Role Model Parenting

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This summer marks my 20th anniversary of parenting. Right this moment, my 4-month-old daughter is nursing in the sling strapped to my chest. My (almost) 14-year-old daughter is stomping noisily up the stairs in protest after having some kind of disagreement with her 5-year-old sister about the last dish of mac & cheese. My 19-year-old son is throwing a load of laundry into the washer. This is my life: a bit chaotic, a tad overwhelming, and completely filled with people I adore. I’m not sure if I accurately recall my life before I started my journey into parenthood two decades ago. Those childless years of my life must not have been very important to me since I have so many rich, vivid and love-filled memories of my life since then. I wouldn’t trade the life I have now, even if I could remember why I would want to. Each of my children has presented unique challenges, and have provided unparalleled joys.

I certainly did not begin this journey into parenthood with the AP Principles conveniently written down for me. I could not have found them online (yeah, that’s right, I parented for almost 11 years without the infinite wisdom of the Internet! Gasp!) I had the standard parenting library of the time: Dr. Spock, T. Barry Brazleton, and Penelope Leach. My parenting bible was LLL’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding which I turned to for all things breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding alike. I felt I was doing the best that I could with the tools that I had. Judging from the results, my instincts weren’t too bad. I look at the two teens who live in my house, eat all of the food, and call me mom, and what I see (most of the time) are helpful, spirited, creative, compassionate, respectful people.

I sometimes worry that my older children missed out on the benefits of Attachment Parenting because I did not have access to all of the information that I have now. Looking back I can see that I did okay. I wore them in backpacks and carriers whenever possible. I certainly thought of them as complete, conscious humans right from the start. I breastfed despite facing downright disapproval from many of the so-called parenting authorities in my community at the time. I often told people that they were sleeping through the night in their own cribs, when they were, in fact, in my bed nursing all night long.

My first born is about to be unleashed into the world when he goes off to college this fall. In addition to most of his possessions, all of our mismatched towels, and a crate of Ramen Noodles, he will also be taking along 14 years of big brother experience; 14 years of living in a family where healthy pregnancy, normal childbirth, and extended breastfeeding were modeled for him as each of his little sisters were welcomed into the world. He doesn’t run away or apologize for coming into the room while I am nursing. He sees my husband being a supportive and loving father. I have no doubt that someday he will take all of these examples and create his own parenting philosophies. My (almost) 14-year old daughter was the photographer for our recent homebirth and is super excited about finally being allowed to have a sling of her own to wear the baby in. I am confident that she will make loving, informed parenting choices for the rest of her life. Getting kids to accept your quirky parenting stuff when they are very young is a given–they love you and think you are the sun, the moon, and the stars. Pulling it off when they are in the midst of high school, hormones, dating, punk music, and Nietzsche, is a whole different story.

So even though I might not necessarily have been the ideal Attachment Parent when they were babies, I certainly have given my older children a gift I consider to be equally valuable: an example of parenting their little sisters that they will always remember and that I am proud to have modeled for them. My son won’t have to rely on vague, hazy memories of his youngest siblings nursing when it comes time to support his future wife and baby on their breastfeeding journey: he has never known any other way for babies to be fed. My daughter will never fear the unknown, or need to hear me reminisce over photographs of her own birth to feel confident when it comes time to give birth to her own babies: she has seen the power of birth up close and in person. They have been here every step of the way and have been involved in the process of learning and growing right alongside of me. Despite all of these wonderful examples, I trust that they will give me a few more years before I have to become an Attachment Grandparent, though!


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Author: justine

Justine Julian blogs at State of the Heart. Learn more about her work as a doula at JulianArts.

3 thoughts on “Role Model Parenting”

  1. I love it! Yes, role model parenting is very important!! Can you imagine what life would be like if our generation had grown up seeing breastfeeding, babywearing, and other attachment promoting behaviors from parents?!?! It would have affected us deeply–what a wonderful gift you have given your all of your children!

    Every time my son “nurses” his stuffed animals (or asks me to nurse them), I remind myself as I laugh that there is a larger lesson there and that he’s going to grow up to be a spouse that supports his wife as she breastfeeds their children.

    Great post!

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