Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Choosing to be an 'Attached Parent' is both the easiest and hardest thing I've decided to do. Along the same lines as when I say brestfeeding was both the best and worst thing I've ever experienced. You keep telling yourself there's a reason why this is good... why this is better... but you don't see it until months or years later.

Attachment Parenting can seem daunting to someone without kids, and even I scoffed at several things before having Toby. What it comes down to is survival. And being alone, survival and sleep were things I cared about more than whether I was doing things 'by the book'.

I initially had no intentions of co-sleeping, but after a week of turning on the light, sitting up, getting up, lifting a 9 lb weight out of the cradle, and then fumbling to nurse, I just said 'screw it' and made a space beside me where I could just roll over to feed in the middle of the night.
Lying down. Sleeping. Lights off. Good.

I was wishy washy about breastfeeding, and had a hard time getting Toby started. I wanted to pump and fill bottles. I didn't want to be in pain. But then suddenly it was ok. And then it became easy. And then I couldn't imagine needing to prepare, heat or clean bottles all the time. He nursed on demand and I let him because it was easier than listening to the crying.

I was always kinda into baby wearing, but I didn't know it was a 'thing' until I started talking to other moms. I didn't know anything about the world of slings. I didn't know I'd become so passionate about it.

And while everything for ME was going well enough, you still get the comments....comments about how meeting his every need is spoiling him, and how he needs to be on a schedule in order to cope with life later on, and how I'd better kick him out of the bed before he's two, or he'll never want to leave.

The problem is, especially when you're single I think, you start to believe all that. You're doing it differently, you're acting out of desperation, so you're wrong. You can't just leave your baby with your parents for a weekend to have some personal time, so that means you're allowing your child to manipulate and control you. Even living with my parents and having my mom assure me that I had nothing to worry about, it's still not the same as having someone your own age to bounce your worries off of. I felt guilty for having personal time, but also felt guilt for myself when I spent too much time 'parenting'. After your 2-year-old waking up to nurse for the 4th time that night, you start to hate what you've done and wish it was different.

Toby was (is) shy and clingy and hated loud places and large groups. He never crawled more than a few feet away before either coming back or screaming for me to follow. For a long time I believed that this was my fault because I didn't take him to more play groups and force him to have time away from me. He screamed in the car, he screamed at nap time, he screamed when we got dressed. And again, I felt this was my fault because I 'gave in' too much to him and didn't just make him get used to 'sucking it up'.
It was 'my fault' he was cranky and demanding because I spent my pregnancy being depressed, and although I ate healthy, I should have done more. He would have been a happier baby if I was a happier person. He would like people better if I had cared enough to expose him at a young age.
But then at home most of the time he was downright lively. Curious, smart, funny, inquisitive, learning words early and speaking clearly long before others his age.
So maybe I was doing something right....right?

I have just started reading the book Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. The tag line is "A guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent and energetic".
I'm only three chapters in, and a lot of it is stuff I already 'know' through personal experience and drawing my own conclusions, but seeing it all laid out in nice neat little headers and sections, and reading stories of other parents is just so relieving. One of the first lines of the book mentions how her son would have a 45 minute tantrum when his toast was cut into triangles but he was expecting squares. It talks about how some kids seem more stand offish and some are permanently wired.
Everything I'm reading is 'Toby'. Everything I'm reading says it's not the parent's fault. You didn't make your child hate baths and clothing. You didn't make your child moody and shy. They're born with a temperament and can have a range of characteristics therein that make them especially intense or perceptive or sensitive. You can't change them, so learn from them.
Reading this book is like getting a warm hug after a crappy day.

I could go on more about the book, but I'll be writing forever if I do.

What the book is really doing for me (even though I'm only 3 chapters in) is reaffirming things I already believed.
Working WITH your kids gets you further than trying to tell them what to do or turn them into your idea of how they should react or behave.
Respecting your child's feelings will in turn get them to talk to you and treat you with respect. You can't demand something you don't set an example for.
Getting your kids to put their energy into helping you, instead of trying to make them sit quiet and stay out of the way, will benefit both sides of the relationship and help enforce responsibility without it being a lecture.
Listen to your kids. Listen to what they want and what they're saying and try to take them seriously if you want them to take you seriously.

Obviously different things work for different kids and families, but attachment parenting is what we both needed here. It was hard. I hated a lot of it. But now, there's not much I would change.

Toby is becoming ore outgoing and friendly each time we go out, because he is sure of himself, because I helped him feel like that.
He sleeps through the night, in his own bed, because I helped him through his extended period of being insecure.
He gave up nursing and toilet trained with very little fight, because I didn't force him too early, and understood when we had the odd 'backtrack day'.
He's articulate and clever and asks questions way beyond what a 4 year old should care about, because I talk to him about things beyond what a 4 year old should care about.

Every kid is different. Some kids will be comforted by a 'shush' and a warm hand in the middle of the night, and other kids need to fulfill their vampiric need to nurse or they will work themselves into a panicked rage. There's nothing you can do about it but be understanding.
Some kids thrive in organized sports, other kids decide you're not their friend anymore because you suggested they kick the soccer ball with the inside of their foot and not their toe.
Some kids only want to eat pasta and crackers. Other kids will eat anything, but heaven forbid you only have the stick kind of pretzel when they were expecting the knotted kind.
It usually has very little to do with them 'trying' to be bratty, and more to do with them trying to figure out the world and getting mad when things don't go how they expected them to. It's confusing and overwhelming and  there is this group of 'Spirited' kids who need a little extra parenting and understanding along the way.

Listening to your child is never spoiling them. Loving them is never spoiling them. Holding them when they cry is never spoiling them. Comforting them, whether it be nursing or sleeping in your bed, is never spoiling them.
Having a 'Spirited Child' can be more exhausting (mentally and physically) on parents, especially when you're the only one, but that just means that the pay-off is more rewarding.

For the benefit of those who don't follow this blog through facebook, I'm entered in the Top 25 Single Mom Blogs of 2013 on Circle of Moms.
If you'd like to vote, you can do so once per day until the end of February!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Erin!!

    So today, while sitting on Circle of Moms I saw you in one of their voting contests. Which led me here :) How are you?! It's been years!

    I too blog - http://www.mommymatter.com

    Love this post by the way.