13 Attachment Parenting hacks

pixabay-mom-and-kid-and-mapAttachment Parenting is more than a tick-boxed scorecard of babywearing and breastfeeding. It is so very much more.

Attachment Parenting, for many of us, is a way of life. In its simplest of forms, it’s about choosing connection and respect over convenience and quick-wins.  

The following advice has been lifted — with permission! — from one of my favorite virtual parent support groups. The points summarize 13 Attachment Parenting hacks from real — albeit virtual — moms that might just revolutionize the way you think about parenting:

  1.  “Pause before reacting to anything. The very few genuine emergencies that require instant reactions will get them before you can even think.” (Linda)
  2. “When a kid is upset, don’t try to make them feel better. Just try to make it clear that you get why they are upset.” (Nina)
  3. “Sing and play! Everything is still fairly new and exciting to a child. Let them join in what you’re doing, and join in what they’re doing.” (Jenna)
  4. “A baby is its own instruction manual.” (Lisa)
  5. “Not all kids can cope with choices.” (Linda)
  6. “Laughing together with a child is a powerful way of connecting and a healing tool for both of you.” (Rosetta)
  7. “When in doubt, err on the side of love.” (Marina)
  8. Asking a question and giving a child the power to answer and be heard, is an amazing thing.” (Lily)
  9. “Put a crabby baby into water…let the splashing commence!” (Michelle)
  10. “Make your home a ‘yes’ environment.” (Claire)
  11. Piggy back rides!” (Katie)
  12. “If you can give your children a chance to have control over something, do it.” (Tia)
  13. “Never regard your relationship with your kids as a rivalry (them vs. me). It’s ALWAYS a partnership.” (Bonnie)
 Thank you to each of the moms who offered their wisdom.

Because breastfeeding is normal

For some, breastfeeding doesn’t come easily. I, for one, have shed my fair share of tears over the challenging journey that it has been at times.

Yet, even though I have seen the negatives — even though I have been shamed, ridiculed and challenged about nursing my daughter — I support breastfeeding.

Even though there have been times that I have felt defined by nothing other than my breasts, and even though it has been one of the hardest experiences of my life, I support breastfeeding.

Why?

Because breastfeeding is normal.

I have been lucky enough to collate together many pictures from families across the globe as part of the #ISupportBreastfeeding project. With each new photograph, I see a recurring theme: the concept of connection. Breastfeeding doesn’t only connect us to our children; it also connects us to one another.

In a world where breastfeeding is so often seen as divisive, the thought that it actually unites us with other mothers is simply a revelation. I am proud to be a part of this movement; I am proud to help normalize the normal.

Introducing four generations of breastfeeding support: lucyj

 “We support breastfeeding, because it’s best for our babies, it nurtures, it bonds and is natural. It’s sometimes a real struggle and can be painful, needing even more support and encouragement. It connects and unifies us with other women worldwide from the beginning to the end of time…

This is what it’s all about, right? These breastfeeding supporters range in age from 7 months to 96 years. What an incredible testament to the concept of a journey! What a beautiful glimpse into the concept of family…into the notion of togetherness.

As I look at this picture, I feel inspired. Inspired to really own my personal journey. Inspired to create the right path forward for my family. Inspired to support those around me.

There is no night and day

API-Logo-20th-themeAttachment Parenting International is 20 years old. Twenty years of promoting connection and spreading reassuring support to parents across the globe!

When I first became a mother, I followed every instinct to connect with and nurture my baby. I held her, I nursed her, I gazed into her eyes…regardless of the time of day. Strangely though, I met a lot of resistance to my “alternative” approach to parenting.

“Nursing AGAIN?!” became a common greeting, and although I did not waver in my approach, my confidence took a big hit. I was exhausted, and I felt alone.

This is where I thank Attachment Parenting International for showing me that I am not alone. I am so grateful to have stumbled, completely by accident, upon this wonderful concept of Attachment Parenting. It turns out that I am not alone in my approach. In actual fact, there are many, many more mothers like me, feeling the same way and taking the same approach of connecting with our children.

So many of us feel this sense of loneliness, particularly in the darker hours when exhaustion sinks in and it feels like the rest of the world is soundly sleeping. So to the mama who is feeling isolated and exhausted right now, I offer you this…

There is no night and day.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I was awake throughout the day and I slept during the night. I moved throughout the day and was still during the night. The two were totally separate, as stark a contrast as light and dark.

And then baby bean was born, and all at once, light was thrown into my world in more ways than one. The edges of day and night started to merge together into a blurry grey smudge. You see, I had birthed The Great Unsleeper.

I knew nothing of tiredness before motherhood. The kind of tiredness that saps your body of strength, that throws its arms around you and just keeps squeezing, where you feel like the air is running out of oxygen and you forget which way is up, the kind of tiredness which almost makes you lose yourself.

Almost.

unnamedAlmost, because you find yourself with every touch of baby’s soft skin, cheek to cheek. Almost, because you find yourself with every gaze held in those deep, pool-like eyes. You find yourself with every smile, every gurgle, every clap of the hands and sweet “mama!”

You find yourself when you need it most. You find yourself during darkness.

Because our darkest hours are actually scattered with stars, with gems of pure love. In this time that I once termed “night,” quietness rules. There is no sound in the world besides baby bean’s soft breath and my own steady heartbeat.

In honesty, there have been moments in which I felt isolated, scared and incapable during these dark hours. But these have been momentary flashes of doubt amid the darkness.

Because when I stop and look at my beautiful girl’s profile against the shadow-like beams of light lingering in our bedroom, I understand that I have all that she needs — that I am all that she needs. I understand that I am enough.

Nestled safely in my arms, she does not need light or direction to nurse. Resting her head on my shoulder as we sway forwards and backwards in our rocking chair, she does not need daylight to feel safe and content. Little bean and I do not race through this notion of “night,” because for us, there is just light and dark, and there is beauty and connection in each.

As we sit rocking, cuddling, nursing, I imagine the hundreds of hours that we must have spent in this peaceful state. I imagine us rocking across great distances, to other countries and cultures. I imagine us meeting versions of ourselves at each destination, all these miles from home.

A mother. A baby. Connected in darkness.

I imagine us rocking through time, backwards and forwards. I imagine us glimpsing versions of ourselves wherever we land, be it hundreds or even thousands of years away from here.

A mother. A baby. Connected in darkness.

You see, in truth, little bean and I are not alone once the moon rises. We are part of a bigger picture, a louder heartbeat, a stronger pulse. Mothers. Babies. Connected in darkness.

Because for us, there is no night.

Cloth

Cloth NewJ

As I carefully held you, my little parcel, I remember wishing the cloth away, wishing that there was nothing between us. You see, we had been linked your whole life. I had felt every hiccup and every stretch.

As soon as I had the strength to sit up, I threaded you gently in between the lines attached to my IV sites and pressed you against my chest. But the clean crisp cloth felt like thick cold walls between us.

As the weeks went on, I wrapped you in cloths of many different colours and custom ties. You were fashionable, cute and cuddly. You were pink, blue and green. Yet amid the colours and patterns, I saw only your eyes, the soft sweep of your brow and the curl of first smiles.

Then we found stretchy cloth and it seemed never-ending. It took a hundred times of wrapping and unwrapping, tightening and loosening, before one day, I caught a glimpse of us in the mirror and realised that I hadn’t even noticed completing our cloth origami. And that is where you stayed. Snuggled into me and listening to my pulse, just as you had from your very first heartbeat.

In time, I could wrap you against me with my eyes closed…with both of our eyes closed.

We would face the winter like this, snuggled together, cosy and warm.

We would breeze through outings, walks and errands in exactly this position.  You, me and our cloth.

As you grew, the stretch seemed to shrink and new cotton was bought. This cloth was bright and strong…more supportive for a sleepy head to rest in. This was the first cloth that you asked for, that you spoke about and that you wrapped around your teddies.

What was once a barrier, cold and unknown, has become a link between us. It is handlebars for our journey, a shawl for warmth. It is easy. It is fun. It joins us as one, even though we are now separate, little one.

When you were born, they wrapped you in cloth, but you’ll be wrapped in my love forever.

 

Why?

1208353_15473770“Why mama?”

Two huge brown eyes looked up at me, searching for answers. I stopped stirring and put down the spoon.

“Because it is hot, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Acceptance. There was no drama, no bargaining or rewards. Only contentment, pure and simple.

For me, “Why?” is one of the most treasured words that Little Bean utters. I adore it because it represents her questioning, perceptive nature. But more than this, it makes me stop stirring and put down the spoon. It makes me look–strike that, it makes me FALL–headfirst into those deep, pool-like eyes and truly connect in the moment. In our moment.

“Why?” is perhaps one of the most symbolic words of childhood, one of the most representative questions of innocence. What if we choose to view our child’s questioning outlook as the gift that it is? What if we accept it as an invitation to see the world through new eyes? Because, wow, what a view we get!

We get to watch as our baby, the one we cradled and dressed in tiny booties, pieces together her own picture of the world. The answers may seem obvious to us, but each “Why?” that we answer becomes another crucial piece of her puzzle. We also get to update, recreate and polish our own picture of the world. Because no matter how much I teach Little Bean, no matter how much I show her and share with her about life, she will always, without question, teach and show me more.

There are times when I am busily racing through our daily tasks or appointments and I hear a little voice asking, “Why, Mama?” Sometimes these moments stop me in my tracks. There are times when I hear an easy-yet-empty answer run through my head, yet I cannot utter the words because I realise that they are nothing more than a prettified version of, “Because I said so.”

It is in these moments that I stop, humbled by the lesson that my toddler has inadvertently just delivered to me: why not? Why not take a moment to look Little Bean in the eye and answer her question carefully and with consideration?

Why not wear a summer hat with a winter coat? Why not take four stuffed toys along for the ride? Why not sing nursery rhymes at full volume whilst walking down the street?

Because when it comes to our children, their wants, their needs and their questions, why not just put down the spoon and stop stirring?

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Parenting Outside the Box

This year’s theme for AP Month, “Parenting Creatively: The Art of Parenting,” gives us all an opportunity to look a little closer at the ways in which we are (or are not) fostering creativity in our parenting approach. It’s often easy to play creatively, but it’s a bit harder to find our creative flow in more challenging situations, like when the little one is starting to crumble in the cereal aisle. But if we can see past our adult rules, social pressures and parental blinkers, a little creativity can go a very long way in such situations.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the doctor’s face when little Bean started jumping, arms outstretched, and singing, “Laaaaaaaa!” because she wasn’t allowed to leave the room until our appointment was over. Or perhaps more memorable was the doctor’s expression when I said to my now calm and giggling toddler, “You felt frustrated so you jumped and sang! What a positive outlet for a difficult emotion!”

I should probably explain … when little Bean was about 18 months old, I noticed that she, like all toddlers, was starting to feel frustrated when she couldn’t do what she wanted when she wanted to do it. While in most situations I follow her lead to an extent that frustration is rare, there are times when we really must do something, like sit through an appointment. So I started to think outside the box: when I feel frustrated, what makes me feel better? I came up with exercise and singing, basically “letting it all out.”

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I applied this to little Bean. I figured that while she can’t exactly go for a run in all situations, she can always use her voice, and she can usually jump on the spot. So I simply let her know that when she feels frustrated, jumping and singing is a really positive outlet for that very normal yet difficult emotion. Oh, and I started to jump and sing a lot, too. I jumped when I forgot my shopping list or dropped my keys. I sang when I broke a glass or was running late. I was the all-singing, all-jumping, crazy mama bouncing her way through her more difficult moments.

Once all of the jumping and singing was over, and the onlookers had moved on, little Bean and I would talk it out. On the occasions when there was an underlying issue to resolve and the mini endorphin kick hadn’t wiped out the frustration, it was so much easier to remedy, to explain and to work through the situation with a calmer Bean.

I’m not saying that our method is foolproof; there are times when no amount of jumping will prevent a mini-meltdown. But it slows the landslide and helps little Bean to start to recognise the emotion herself. She often sees me pre-mama-meltdown and says, “Mama, laaaaaa!” Ingeniously perceptive? Well, obviously. But bias aside, I believe that all toddlers understand these emotions and can recognise them in others–they just don’t know how to deal with them. And for how many of us adults does that statement still ring true?

Our sing-alongs help little Bean to deal with these difficult emotions. I wish these tools came more naturally to me, and I hope that by opening them up for little Bean while she is still a toddler, her toolbox for dealing with life’s emotions will be jam-packed full. Even if that means her toolbox is thought of by passersby as “outside the box.”

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