Reaping the fruits of Attachment Parenting

Effie2 (2)Editor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) is excited to announce that Effie Morchi, a blogger with APtly Said, has accepted the volunteer position of Assistant Editor of APtly Said. In addition to continuing to blog about her family life, she will be managing the development of special editorial projects for APtly Said, such as the upcoming observance of Mother’s Day. We have been impressed by her initiative as a writer, her desire to support API with her talents and time, as well as her intuitive understanding of both Attachment Parenting and API’s ethos. Welcome and congratulations, Effie!

Our kids had a week off from school recently, and as the week approached, I realized that our getaway plans would need to be cancelled since my husband and I had some pressing issues to deal with. I informed our 10-year-old Shelly and 8-year-old Ethan that we would stay home most of the week, explaining the situation and asking for their understanding.

I knew the week ahead would be very different than a typical week off school and, I suspected, not in a positive way in the eyes of the kids. We were to stay home most days with very few outings and little external socialization. With Shelly asserting her independence and privacy, and Ethan being a social butterfly, I braced myself for a difficult week.

And what a week it was…

The kids were playing at home together, coming up with new games and making each other laugh. When they took a break from playing, they negotiated peacefully to decide which movie to watch. They also played independently, respecting each other’s space. Shelly helped Ethan with his science project and other school work and Ethan showered us with warm hugs and kisses, occasionally asking how we were doing. It wasn’t perfect — there were occasions when the kids had their difficult moments and so did we, but it was perfectly reasonable.

At the end of the week, my husband and I were pleasantly surprised at how patient and supportive the kids were. Ethan has always been affectionate with us, but he was even more so during that week and it felt even more special. Shelly is a well-adjusted, cooperative child, but I sensed that she made the extra effort to coexist in harmony with her younger brother.

webdesign hot - free graphics - treeIt was an ordinary, uneventful week, yet it was profound — we were reaping the fruits of Attachment Parenting.

I appreciated that our kids have responded to us in a time of need in the same way we have been responding to them: with consideration, empathy, affection and physical contact. They put their needs and wants on hold to support us when we needed them to do so.

I mulled over on the most challenging years of my life — the years I raised my two babies. Being a stay-at-home mom on-call 24/7 with minimal help was tough. Mostly, I felt grateful that I followed my instincts and dodged the sharp criticism from all the naysayers. I was told that my kids would have speech problems, because I taught them sign language. I was told that my kids would be clingy and needy as I consistently soothed them, responded to their cries and maintained close physical contact. When I was breastfeeding my baby frequently, on-demand, I was told that something was wrong with me or my baby, because it was just not “normal!”

It wasn’t easy, but I couldn’t see any other way to care for my kids. It felt right and it made sense to me, so I persevered. As I reflect on the past week as well as the past few years, I am pleased that I trusted that little voice inside me. And by swimming against the stream of mainstream parenting advice, I developed strength and resilience.

So, the next time you feel exhausted and overwhelmed with the stresses of parenting, please remind yourself: “This too shall pass.” And remember, before long, you will be gazing at the thriving tree you have been persistently and tenderly raising through the years, and when you look up, you will be delighted to find the radiant, splendid fruits of Attachment Parenting for you to marvel at. I promise!

*Graphic source: WebDesignHot

Who is Kim John Payne? And why I want you to join me on his API Teleseminar

“Imagine your life with a sense of ease as you begin to limit distractions and say ‘no’ to too much, too fast, too soon. …For those who want to slow their children’s lives down but don’t know where to start, [Kim John Payne] offers both inspiration and a blueprint for change.” ~Simplicity

basketball-1442709It’s hard not to over-schedule our children. There are so many classes, teams and other activities offered at younger and younger ages. As parents, we believe that our children will benefit by becoming involved in a wide range of endeavors, mastering as many of them as possible. Perhaps, we say, our children can find their talents early and have the opportunity to develop their skills sets — and self-confidence — sooner than we did ourselves.

We want our children to be happy and successful. We want to give them the very best start in life. But maybe encouraging our children to fill up their days with activities isn’t the way to do this.

I’m contemplating this right now. My 9-year-old daughter — who is already involved in 4-H, church, a monthly science day camp and occasional community service projects — brought home a school flyer about joining a 3rd-grade basketball team. She wants to do it. I don’t.

I am not taking this decision lightly. I don’t want to prevent my child from an activity she may enjoy, but I also feel that what she has going on is enough for now.

I want her to be able to fully enjoy her childhood, unfettered by the pressures and stress of a packed schedule. I would rather she be able to enjoy a few activities to the fullest. I know that the number of possible activities will only increase as she grows older, and I don’t want her to burn out. I don’t want practices and classes and busyness to get in the way of our strong attachment and intentionally slow lifestyle at home. I want to continue maximizing parental presence as she grows into the more turbulent preteen and teen years, being able to provide gentle guidance aligned with our family values as she finds who she is as a unique person.

I feel like our lives are balanced well right now, and I don’t want to upset that balance with nightly practices and weekly games on top of full days of school and after-school homework.

She is my oldest daughter, so we’ve been figuring out Attachment Parenting (AP) together — paving the way for the rest of the family — since her birth. And while we’ve been doing AP for 9 years, each stage of development opens up new challenges in navigating her attachment needs.

So I’ve been wrestling with what to do about 3rd-grade basketball. Go ahead and sign her up, and upset the balance we have with an intense schedule of practices and games? Or say “no” to another activity at this time? Perhaps I should say “no” and instead substitute an activity with a more flexible schedule, such as music lessons? I could teach her to play the clarinet myself, even.

e4aee175-1115-4d03-bb68-c3009e6c4d4fAs I continue on my parenting journey, I am glad to have access to the network of AP experts offered by Attachment Parenting International (API) through the API Live teleseminars. And how timely is it that the next API Live teleseminar — on Monday, October 19, at 9:00 pm EST/6:00 pm PST — is with Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting!

You may have been following along with API Reads discussions on Simplicity Parenting. But even if you’ve never heard his name before, you’ve likely heard about Kim John Payne’s concepts on simplifying — which are becoming more and more influential as parents try to slow down in our fast-paced culture — in order to reduce stress on children and their parents and allow room for connection, creativity and relaxation:

  1. Declutter the home environment
  2. Increase predictability and rhythms of connection and calm
  3. Soothe schedules
  4. Unplug from media, consumerism and adult concerns.

This is exactly what I need at this moment in my parenting journey! I very much look forward to listening to Kim John Payne’s teleseminar on October 19 — to find validation and gain perspective on the direction I should take with my daughter and the increasingly overscheduled childhood that our society promotes. Register to join in!

Kim John PayneAre you wondering who this Kim John Payne is?

My introduction was this 2012 Huffington Post article about how simplicity parenting is the better way to prepare kids for the future, rather than getting our children in as many activities as humanly possible.

Aside from reading his book, Kim John Payne’s biography from his website speaks volumes about both his experience as a parent educator and his heart as someone who truly wants to help families to slow down so parents can enjoy their children and children can enjoy their childhood — and grow up to be successful adults in our society:

519zubFyxUL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Kim John Payne, M.Ed, is the author of the #1 Best Selling book, Simplicity Parenting. A consultant and trainer to more than 200 North American independent and public schools, Kim has been a school counselor, adult educator, consultant, researcher, educator and a private family counselor for 27 years. He regularly gives keynote addresses at international conferences for educators, parents and therapists, and runs workshops and trainings around the world. In each role, he has been helping children, adolescents and families explore issues, such as social difficulties with siblings and classmates, attention and behavioral issues at home and school, emotional issues such as defiance, aggression, addiction and self-esteem, and the vital role living a balanced and simple life brings. He has also consulted for educational associations in South Africa, Hungary, Israel, Russia, Switzerland, Ireland, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Kim has worked extensively with the North American and United Kingdom Waldorf educational movements. He has served as Director of the Collaborative Counseling program at Antioch University New England. He is Co-Director of the Simplicity Project, a multi-media social network that explores what really connects and disconnects us to ourselves and to the world. Kim is the Founding Director of The Center for Social Sustainability.

In addition to authoring Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kid, he also authored The Games Children Play and The Soul of Discipline, and coauthored Beyond Winning: Smart Parenting in a Toxic Sports Environment.

He has appeared frequently on television including ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox; on radio with the BBC, Sirius/XM, CBC and NPR; and in print including being featured in Time Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Parenting, Mothering, TimesUnion and the LA Times.

Kim strives to deepen understanding and give practical tools for life questions that arise out of the burning social issues of our time. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, USA, with his wife and 2 children.

I hope you’ll join me in the audience — on our personal phones from the comfort of our living rooms, mini-vans, benches outside of our child’s sports or dance practice, or wherever we are on October 19 — to learn more about, and inspired by, what Kim John Payne says about simplicity parenting. Register today!

(Oh, and if you can’t make the teleseminar on October 19, or just want to listen to it again, everyone who signs up for this API teleseminar gets a recording to listen to at their convenience. Register for the recording here.)

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A lesson in approachability and honesty

Effie2 (2)I returned home after a night out at a friend’s house. It was late. The house was dark and quiet. My husband and kids were asleep. I was looking forward to taking a hot shower, to complete my relaxing evening with friends — a rare treat I promise to repeat more often in an effort to claim more “me” time and which is possible now that my older child is approaching a double-digit age.

As I entered the shower room, I noticed the towel placed on the floor was very wet. I figured the kids certainly enjoyed their shower time. I also found a pair of wet scissors and a bunch of hair on the tub. I wasn’t sure if it was my daughter’s or my son’s hair. I looked in the trash to see if there was more evidence to explain what happened, but there was none. So I put the scissors and hair away and took my shower. Then I kissed the kids goodnight, inhaling the sweet smell of their moist, shampooed hair and went to bed.

When my husband and I woke up in the morning, naturally I asked him about last night’s shower scene. “I noticed a pair of scissors and a bunch of hair in the shower. What is that all about?”

“I don’t know,” is what he said.

“Really? Interesting,” I replied and left it at that.

My 9-year-old daughter was next to wake up. I asked her to come to our bed and cuddle with me, and as we were cuddling away, I asked how she slept and we exchanged a few words. I then said: “By the way, I noticed a pair of scissors and a bunch of hair on the tub. Do you know what that’s about?”

She answered right away. “Oh, Mommy, when I took a shower last night, I had a knot I couldn’t get rid of, so I cut it.” I told her that was fine but encouraged her to ask for help next time.

orange-bar-of-soap-731884-mAt that point, my husband turned around suddenly. “What? That’s how the floor got so wet?” He wasn’t so much angry as surprised. “Last night, you told me the floor got all wet, because the soap slipped out of your hands and you came out of the shower to get it so nobody slips on it. You made up this entire story?”

Our daughter offered an innocent smile and admitted a “yes.”

I asked her why she didn’t tell her father the truth: “Did you think he would get upset?” And she replied that she thought he would.

Throughout the day, I kept thinking about the events of the morning. My daughter is very much “by the book.” She always plays by the rules and sticks to the truth no matter what. Such a blunt, off-the-cuff lie is unlike her. The event itself appears to be of little significance: Big deal that she cut her hair and instead told a story that she dropped the soap. But the implications are significant: She felt the need to be dishonest to avoid an anticipated reaction.

This lesson hit me hard that day.

We have to find a way to let our kids — at any age, any stage — feel free to come to us, to talk to us, to tell us what troubles them with the comfort of them knowing that we will listen, not get upset with them. Yes, we may not always agree with them or support their decisions and actions — it’s our job as parents to be their compass — but they should always feel they can come to us and tell the truth. Or they may end up lying to us and turning to someone else for guidance.