore how awful it felt by watching TV or folding laundry.  But I didn’t.

I could have wrapped her up on my chest with my Wrapsody baby wrap and worn her through her entire nap while I tried to watch TV or do the dishes with a gigantic baby attached to me.  But I didn’t.

What I did do, was put on Linda Ronstadt’s “Get Closer” album, scooped up my baby girl, and danced around the living room singing along to some of my very favorite songs.  Scarlett immediately laid her head on my shoulder and relaxed.  This was something we both enjoyed. 

By the time “People Gonna Talk” started playing (oh, the irony!), she was fast asleep.  That was only the 5th song on side one (listening on my mom’s vinyl), which means she fell asleep within 12 minutes, 36 seconds.  It could have happened a little before that, while I was distracted by the rock and roll.

Here’s the kicker: when I noticed she had fallen asleep, I didn’t immediately put her down.  I kept holding her, snuggling her, taking in her heat, her snuggles, her love.  I was waiting for the next song, “Talk to Me of Mendocino.”  I wanted to hold my baby and listen to that song.

The reason has less to do with AP and more to do with my life experience.  Mendocino always reminds me of my mom.  We listened to this entire album together more times than I can count, and ever since she died, this song makes me miss her, feel close to her, and think fondly of her.  My mom never read an AP book in her life, I'm not even sure she ever heard the term.  I'll tell you what, I was attached to my mom until the day she died, and beyond.

Scarlett also reminds me of my mom.  She was conceived just months after my mom’s death and born on my mom’s birthday.  She reminds me of my mom in so many ways.  So as I stood there in my living room, waiting to put my sleeping toddler to bed, I decided to hold her, and dance to Mendocino, and think about how much I loved my mom and how much I loved my sweet baby.

We were attached.  

I know, that kind of gloopity glop doesn’t have any science to back it up.  There is no parenting book that advocates it as a safe and effective way to get your kid to sleep.  There is no squeaky tight definition to describe it. 

It’s love.  That’s all.  This is how I loved my child today.  This is how I parented my child today.  This is how one AP mom got her child to take a nap today.  Tomorrow she may fall asleep in her stroller during our walk, she does that quite often.  Or maybe I’ll just lie her in bed and let her fall asleep while I lay next to her.  Maybe it will take 5 minutes.  Maybe it will take an hour.  Maybe it won’t happen at all and I will be thoroughly frustrated with nap time and spend the rest of the day trying to get over the irritation.

But today... for one AP mom mom.... nap time was a beautiful, musical success.

People Gonna Talk

People gonna talk about the things you do
They're gonna talk, be it lie or true
Night or day, day or night
They're gonna talk be it wrong or right

People gonna talk about you anyway
They're gonna talk no matter what you say
Night or day, day or night
They're gonna talk be it wrong or right

It seems they've just got to
Yakety yakety yak
Though they know best not to
The minute you turn your back

People gonna talk until they're satisfied
They're gonna talk until they make you cry
Near or far, here right now
They're gonna talk 'cause that's how people are

It seems they've just got to
Yakety yakety yak
Though they know best not to
The moment you turn your back

People gonna talk until they're satisfied
They're gonna talk until they make you cry
Here right now, near or far
They're gonna talk 'cause that's how people are
They're gonna talk 'cause that's how people are

Talk To Me of Mendocino

I bid farewell to the state of old New York

My home away from home
In the state of New York I came of age

When first I started roaming

And the trees grow high in New York state
And they shine like gold in Autumn

Never had the blues (from) whence I came

But in New York state I caught 'em

Talk to me of Mendocino

Closing my eyes I hear the sea
Must I wait, must I follow?

Won't you say "Come with me?"

And it's on to Southbend, Indiana

Flat out on the Western plains

Rise up over the Rockies and down on into California

Out to where but the rocks remain

And let the sun set on the ocean

I will watch it from the shore

Let the sun rise over the redwoods
I'll rise with it till I rise no more

Talk to me of Mendocino
Closing my eyes, I hear the sea
Must I wait, must I follow?
Won't you say "Come with me?"


  1. I love this!! So sweet. I like to say that being AP means you are constantly looking for the right choice for everyone involved. Not trying to force everyone into being something they are not.
    This brought tears to me eyes. :)

    1. "AP means you are constantly looking for the right choice for everyone involved." -- I LOVE that, Staci!! I have to remember that one.

  2. What a beautiful post! I came across this from a friend's posting on Facebook and I'm glad I clicked the link. I got a little choked up reading it.

    I agree that AP means something different to everyone, and that's kind of the point. You nurture a bond between parent and child so that you know what THEY need, not what some doctor or parenting "expert" tells you they need... as illustrated by your sweet story about dancing to Linda Ronstadt. :)

    My personal definition of attachment parenting is this: I do whatever I can now while my children are very small to ensure they feel love and security from their father and mother. From that basis of security, we try to encourage them to explore and feel independence. I truly believe the more "attached" you are to your children in infancy and childhood, the more independent they will be as adults, because they won't constantly be looking for approval and love they didn't get as children.

    Whenever I read one of those indignant posts by someone calling extended breastfeeding or babywearing or whatever "narcissistic", I wonder why they don't just go mind their own business!

  3. Lovely post. I have had all those experiences with naps - plus the fall asleep in the car when Mum doesn't want me to, one. I hadn't heard of AP until about 5 years ago (that's after I'd already had two of our sons).

  4. What a wonderful post! I felt soothed and ready for the nap right there with her! Thanks for joining our link up!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...