Was Attachment Parenting worth it?

intimate-808012-mFor the last few days, my son has been hunched over an application for a summer program at NASA. I’ve been helping him, shoulder to shoulder, when he needs it, and I find myself staring at him when he’s not looking. It’s his junior year, and he’ll soon be filling out college applications.

How did we get here?

My son was “that” kid. The one who shrieked in anguish when another child got the green cup. The one who hid under the table screaming with his hands over his ears when party-goers sang “Happy Birthday.” The one who completely disrobed when a drop of water touched his clothes. The one who yanked the dump truck out of the hands of an unfamiliar toddler at the park sandbox.

He was also the one who had hour-long meltdowns several times a day…every day…for months, sometimes until he’d lose his voice. He was the one who would wake with night terrors about being abandoned in the woods, even though I was sleeping next to him. He could have been the poster child for “The Spirited Child.”

He had a difficult childhood. It started when we was born 14 weeks premature — a micro-preemie who should have had all sorts of health issues, a 2-pounder who couldn’t even be stroked or held until he was a week old. But he was a fighter, and he never even had to be on oxygen. The NICU staff called him the Miracle Baby. (They also called me the Dairy Queen, but that’s another story!)

So how did we get here?

All I can think of is the hours upon hours of holding, rocking, singing, carrying, cosleeping and loving that my husband and I did — thousands of hours. I gave him Kangaroo Care for 4 hours at a time in the NICU, until they made me put him back in his warmer. I carried him in a baby backpack as soon as he could hold his head up while I did housework and made dinner. My husband and I cuddled him through his screams and walked him long into the night.

So here we are.

…looking at the beginning of the end: The beginning of his adulthood, as a strong, confident, self-assured man. And the end of the difficulties of a childhood with a rough start, a complicated middle and a promising finish.

Were all those hours of holding, cuddling and crying together worth it? You bet. I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

Will I be sad to see him go off to NASA (if he gets in) and then to college? Sure. But that’s what we work toward, right?

I stare at the back of his head, with his ginger hair, and he speaks to me in his dad’s voice. “Mom, do you think this is good enough?” Oh yeah, I do. And then some, kid. And then some.

The Struggles of Being Attached: Is It Worth It?

Is being an attachment parent worth it? Let’s face it, it can be tough.

I co-slept — with kicking kids who woke up repeatedly during the night, all night long. One night my youngest kicked me in the breast so hard that I developed a massive lump and had to get an emergency mammogram to make sure it wasn’t going to explode or fall off. But the worst thing? I was so sleep deprived that I didn’t even wake up when it happened….
… Our friends who Ferberized their kids boasted about what great sleepers their kids were. “Little Johnny sleeps through the night and doesn’t wake until 8:00. Sometimes I have to wake him up for breakfast!”

I nursed — when my breasts were so sore that I’d have cut them off and hung them on the wall if I’d had the option. Breastfeeding hurt so bad with my middle child that I would start crying as soon as she woke up hungry, even before she latched on…
… My friends would pull out a little bottle, shake some sticky powder into it, and pop a plastic nipple into Little Suzy’s mouth, who happily gulped it down. I even had a friend who had one of those bottles with the long tube attached to the nipple, since she couldn’t even be bothered with holding her baby to eat.

I carried them — my newborns, my toddlers, and my preschoolers for a thousand miles, sometimes more than one kid at a time (thank goodness they were small!). Sometimes one would be in a backpack, one would be in a sling, and one would be on my hip or holding my hand….
… My friends would be (choose one) dragging their kids along by the hand because they didn’t want to cooperate, lugging immensely heavy carseats, or pushing them apathetically along in a stroller.

I responded with sensitivity — well, that is, pretended to be patient, endlessly giving words of reassurance or encouraging mediation, while my inner voice was screaming behind my ears, “Just stop it, already!”…
… My friends would pull their kids behind a fence and give them a swat or two, or maybe put them in time out. Problem solved.

My friends — wonderful, loving, committed, but decidedly non-AP friends — would look at me with a sorry mixture of pity, confusion, and something bordering embarrassment as I stuck to my guns, refusing to spank my kids, punish them, or demean them.

Clearly, some of my friends thought that I was coddling my children, perhaps even dooming them to a life of feeling entitled and being unfulfilled.

But I tried my best to treat my kids with the same respect that I would want. They had just as much value and deserved just as much respect as I did. Why would I want to teach them that the world doesn’t respond to their needs (that is, CIO)? What would be the point of saving myself some discomfort now (okay, let’s admit it, a lot of discomfort) by bottle-feeding when I was perfectly capable of breastfeeding, especially at the expense of their health? How could I tell them to stand up for themselves and not let the world take advantage of them if I treated them like “less than” or if I demeaned or humiliated them? And did I really want my kids to think that I was the absolute authority on everything, so much so that they needed to jump to my every command, lest they be punished?

Nope. I wanted my kids to think for themselves; to know that their parents always had their best interests at heart, even when it wasn’t convenient; to be able to count on their parents to be there when they needed us; and to know without a doubt that their thoughts and opinions were just as valid as mine or their dad’s – or any adult’s.

Was it easy? No, not always, especially at the beginning, especially when what I was doing was so different from my mainstream friends’ strategies.

Now, though, I must say that it’s the easiest and most natural thing imaginable. Today my children know that they’re valued and worthwhile and that they’re the equal of every person on the planet, no matter their age. They’re secure, they enjoy spending time with my husband and me, they enjoy each other, and they’re just plain fun to be around.

My kids, attached to each other ... and their guitars.
My kids, attached to each other ... and their guitars.

And what about my friends’ children? Are they easy? Well adjusted? Self-confident? Still connected to their parents? Some certainly seem to be. But, well … not all of them are. I see many (most?) of them turn to their peers for validation. Some put up a good front at being cooperative and “good” while investing a lot of effort in “getting away” with things behind their parents’ backs. And others bow to authority simply because of the authority’s age or position.

That’s not what I want for my kids. I like to think that the “work” I put into being an attachment parent in the early years is paying off now. After the thousands of hours and hours of effort I spent cosleeping, nursing, playing, talking, listening, comforting, mediating, and just being, I’m seeing the rewards.

And those rewards will last a lifetime.

Camille is an attached mom of a teen, a preteen, and a tween and writes about parenting, homeschooling, and chaotic living at TheEclecticMom.blogspot.com.

The Creativity of Children

The new-clothes drawer
The new-clothes drawer

I’m always amazed at the creativity of children … which happens, frequently, in spite of my best efforts. Let me explain.

Sometimes I’m just too helpful for everyone’s own good. On those occasions when we have small day-to-day hurdles, my first inclination is to make everything better. Over the years, however, I’ve learned that the best solutions to these little life strifes is to let the kids work things out for themselves, with as much guidance as is needed, but only as much.

Like everyone else, I work to maintain family harmony. But when we have these little obstacles–and yes, we do have them (shocker!)–I try to remember that these opportunities allow my children’s stunning ingenuity to shine through. They remind me that if I just close my mouth and listen to what my children have to say, they’ll frequently astound me with their creativity.

Their ideas are fresh and honest and not shackled by memories of failures and expectations of future success. I find that I, by contrast, am hampered by constraints in my adult thinking, and if I simply let them brainstorm–and get the heck out of their way–the results are frequently startling and spectacular.

Case in point …

Here in Texas we have a tax-free shopping weekend just before public school starts. I try to save up my shopping for the year and do it all in this weekend to take advantage of the sales that go along with it. Like many other people this year, we’ve been watching our pennies and stretching them as far as they’ll go without snapping.
Continue reading “The Creativity of Children”

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