Thursday, January 24, 2013

Who Knew?

Anyone who follows the news in even the slightest capacity undoubtedly heard about this story last year.  It generated a new round of debates about attachment parenting and breastfeeding.  For a general topic that is pretty much innocuous insofar as it doesn't physically hurt anyone (indeed, those who truly practice Dr. Sears' guidelines would undoubtedly argue that it strengthens or even heals people rather than hurts anyone), there is a whole lot of emotionally laden commentary hanging around about it.  Forgive me if I meander far into the emotional realm; I'm going to try not to do so.  Indeed, my purpose here is to stick more or less to the straight and narrow because what is going to come out is something of a shocker to me.  And I've been thinking about it of late, so I'll throw my thoughts down here for few to read.

Forgive me for resorting to a definition here, but just in case, let's be clear (quoted from Attachment Parenting International's official website):

"The long-range vision of Attachment Parenting is to raise children who will become adults with a highly developed capacity for empathy and connection. It eliminates violence as a means for raising children, and ultimately helps to prevent violence in society as a whole.
The essence of Attachment Parenting is about forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children. Attachment Parenting challenges us as parents to treat our children with kindness, respect and dignity, and to model in our interactions with them the way we'd like them to interact with others."

My perceptions are two-fold.
1.  The term "attachment parenting" is generally associated with negative qualities such as being "weird," "unnatural," or "wrong."
2.  I/we practice attachment parenting more than I/we realized prior to becoming familiar with the term.  WHO KNEW?

Per the API website, there are 8 "principles of parenting" that attachment parenting promotes.
1. Prepare for pregnancy, birth & parenting: Really...this just about covers everyone.  C'mon.  Unfortunately, it doesn't cover everyone.  Emotional meandering, I know, but this has to improve to everyone if many, many (MANY) societal issues have any hope of improvement.  EDUCATION in particular (an issue that most of the media & many politicians beat to death with little if any ability to truly understand how to "fix" because of utter lack of training or experience...I digress) must have this "principle" improve to 100%. 
2. Feed with love & respect:  The API doesn't really acknowledge anything other than breastfeeding.  While I'm a pretty huge fan of breastfeeding, I'm also pretty thankful for the good of many children worldwide who do not have access to breastfeeding.  Either way, each brand of baby juice can be given to an infant with love and respect
3. Respond with sensitivity:  This one is a toughie.  I think that we all realize that this is true, that children cannot inherently self-soothe, but the degree to which we can put the child's needs above our own frustrations is a whole 'nother issue.  I like this one in theory.  I strive to be better at this one everyday.  I fail in some way...everyday.
4. Use nurturing touch: This is the one that clued me in that I might be, dare I say, practicing attachment parenting.  I sure love my Moby wrap.  I wish that I had purchased one when Abby was born.  I'm ever so glad that I went ahead and splurged on this prior to Audrey's birth!  We have sported the wrap at the zoo...on a 2-mile walk at the my Bible our story time group at the my parents' house and my in-laws' house.  And inevitably, I get a smile and/or an approving comment.  Why oh why do more mothers and dare I say fathers?!? not sport these more often in public?  My husband wears it without shame or question.  It always soothes her.  It always puts her in a zen state of being.  It epitomizes calm, and I find that to be nurturing. 
5. Ensure safe sleep, physically & emotionally:  I differ here with API.  We're not co-sleepers.  We never will co-sleep.  Just within the past month or so has Abby begun climbing into bed with us for a few minutes when she inevitably gets up because "I waited until there's a 6 on the left."  I also want to find fault with the API believing that "Sleep training techniques can have detrimental physiological and psychological effects."  But I can't because they use the word can.  I do believe that.  But I firmly believe that sleep training is inevitable and healthy sleep training is possible.  Isn't co-sleeping another form of sleep training?  Isn't "sleep training" simply teaching your child what is or is not acceptable as far as sleep habits?  The practice of co-sleeping is also training a child to sleep a certain way just as the "cry it out" method does (or any other method for that matter). 
6. Provide consistent & loving care:  This one also seems like a no-brainer to me, one that I firmly believe should be so for every parent.  But the wording here is tricky again.  API states that babies need the love and intense care of a "responsive caregiver: ideally a parent" and that "If it becomes necessary, choose an alternative caregiver who..." as if one or both parents should always be with the child.  Should it become necessary is a pretty guilt-loaded thought there.  The implication seems to be that a child being without the care of a parent for any reason is a pretty serious deal.  We like going on dates once in a great while.  I don't feel all that guilty for leaving our children in the care of a grandparent to do so.  This wording rather implies to me that I should.  But other than that, yeah, I'm pretty much in agreement.  Loving, responsive parents are inevitably going to be better caregivers for their own children than an alternative caregiver, right?  It seems to me like this is so.
7. Practice positive discipline:  Another hard one!  API is all about the respect for child and parents alike, emphasizing dignity here as well.  I readily admit to my many failings in this department, and I challenge any parent to say that they don't.  Yet the ideology of this principle are what we strive to follow and attempt to practice.
8. Strive for balance in personal & family life: (Can we refer back to #6 and feeling guilty about going on a date with your spouse?)  Following this principle fosters healthy relationships with all members of the family.  It's a given. 

I haven't ended a post with a quote for quite a while.  Today, I'll use some words by Mark Twain to sum up this mash of thoughts for me: "My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it."  Indeed.

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