There’s much rancor over today’s TIME story and I wanted to share a few thoughts. I’m not pro or anti the actual behaviors that make up attachment parenting. Prolonged nursing is great, if cosleeping works for you, great, babywearing is often more convenient. Want to chew food and spit it into your kid’s mouth? Mazel. But, I’m not a fan of Dr. Sears. Here’s why:
He is divisive. You know all that mom-on-mom judging? He’s a big proponent of it from what I can tell. When I had Ryan I looked into attachment parenting with a genuine interest, perusing his site. This was a red flag to me:
6. Beware of baby trainersAttachment parenting teaches you how to be discerning of advice, especially those rigid and extreme parenting styles that teach you to watch a clock or a schedule instead of your baby; you know, the cry-it-out crowd. This “convenience” parenting is a short-term gain, but a long-term loss, and is not a wise investment. These more restrained styles of parenting create a distance between you and your baby and keep you from becoming an expert in your child.
We were already in the throes of “sleep training” (began at 7 weeks, it is awesome and one of the best things we could’ve done for our baby who to this day sleeps 12 hours/night - he hasn’t woken once at night in the past many, many months, never disturbed by teething, etc.). It wasn’t about convenience, but teaching him to be at peace with himself and allowing us all to rest best so we all could enjoy our waking hours together. Referring to “the cry-it-out crowd” is 100% an ”us vs. them” mentality.
It’s socio-economically biased. I’ve read somewhere (but can’t find it) that Dr. Sears has suggested yougo into debt in order to stay home with your child. Basically, a mother (not even father since breastfeeding is crucial, unless maybe you’re so indepently wealthy you can both retire at 30?) must spend all waking hours with her child at all costs - literally. We’re all aware of the crisis in federal debt, social security, etc. We will likely have far less public assistance that our parents and grandparents, and we’ll live at least as long. I don’t work so we can take vacations, I work so Ryan doesn’t end up supporting two seniors who don’t have the money saved to live for likely over 20 years past retirement. More specifically he suggests borrowing money from family/friends (since a bank wouldn’t loan you it for this reason), not something realistic for most people.
It breeds self-doubt. It simply takes parenthood too seriously, I think. Raising our child is incredibly important to both Steve and me, but no one expects him to squelch all other interests and goals. People don’t think that kids growing up without a dad at home all day every day are missing out, so why should that be different with moms? We’re both doing a damn fine job raising our son, and relying on a well-selected network of support isn’t taking the easy road. Rather, we’re joining forces with friends, family, daycare providers to all offer children in our community the love and guidance they need. Will he learn things a bit differently from daycare than us? I certainly hope so. And you know what? Beyond my appreciating different perspectives, it simply doesn’t matter, it all comes out in the wash. In 10 years, you won’t be able to spot which kids on the playground coslept versus which were sleep-trained. If their parents loved them and spent time - whether or not aided by others in the community - teaching them important lessons, they’ll all be happily going about their lives. This article on New York Times’ Motherlode, Just Parent, No Philosophy Required, sums up my thoughts on the matter.
My point being, everyone needs to relax. Stop beating yourself up for whether or not you measure up to the philosphy you read in a book. Stop judging your friends who aren’t following the same books. Ignore studies and just enjoy these years you have with your small child, whatever that means to you. Chances are they’ll grow up to be kind, good people, even if they’re a little screwed up. Because really, who isn’t?
Ryan hasn’t had a meltdown since Monday, making me feel guilty for even complaining. I know that it’s not so bad (EVERYONE says 2 is much easier than 3, so we still have time). I give him most of the credit for keeping it together, but I’m going to claim that immediately implementing some really good advice has also helped. I wanted to capture a little of that here, if only for my sake.
Keep it simple. Limit your house rules to ‘obey’ and ‘respect,’ and otherwise only to prevent injury/harm.
Choose your battles. Because obey is one of your rules, if you tell your child to stop doing something, you have to be willing to follow through and enforce that. The other night Ryan refused to take a shower, and then started licking the outside of the glass door. I wanted to beg him to stop (but that’s gross! and we’ll have to clean it sooner!), however it’s exactly the kind of thing I need to turn a blind eye to because I wouldn’t be willing to deal with a tantrum over it.
Limit the number of changes/rules you implement at a time. Ryan has some good manners already, but his table manners could use some work. However, I’m realizing now doesn’t need to be the time. It’s nothing really awful - no food throwing or anything like that. We tell him no so often as we’re just building a foundation of learning at this point, it doesn’t seem worth it. We can layer on with this kind of thing a year from now if needed. I’m trying to choose one thing at a time to really focus on (I think we’ll start with whining). On the less urgent stuff like table manners, we can continue to set a strong example which still gives results.
Say yes when you mean no. My friend Terri’s son wants to play with her phone all the time, and if she says no as often as she needs to he gets frustrated. So she says “yes, you can play with Mommy’s phone after we eat dinner and you take a bath,” or whatever is necessary.
Pause, take a breath. I’m not a yeller, but I’m a quick reacter. The same day Terri shared the above with me Ryan wanted to color on an off-limits, official piece of paper and I impulsively said “No, but you can color here,” her advice ringing in my ears. If I’d taken a step back I would’ve remembered to say “Yes you can color, how about this page?” A simple rephrasing can save Ryan significant frustration, making him less whiny.
Provide focused attention. I feel like I play with Ryan all day when we’re home together. Just tonight in our short time together after work we played outside, had dinner together, went back outside, played catch inside, read stories, etc. But in reality, during the first outside span I was running in and out to prepare dinner while we played. A colleague suggests setting a timer for 10 minutes (I’ve also heard 15) each day and giving your kid your undivided attention for that entire time. Timer or not, the idea is to really play with them, and do whatever it is they feel like doing.
I’ve been marinating in this for the past two days, trying to apply as many lessons as I can. No matter your parenting style, there will be tough moments, tough days. But I’m hoping this can help us avoid our most common pitfalls.