I keep thinking about this lately – does attachment parenting get easier or harder as your child ages? Admittedly, I’m at a pretty early stage of the game, with a daughter who is not quite two. But even in that span of time, how AP functions in our household has undergone a number of transitions.
AP seemed “easy” when our daughter was a tiny baby because, for me, AP was like… breathing. I just couldn’t conceive of any other way of doing things. Being an attached parent with a newborn is all instinct and physical response – when I put her down it felt like someone was cutting off my arms, so I picked her up again and snuggled her close. When she cried, my milk sprayed through my shirt, so I let her nurse. Her crib felt like a strange alien in a room so very far from ours, so she slept between us.
On the other hand, it was hard, because everything was hard. You know, the bordering-on-breakdown exhaustion, the dozen poops a day, the clogged milk ducts, the raging hormonal shifts, the whole I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing bewilderment of new parents.
I also think AP can be hard with a new baby (particularly your first) because you’re trying so hard to do what’s best for your child, and there are dozens and dozens and dozens of voices telling you what to do, maybe pushing you in directions in which you don’t want to go. There is such an overwhelming culture of independence in the U.S. that, as new parents, we’re often made to feel that if our child needs us at all, we’re creating a dependent attention-monster who will nurse until they’re fifteen and sleep in our bed until they leave for college. Being an attached parent to a newborn can often feel like swimming against a very strong current.
AP feels easier in some ways with a toddler because frankly, I don’t give a flying flip what anyone else thinks about my parenting at this point. I’m confident in my choices because they work for my family, and because I see my daughter every day developing into a kind, loving, happy child, and I believe AP plays an important role in that development. I don’t feel the need to defend anything I do, and in fact enjoy (just a teeny bit) throwing someone for a loop every now and then.
At a conference recently, across a table of a dozen male and female colleagues, most of whom do not have children, a senior staff member of the organization I work for loudly asked me, “SO, WHEN DID YOU STOP BREASTFEEDING?” A bit blindsided, I just answered, “WE HAVEN’T!” with a big smile. After a few seconds of stunned silence, she said, “Oh. Well.” And went back to scrutinizing the menu. I mean, what do you do? I wasn’t going to lie about it. I’m so happy to still be nursing my two-year-old. And you know? The world went right on turning, and maybe, just maybe, I gave a couple of my colleagues something to think about.
I do see some challenges ahead, though. We are just beginning to tread the waters of the dreaded discipline, and in many ways this seems like a much more complex and nuanced application of AP principles than having a healthy pregnancy, feeding a newborn with love and respect, and engaging in nighttime parenting. (I never thought I’d say that anything was more difficult than nighttime parenting, but here I am.) Toddlers, dear as they are, can be so outrageously frustrating, and patience is not my strong suit. Every time my daughter looks right at me and dumps a bowl of peas/blueberries/spaghetti on the floor (a daily occurrence at the moment), I have to be very intentional about my response, suppressing the flare of anger and annoyance (and the occasional desire to bang my head against the wall). I can tell that, when it comes to discipline, being true to AP principles will have to be a much more cerebral, conscious process for me than it has been thus far.
It makes me wonder how I’ll see AP in five, ten, fifteen years – will I think it’s easier or harder than right now? Only time will tell.
Do you think AP has gotten easier or harder for your family as your children have grown?