Friday, April 19, 2013

Attachment, and why we all have it: part 1

I live in an area of the country where attachment parenting is highly popular, and, dare I say it, almost mainstream. It's not unusual to run across mothers carrying babies and toddlers in slings, or breastfeeding in public. Home birth is pretty normal, and no one thinks it's dangerous. You're far more likely to find Dr. Sears than Ezzo in a used bookstore. Co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, baby-led weaning--we do it all here in the Pacific Northwest. It isn't counter-culture. It just is.

And, given that I have some seriously hippie tendencies, I find myself surrounded by attachment parenting philosophy everywhere I turn. I like flowing skirts and flowing baby slings and making my own kale-based baby food and saving landfill waste with cloth diapers. I like alternative schooling ideas and playing in the mud and letting my son play with baby dolls. I am sensitive and spontaneous and like my rules and my routines to be flexible and easily changeable. Apparently, I share values with a lot of attachment parents and we tend to run in the same circles on the internet.

And yet? I've sleep trained Peregrine, I have zero regrets, and I will do it again with Sylvia if needed. I frequently told Peregrine "no" or "later" when he wanted to nurse. I've used the word "no" in plenty of other contexts, too, and I thoroughly believe in teaching obedience, even at a very young age. I work outside the home and I love it, and I frequently leave Peregrine with babysitters or in the church nursery. I've kept Peregrine waiting when he cries, and not only in emergencies. I think pacifiers were a wonderful invention and can't imagine always nursing in place of using them. 

Note the toddler-wearing. And the bottle of formula.

Pretty recently, I read a blog post by a woman who was officially leaving the attachment parenting community because of all the hurt it had caused her. She felt constant judgment, not only for her own less-approved parenting choices, but for the parenting choices of the women around her that didn't pass attachment-parent muster. She was fed up, she said, with feeling like she had to measure up, in so many countless ways.

Her article spawned a bunch of other articles on this topic, and I found it very interesting, because I hadn't seen it so publicly talked about before. These articles were all over the map--some commiserating with the author, some disagreeing with her, some defending the perceived judgment and others apologizing for it. And I resonated with all (okay, most) of them, and with the issue at hand.

Because there is hurt, and there is judgment. They're real; they've affected me. The crunchier-than-thou attitude. The implication that I am wounding my baby's spirit and destroying his innocent trust simply by straying away from a specific path. The blanket judgments. The language used. They're as real as and as hurtful as anything I've ever dealt with in church.

It's not these things that frustrate me most, though. There will always be judgment, and the internet will always be a hostile place. Women, unfortunately, will always fight over things. But here's the thing--I understand both worlds. I belong to both worlds. And you know what? They're not all that different from each other. They really, truly aren't. Whatever the ends of the spectrum are--attachment parenting and what? detachment parenting?--they're not that different. In the end, we're all mothers. We all love our children. We all want, desperately, to do right by their bodies and their souls. 

This is a post I've been wanting to write for awhile, and I've written and re-written it, in my head and on paper, not quite knowing how to frame it. I don't want to sound bitter, us vs. them. Because I'm us and them. Because, in a way, we all are. I honestly could not tell you whether I'm an attachment parent or not. I really don't know. I could write so much both for and against the movement (not being attached to your child, but the whole industry in general). 

And then I read a comment, somewhere in one of these articles, that I've read many times before. Attachment parenting, it said, is all about being responsive and meeting your children's needs. The tools are secondary; if you're responding to needs, then you're an attachment parent. 

That comment gave me my framework, because, friends, it's so much more complicated than that. So here's what I have, as of now. Here's what we all share, no matter where on that very gray spectrum we lie. Here's the mess that parenting is, and why we can't boil it down to anything too simple. Here's why we have to make peace with each other. Here are the things we have in common. And personally? I think they're far weightier than the things we differ on.

(Okay, addendum: I wrote out the list, it's going to make this post ridiculously long. And I'm not finished with it, and I have clothes to fold and dinner to make and a diaper to change and a kid who's going to get very tired of me sitting here. So, the list is to come.)

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