Does AP Get Easier or Harder?

by Emma on February 16, 2011

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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?

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Emma (4 Posts)

Emma is an attached mama to her wild, chatterbox three-year-old girl and sweet baby boy. Currently on a year maternity leave from her full-time work-from-home job, she can usually be found nursing, washing cloth diapers, mediating budding sibling conflict, cuddling with her kiddos, and catching the occasional cup of tea with a good friend.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

milkymumma February 16, 2011 at 9:32 am

“…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.”

Yes, this is what I found the hardest about the early days. But like you, the actual mothering part came very naturally to me. Co-sleeping, EC and breastfeeding made night time parenting a breeze, but fending off misinformed relatives has been absolutely exhausting!

I agree that toddlers are very triggering, and the way I respond to my toddler often reflects my own upbringing and poor coping mechanisms far more than it represents my parenting philosophy. But I stay true to my values even when I slip up, so that I can continue in the direction I know by intuition to be true, even as I discover many barriers on this journey.

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Jennifer February 16, 2011 at 10:19 am

My kid are four and two and if it gets any harder I am running away. I love them dearly but this is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done.

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Amie @ Baby in Bliss February 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm

The hardest has been the start of school. My daughter is 3 now, and preschool, while I love the one I chose, is a mine field of different styles of parenting bombarding together like excited molecules. I feel I just settled into my self-proclaimed role of conscious mom utilizing AP methodology, universal spirituality, and utilitarian adaptability. And here come a whole bunch of new voices about school and learning and social development. They are crashing in, but I am holding my ground because it is right for our family. I always listen, though. You never know where your next big a-ha is going to come from.

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MichelleH February 16, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Wow, this article is really timely for me. I have a two and a half year old and feel similarly. Attachement parenting is what came so naturally and seemed so mutually beneficial. Now there are many times when even what I consider to be patience and understanding towards my child is met with resistance and frustration and I feel adrift, not really knowing how to navigate.

I think it is true that is does have to be a much more cerebral and conscious process. Almost more strategic. In many ways, the most frustrating part about this age is that it really does force me to look at myself and see what aspects of me are not fitting with the what I am trying to create in my parenting style. Like milkymumma a lot of my own upbringing comes into play where that is concerned.

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Amber February 16, 2011 at 10:50 pm

My firstborn is about to turn six, and I’ve found that parenting in general just gets easier as they get older. Not that it’s easy, per se, but my daughter is quite independent now. She can take care of a lot of her own needs, and entertain herself. She still needs me, but not in the same, constant way that she did as a baby and toddler.

I don’t know what the teen years hold, but on the whole, I’ve found that older kids are usually easier kids.

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Sharron February 17, 2011 at 7:06 am

I love this, and I think we can all relate. I’m on the other side, with my youngest child about to turn three. Parenting becomes less exhausting physically, more challenging emotionally.

It helps me to remember that discipline is about me and not them. The way they behave relates back to the way I behave, and consistently positive interactions make for better behavior. This is not always easy, especially if you’re still nighttime parenting a younger sibling.

Overall though, it’s really easy to see and hear the outcome of attachment with my two older children. My oldest is eight and she is doing great in school, but loves to snuggle with me in the evenings or just sit and talk. Because we are still so connected, I can usually tell when her behavior has an underlying problem or event attached to it.

I think that because we were not afraid to become so attached to our babies, we are more naturally able to stay attached as they grow older. It has felt seamless for me, and I imagine it will for you, too.

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Marcy Cascone February 19, 2011 at 6:17 am

We have a 4 1/2 year old little dude who nursed until he was 4 and is currently sleeping in bed with my hubby while I sneak away for an early morning run. For me A/P when my son was newborn up until about 2ish really was exhausting physically but mentally not as much. When he wanted to nurse, he nursed. When he was up, we were all up….I think the physical exhaustion from letting him lead the way lead to the mental exhaustion from feeling like I was living in a constant state of “foggy head”(as my son calls in now). He is at this stage right now that he is very independent….he wants to dress himself, brush his own hair, wash his own face, feed the dog…etc etc. However, I still sit with him in the bathroom and read books when he’s doing his thing and our nighttime routine (if you could call it that) circles back to lots of hugs, snuggles and eventually he ends up in our bed in the middle…legs and arms everywhere. We don’t discipline in our house…there are no time outs or any other punishment. I can sense when he is off….sometimes its just a bad day and he needs a break but more often than not he’s hungry or tired and needs to be redirected and heard. The thing that I struggle most with now is his interaction with the outside world. As a quiet, small family (its just the 3 of us and the dog) his interaction with loud kids, adults is bothersome to him. His schoolyard games (pretend swords, guns, etc.) are a little disturbing and sometimes the things that come out of his mouth just make me gasp…that bring said…we will just push along with our lifestyle…it works for us and I go to bed at night happy that we live (for the most part) together as a family, making decisions together and with all of our voices being heard.

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Leslie February 19, 2011 at 10:54 am

my son did the dumping of the food around age two. as soon as he was finished. I’d say, “oops, we made a mess, lets clean it up.” Then we each held a rag or paper towel and cleaned it up together with a cheer and a hug as the job was finished. He stopped dumping his food after a few times of that, and there were never any tears over it.
He is four now, and the biggest challenge with AP is how I still keep him with me most all of the time. Only grandparents babysit him for a couple hours at a time maybe once or twice a month at most. Most of the time it is at his request for time with them, “without mommy or daddy.” Friends and family think i can be selfish and clingy with him. I never knew that is was required to share my child just for the sake of it, regardless of how he feels about it.
Discipline is a lot of choice and consequence. It is surprising how much of it happens naturally and without interference from me at the age of four. If he picks on the cat, she will scratch him. If he is nice to her, she loves on him. (he LOVES his cat, but they can conflict with each other like siblings sometimes). I interfere only if he or another party stands the risk of getting injured beyond a scrape or minor thump. A lot of communicating about intentions, feelings, risks, and natural consequences goes on in our household.
My favorite was, “Mommy, you chose not to do dishes, now there are no clean ones for dinner. That is a natural consequence, and there is more work with dinner. What do you think you will chose to do next time?”

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Barbara February 25, 2011 at 2:52 pm

I just read this today, I’m a bit behind on my online reading :)
I was just talking to a coworker about this the other day. I think that parenting was so much easier in general the first year. All of my son’s needs were physical and I understood what he needed but in the second and third year it’s much more emotional needs and that seems more challenging to me. I don’t always understand what my son needs and I feel the mistakes I’m making are more damaging. I know that I am doing the best that I can and mistakes will always be made but I’m a first time mom and my son is a first time toddler :) We’ll make it!!!

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