The sweetness of Attachment Parenting

Have you ever tried to explain to someone what attachment parenting is? Parenting is very personal, and it’s not so easy to describe any approach to raising children given the amount of emotional baggage, future hopes, joys, and trials there are wrapped up in that one word, “parenting.”

But as I was contemplating today about how much Attachment Parenting International and attachment parenting means to me and my family, how it literally changed the very direction of my life — personally and professionally — not to mention, given my children the quality of lives they enjoy, I came up with a word that sums up what attachment parenting is in my home: “sweetness.”

It really is just about treating my children with the sweetness of attachment.

I received one of those fun challenges on Facebook a few days ago where you ask your children a series of questions and then post exactly what they say. The first question was, “What do you hear me say the most?” Other Facebook friend’s posts had responses like “clean your room,” “dang it,” or “supper’s ready.” More curious of what my kids would say, rather than posting their responses on Facebook, I decided to ask them the questions.

And here’s what they said:

  1. What is something I say a lot? I love you
  2. What makes me happy? When we make you food and give you wildflowers (Nathan, 6), When we don’t yell and we follow the rules (Emily, 10), When we give you hugs (Rachel, 11)
  3. What makes me sad? When you’re sick and you want to do something excited that day (Rachel), When you have to postpone something because it just won’t work out and it was going to be really fun (Emily)
  4. What’s my favorite thing to do? Spend time with us (Nathan), Pet the cat (Rachel), Cuddle with us (Emily)
  5. Do I have a favorite child? No! But if you did, it would be Rachel-Emily-Nathan-Kate (Kate is my angel baby)
  6. If I could go anywhere, where would it be? To a chocolate factory made of chocolate in a chocolate land in a chocolate world
  7. Do you think you could live without me? No! Well, I guess we could, but it would be really, really sad (Emily) Yeah, it’d be a sad life (Nathan) I mean, we could still be alive but it wouldn’t be a really happy life (Rachel)
  8. How do you annoy me? By yelling, screaming, or interrupting you when you’re doing work
  9. What scares me? If we’re quiet in the bath tub and you hear no splashing or rippling or anything
  10. How do you describe me? A nice mom, the best mom in the world! With dark hair, dark curly hair, dark short curly hair. A person who likes being warm.

Now, isn’t that sweetness? And you may think that all children would say nice things about their parents, and gosh, I hope so!

But my point is, the overall atmosphere in my home is sweetness and peace and love. My oldest is now 11, and my youngest is 6. I’m well past the early years of attachment parenting, but for all the intensity of breastfeeding, cosleeping, responding sensitively, and learning gentle discipline, attachment parenting has since become a lifestyle.

Attachment parenting has become a mindset that directs my thoughts and actions with everyone, not just my kids and husband but my friends, coworkers, and strangers. In all my interactions with others — and with myself — I strive for the sweetness of attachment.

What are API’s Eight Principles of Parenting all about?

Learn more about API’s Eight Principles of Parenting here.

8 tips to getting in touch with your highest self

One of my favorite expressions in the English language is “beside myself.”

Not because I particularly enjoy being in that frenzied state, but because if you stop and think about it, who is the self you are actually beside? And how is it possible that there can be more than one self lined up in a row?

I get in touch with that second self in the morning when I meditate — alas, not every morning, despite my best intentions. It’s that peaceful, loving essence I call my higher self — and others call their soul, spirit, divine self, or even just their calm center. When I am united with, rather than beside, this higher self as I go through my day, I am happier and more compassionate, especially to my kids. I strongly believe that when parents connect themselves to their higher self, they then naturally parent in a way that aligns with Attachment Parenting International‘s Eight Principles of Parenting.

My children are older now — one has finished college, the other graduates in May — but I still give a lot of thought to Attachment Parenting. This is partly because you never stop doing it even when they move out of the house, and partly because I’ve recently published a book of parenting essays. Loving care, feeding with respect, positive discipline, soothing at night — how can a parent do anything but these things if we are coming from that loving place inside ourselves?

So the question for parents, then, becomes, not “Can I memorize the 8 principles?” — although that’s a good idea, too –but, “How can I boost my connection with my higher self so kindness and sensitivity toward my children naturally flows?” How can I lessen the times I am “beside myself” — being human, you’ll never eliminate them completely –and parent more often from my united center?

Here are 8 approaches to getting in touch with my highest self that have worked for me:

1) Anoint yourself in your morning shower

I’ve found that mornings are the best time to reach for that connection, because I then bring that inner peace to my entire day. With small children, it’s hard to find time to meditate, do spiritual reading, or any of the other morning practices long prescribed by spiritual practitioners. At least sometimes, though, we get to take a shower. Rather than letting your mind race to chores and scheduling, why not use those minutes to treat yourself like royalty?

Mindfully observe the water pouring over your skin, smell the beautiful shampoo and soap – – if you haven’t treated yourself to luscious cleansing products for a few dollars more, consider doing so — and envision yourself being anointed by the streaming water.

Try to maintain that elevated sensation as you dry and dress and begin your day.

2) Take your own timeout as needed

When my kids were younger, I used timeout all the time — but for me, not for them! A timeout is an opportunity to keep yourself from reacting poorly to a situation that spirals you away from your center. Walk outside or into another room for a minute and take some long, deep breaths, or open a spiritual book and read a paragraph.

The beauty of keeping a Sabbath — however and whenever you define it as such — is that a whole day of respite can’t help but give you the reset everyone needs.

3) Learn some quick breathing exercises

Yoga has a whole series of wonderful breathing practices that immediately connect you to your core. The simplest is known as “3-part breathing”:

  1. Slowly breathe deeply through the nose, filling up the abdomen, then the center of the chest, and, finally the collarbones.
  2. Exhale slowly in reverse order.
  3. Repeat a few times.

You can do this with your eyes closed on your couch, or eyes open on the school pickup line or the grocery checkout aisle.

4) Try family yoga.

Doing yoga with your children is different than doing it in a class full of focused adults, but it’s fun and beneficial in its own way, because there’s nothing like mindfully moving with someone you love.

Choose poses — found in books or online– that are age-appropriate for your children: easy animal imitations like cobra and lion if they’re little; more challenging twists and inversions if they’re older.

Make the practice fun, because joy offers another fast path to your center.

5) Envision them as you did at their birth

Remember the first time you held your beloved angel? Close your eyes for a moment and see him or her that way again. Notice how the love pours out of you as you do so. Your child now is still the same beloved angel, and inside you feel the same loving way.

No matter what your child is doing at any given moment — even if he or she just wrote on your newly painted walls or called you an unprintable name — try to conjure that “newborn” feeling as often as you can throughout the day.

6) Pass the pepper with love

If your children were kings or queens, religious leaders, or even rock stars, how would you serve them food, clean their clothes, or pass him or her condiments at dinner? Your children are more important to you than any of these figures, so why is it so easy to take them for granted?

Let that adoration you have for your child show itself in your mundane daily actions.

7) Find a passion that lights you up

“Indulging” your passion is crucial for parents. Doing something we love lights a spark inside of us, the glow from which falls on our family.

Find a passion you can do with your kids — collecting coins or shells, going to a ballet, whipping up an elaborate dessert… — or give yourself permission to occasionally go out solo to satisfy whatever gives you thrills.

8) Accept the perfection of each moment — and of your child

Judging something or someone as “bad” is the surest way to disconnect from our loving essence, but unfortunately our society encourages judgment all the time. “How was the movie?” “How was that restaurant?” Even, unbelievably, “Is your baby good?” — by which they mean sleeping through the night, as if an unhappy, uncomfortable baby isn’t a “good” one.

In truth, every moment — and every person in that moment — is perfect. A seedling frail enough to snap in a strong wind isn’t an imperfect oak tree. And a child who feels angry enough to break something rather than use words to describe intense feelings isn’t an imperfect person. Neither are we if we momentarily lose our cool when faced with such a child.

Accepting the perfection of a moment doesn’t mean we can’t guide our child. But do so knowing you are moving him or her from one perfect moment to another — a stance that shifts us internally from agitation to contentment, from beside ourselves to our united whole.

Photo source

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