A Tribute to My Father

My father was a mystery to me.  He had issues of his own that I really never understood until after his death in 2003 when I had the wisdom to see him as a person separate from his role as father.  He grew up during the Great Depression — born October 5, 1929 —  his birthday month ringing in the Crash; his family lost everything. He had to sleep in the enclosed porch of his Southside of Chicago home, as his parents had to have boarders to makes ends meet.

 

My father stopping to smell the roses on my wedding day

 

My father’s father was an alcoholic –a singer and musician who played in Chicago nightclubs. Some nights he was funny and charming, other nights cruel and mean. I think of my father as a little boy and imagine what he may have gone through.

 

There is a story that breaks my heart and a story only told to me by my mother, with direct instructions to never let my father know I knew.  My father, 6’3, black curly hair, green hazel eyes, filled with pride of his first car, eager to share his pride with his own dad. My father must have been 16 or 17.

 

Instead of sharing in this proud moment, my father’s father berated him, cutting him down and assaulting him with insults about his crappy car.  All my father wanted was his father to be proud of him.

 

My mother told me this story once to help me understand my dad.  It made me sad to think my father went through that.

 

My mother also told me this is why he bought me a royal blue 1970 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia in mint condition when I was 16 years old.  Man, that car was cool! And I will never forget the pride in my father’s smile when he showed it to me, surprising me by ushering me outside to have a look.

 

Betty and John were special people. Anyone that ever met them knew this. They were storytellers and magicians. They made people feel good. Sure, like everyone, they had their problems, but deep at their core, they were the pot of gold. My magic - my love.

 

My mother didn’t tell me this story until I was in my late twenties. My dad was an alcoholic and quit drinking cold turkey when I was born. I imagine he drank to tame his demons from childhood and from the war.

 

He fought in the Korean War.  He was a member of the Frozen Chosen, the Battle of Inchon, where he saw thousands of men murdered. It was so cold during this time that men’s eyeballs froze — their own tears icicles upon their own eyes.

 

I never was able to look at this as a reason for his own depression and anger.  At times, he was down right frightening, flying off the handle in a rage I did not understand as a child nor a young adult. He did not physically abuse me, but there was mental abuse at times.

 

The thing is, now as a parent, I am able to forgive him and understand him.  I love him and honor all the good about him.  He went to work everyday to support his family and had a boss that berated him and put him down.  He brought me home paper to draw on as a child from the bank where he worked as one of the mobile patrol security guards in downtown Chicago.  He worked the second shift and never missed a day of work.

 

I think of him struggling to drown his depression and sorrow in a bottle, but he never did.  He soldiered on.  I imagine him discussing the horrors of war and his own childhood with his therapist, a very kind man he saw for many years.
My dad during the Korean War on a ship. He was a Marine.

 

I think of my father marching out of Inchon, knowing in his heart there was a family waiting for him on the other side of this awful war he witnessed.  Somehow, he knew in his heart that our family would make him whole even though he had not met us.

 

It would be almost twenty years after Korea that he would meet my mom.  They would go through so much.  The first night my parents met, he told her everything about his past, including the sad story of his father assaulting him with insults the day he showed off his first car.

 

My dad in Korea. He was a member of the Frozen Chosen who fought in Inchon in the Korean War. He is buried at Arlington Cemetery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My dad and his friend from Korea. This man called me shortly after my father died. He told me a story of how my father saved his life and how my father's thick head of black curly hair stuck out of foxholes because he was so tall.

 

Now that I am a mother myself and understand how overwhelming it is to be a parent at times, I have so much respect for my father for not continuing the cycle he saw.  He did the best he could and he was torn up from war, childhood, and a hard life.

My father and I on my wedding day, November 23, 2003. My father has cancer and my husband and I got married in my parents' bedroom so he could give me away.
Photos from my wedding

 

So instead of remembering the bad things and his imperfections, I remember the kindness and courage I saw on a daily basis.  He taught me so much and I just wish I had the opportunity to tell him that I am proud of him.

 

My dad around Christmas time 2002 -- his last Christmas
He died 9 years ago in the middle of the night, technically December 11 at 4 am holding my mother’s hand. December 10, 2003 was the last time I saw him and had to say goodbye to the father I loved for 29 years.

 

Death sucks, but it is a part of life.  But you see I miss him. I miss him, and as grief has numbed the loss – a hole that death leaves, gaping in concave fragments of the heart, a sense of longing has replaced this. This sense of missing him, knowing he is gone.

 

I miss him.

 

I miss seeing the veins on his hands, crossed in a holding pattern on his lap, a cigarette always tucked puffing solo in his lips. I miss his morning silence and two cups of coffee minimum rule: “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee.”

 

I miss him.

I miss watching his gait, heavy to the left, limping, shifting the weight in stride to his other leg — the leg I now know had significant damage from frostbite from Korea. I miss his odd sense of humor and his incredible intelligence. I miss how he could talk to anyone. I miss his pride. I miss his pats on the back and how awkward he became when I insisted on hugging him.

My dad smoking his cigarettes thinking. I miss him.

I miss him.

I miss the way he could pack a car, no matter how large with flea market finds. I miss his Cuban wedding shirts. I miss his scarves which he always called mufflers and reminded me to bundle up on cold Wyoming winter nights before I left the house. I miss his anger, sometimes dark and black. I miss his garden and the flower pots he filled them with — stacked in neat rows around the brick wall around our house on Maxwell. I miss seeing him peaceful with dirt in his hands.

I miss him.

I miss the way he wrapped his shoelaces around his ankles, tying them pragmatically in double knots as an old man. I miss his grey hair comb over. I miss his kindness and Irish pride. I miss smelling Corn Beef and Cabbage every St. Patrick’s Day. I miss the strong scent of coffee in the kitchen of our home. I miss having a hell of a hard time trying to buy him the perfect Christmas gift.

I miss him.

I miss his voice and his ability to speak only when necessary in a conversation. I miss his knowledge and the statistics he could whip out on any baseball team in this century or the last. I miss that he could give the biggest compliment to me through a third person like when he told my best friend Heidi that she had to make sure I write because it is in my blood — “Make sure Megan writes; she is a writer — a journalist a poet. She is related to Percy Bysshe Shelley, you know? Make sure she writes — it is in her blood.” I miss his smile, sometimes rare and sometimes wild.

I miss him.

I miss watching him read thick books and biographies. I miss startling him if I walked up on him unexpectedly, giving me a sense he knew fear in the strongest sense of the word and I miss the sense of relief he had when he knew it was me. I miss his car — a long maroon Lincoln Continental plastered with proud Semper Fi bumper stickers.

I miss him: John Shelley Miller, my dad — the first man I ever loved.

Photo Title: "Fence" -- I send messages to my father through the birds. Cardinals deliver same day mail. My father loved cardinals and I can't help but think he sends me messages back when they whistle by me. My yard in North Carolina is filled with cardinals. I see one weekly -- at least.

 

 
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and community of Newtown. There are no words, only grief.

Extra Pair of Eyes

Play MatesI cannot underscore the importance of a supportive spouse, partner, or mother’s helper when you’re a work-from-home parent of a mobile baby or preverbal toddler.

Just this week, my seven-month-old son has learned to climb the few steps between the family room, where my office is located, and the kitchen. I had hoped the steps would serve as a barrier between the two rooms for a little while longer, since the gap is too wide for a baby gate. After all, he wasn’t even rolling over consistently only a month ago. In just the last four weeks, he not only learned how to roll over but also how to scoot, sit up, and pull himself to a standing position. I’m envisioning him leaping off the couch in a couple months. I hope I’m not right.

As such, I’m finding it a little difficult to do certain types of projects without a second person keeping track of the baby – projects that require deep thought for more than the couple minutes it takes for my baby to cross the room and scale the steps before I need to get up to fetch him. Understandably, his five- and four-year-old sisters do not want this responsibility – and they shouldn’t have to, anyway – although I am grateful when they play in the family room, as the baby stays put when his sisters are near.

So, these projects have been relegated to mostly overnight hours, when baby is asleep, or when my husband is home. Certainly, my husband can’t be on danger watch every moment he’s home, as he needs to do things like mow the yard and work on the cars, so I try to work it out with him a couple days in advance so he can adjust his to-do list for the week. But as a parent, he does share the responsibility.

It doesn’t mean your spouse or partner isn’t being reasonable if he or she doesn’t want to watch the kids while you work every night. It’s one of those things you have to work out. For some families, it works out better to hire a mother’s helper than to rely on a spouse or partner, just because they’re so tired after a long day’s work themselves. But that might make you feel resentful. Both of you need to voice your expectations and concerns regarding your work-home situation, and find a solution that works for both of you.

When my girls were young, being only a year apart, I hired a mother’s helper during the day, as working with two babies at home is a bigger deal than with one baby. Or maybe, I think it’s easier now because I’ve finally got the hang of it? Either way, I found a mother’s helper to be critical when I was working on tough projects. I requested a mother’s helper – usually my mom, although I have a grandmotherly neighbor and a teen from church who also like the job – as needed, and basically she served the purpose of an extra pair of eyes. I still cuddled with my kids, fed them, and changed their diapers, but when I needed an extra minute to finish my thought, my mother’s helper would fill in the gap. She would also prepare meals, throw in the laundry, pick up the toys, and do other odds-and-ends so that when I took a break from the project, I could spend it giving undivided attention to my kids rather than on some chore. While she was here, my babies were always in the same room with me.

I know some work-from-home parents who do use a nanny or babysitter or put their children in daycare while they work, and that’s OK. I also know of some single parents who are able to work from home without hiring help. That’s amazing! But, it doesn’t mean you’re any less of a parent if you do need an extra pair of eyes, or hands. A mother’s helper, or at least help from your parenting partner, may be just what you need to balance work with home while keeping your attachment bond as a priority.

A Mother to Mother Conversation With Mayim Bialik

“…neuroscience and developmental neurobiology and psychology support a style of parenting that fosters healthy dependence. It’s simply biologically true.”

We know of Mayim as Blossom, the Mayim who earned a PhD in neuroscience, Mayim as Amy Farrah Fowler in the hit TV series, Big Bang Theory. She adds “author” to her impressive list of titles with her new book, Beyond the Sling, scheduled to release tomorrow. I recently had the pleasure of talking to Mayim Bialik about her new book and her preferred role, Mayim the attachment mother.

First, I’d like to hear how your book came about.

I’ve been the spokesperson for Holistic Mom’s Network for a while now, and I started writing for this website called Kveller.com, and I guess sort of became this unofficial spokesperson for a style of parenting that I don’t see as particularly bizarre or strange at all. But obviously it’s really out of the norm of the way a lot of people parent. And so honestly, I was kind of just asked to write the book.

I was being interviewed by an actress named Theresa Strasser. She’s a comedian and she had just written a book about pregnancy, and she said to me, I would never want to parent the way you do and I think it sounds ridiculous in theory, but, she said, the way you talk about it makes it sound so not judgmental and it actually sounds like it makes sense even if I wouldn’t choose it. My book agent wants to talk to you. And I’m thinking, book agent? I spoke to him, and four months later we had a book proposal. Kind of an unlikely way to write a book, but I basically wrote the lifestyle that me and all my friends and everybody at Attachment Parenting International and La Leche League sort of know about but I guess once you put a celebrity name on it people will pay attention. I don’t know, I guess that’s the sad state of our culture.

It seems like it covers a lot of myth vs. fact, a lot of, the why behind outward appearances. What do you think people most misunderstand about attachment parenting?

I think people misunderstand a lot of things about the kind of children that people think you raise if you practice AP. People think that my goal, or anyone’s goal who parents this way is to raise spoiled, manipulative, whiny children who are clingy and never gain proper independence. But I think also one of the main things of the book is trying to take on is, not that you need a PhD in neuroscience to write a book about parenting or to be a parent, but that neuroscience and developmental neurobiology and psychology support a style of parenting that fosters healthy dependence. It’s simply biologically true. And that attachment parents don’t choose this because we’re lazy, or because we don’t know how to get our kids out of our bed, or because we don’t know how to say no to them when they keep asking to breastfeed. So I think the notion is that this is a conscious choice and parenting philosophy that is believed in. It’s not passive parenting, it’s not lazy parenting, and it’s not careless. It’s very conscious and concerted.

And there are a lot of different ways to do it! There are families with a lot of structure and discipline that also are attachment parenting families and there are families that are a lot more permissive. It’s a broad term that really describes a lot of people.

What is your biggest parenting challenge going on right now?

[Laughs] Um, how to pick? We don’t have easy kids. A lot of people think I have easy kids simply because they seem easy, but they’re high-needs kids. As anyone with a high-needs baby or child knows, it takes a lot of work to keep that going, and sometimes I feel like I don’t have much more attention to give. But I’m getting clear signals that they need more attention and it’s a huge challenge and especially, my husband’s home with them when I’m working, so I’m here even less than I need to be. But there’s still so much that needs to get done. I joke with friends of mine, we say, how can they need more attention? I’m giving them all I have!

Having so much on your plate, author, blogger, neuroscientist, homeschooler,  and obviously Big Bang Theory, and with attachment parenting being the most hands-on parenting philosophy, at least the most hands-on I know of, how do you strive for balance? That’s one of the attachment parenting principles, so what do you do for Mayim?

I try and find small, not time- or money-consuming ways to kind of replenish. I think we’re in an unusual situation where I was the primary caregiver, you know, hands-on, 24/7 for years, and it’s only recently that I’m working and my husband is the one home. So I think it’s important also, for the primary caregiver which is my husband at this point to also find ways to replenish. So, I think he feels that sometimes I get to leave the house, and that’s my replenishment.

But I think that in weeks that I’m off, and all of those times that I am just me with them – I don’t do a lot of social things, I don’t go out a lot with girlfriends, I read, I study a couple times a week with a Jewish study partner, which is an intellectual exercise and also a social one. And I do small things. Like simplifying life so I can catch up on things that make me feel organized and like the house is in order. So for me, sometimes it’s relaxing to know that, like last week me and the boys, we re-did all of their little shelves where they keep their clothes. And things like that give me a sense of peace and balance because it’s one less thing that I have hanging over me.

You mentioned your husband is staying home with the kids full-time. The traditional role has the man as provider and the woman as caregiver. How does he handle that, and how does the family handle that?

It’s unusual for sure. It’s still an adjustment for him. It’s an adjustment for the whole family, but now that Fred is now out of the stage where he’s breastfeeding as much as he had been, it’s much easier. My husband has always been super supportive of breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding. And Fred does still nurse, but he’s not at the point where I’m pumping anymore, which I think is in some ways easier for my husband. He has more autonomy, now that he’s settling in and now that they’re both older and they can do more active field trips together and that the day is not dictated by naps, you know, for the little one.

This particular unit study is about medieval England. This unit study is called Time Capsule: Medieval England by Michelle Caskey. There are daily lessons to keep your children engaged and learning for 12 weeks (300 activities in all)! For each day you also have a variety of activity options to choose from to suit your child’s interest and needs. The unit study also includes a supplies list and suggested reading list.

In this unit study your child will experience being:

  • A Peasant in Medieval England
  • A Tradesman/Tradeswoman in Medieval England
  • A Knight/Lady-in-Waiting in Medieval England
  • A Monk/Nun in Medieval England
  • A Baron/Baroness in Medieval England
  • A Knight/Queen in Medieval England

Your child will get to create and wear peasant clothing, listen to Old English, go on a field trip to a local farm, one of my kids has dyslexia so when i try to find a place to go i make sure they have  dyslexia tutors to give to children with dyslexia where they can , learn to whittle, make a water clock, design their own castle, make a medieval battle axe, and much more.

While these activities would be fun for boys OR girls, they are especially suited to active boys. Not only will they be reading and writing, but doing lots of fun physical activities too.

I read that you’re the only parent on the cast of Big Bang Theory. What’s that like?

Many of our writers have kids, and I’ve actually done a little lactation consulting, on the side I guess, for one of our writers in particular. As it is, when you’re the only in a group of friends to be the first to have kids, it’s a little bit like being an alien species. And I think also, until you have kids, you can’t imagine how much of a part of your brain and your heart are always devoted to them, no matter what you’re doing. I can argue a lot of things about a lot of different styles of parenting, but I will say that when you choose this path, it really is a constant part of you in ways that sometimes I meet other parents who don’t feel that way. I meet a lot of people who say, I’m happy for someone else to handle them. I’m not really thinking about it, it takes a village, and I don’t want to be involved. For me, that’s not our choice. I always miss my kids in a very specific way.

What do you do when you mess up – when you’re short with your child, when you find yourself yelling and kind of losing it? What do you do to repair that relationship?

I guess I’ve been told it’s called a “mommy time out.” I need to know, literally, when to shut my mouth and walk away, meaning to stop the, you know, bad mommy behavior. And I think promptly admitting you’re wrong to your child is extremely powerful. I think I make a very very conscious effort to not make excuses when I apologize. Meaning, I don’t say, I yelled at you because, or I’m angry at you and I used harsh words because you blah blah blah. There are times to explain to a child why or how there may have been a trigger situation but when you’ve hurt a child I believe very strongly all that needs to be communicated is that your intention in life is not to hurt them, and that you feel bad and will do things to not repeat that with them.

And you cannot apologize to a child as if it’s a spouse. They’re not on the same intellectual or emotional level. That’s something I try really hard – I try to do that with adults too! To say, I’ve hurt your feelings and I’m sorry, is different than, I’ve hurt your feelings and I’m sorry but, you’ve really let me down, you know?

And I think also, something I try and do is I try and, especially with our oldest son who’s six, I’m not afraid – well, I’m afraid and I’m not afraid to try and be real with him and tell him, Mama messed up. Mama doesn’t know how to be the mama of a six-year-old except through this experience and we’re trying, and I’m learning. That’s one of my favorite things I say to them. I’m learning too. And I’m not perfect.

And I’ll make a joke out of it too, I’ll say, I know you think I’m perfect because I make the best pancakes, but I’m not. So a little humor also can take the edge off, so that you can have access to them because they put up a wall when they’re hurt. It’s what people do. It’s protective.

What do you say when people negate your parenting style?

I think with my first I was very sensitive and I was defensive and I questioned a lot, and I doubted myself, but for me a big part has been to find a community of like-minded parents and that’s sort of what API and places like API are doing. Once you have that support and you can have your behavior normalized, it really can give you a lot of strength.

And now I’ve learned which battles to fight and which not to fight. And even with family members, even well-meaning friends, I’ve learned a couple key phrases, like, “it’s working for us,” or, “thanks for your thoughts,” or “I guess we all get to do it our own way,” or, “I’ll keep that in mind, thank you.” But I really don’t get into the complicated discussions with people, especially when I can tell that they only want you to have their opinion. Because some people want to have a healthy debate, or they’re interested in decisions and why you make them, but a lot of people really just want to be right, and I don’t always have to have that conversation.

You mentioned the organizations that support you, such as API. What individuals make up your support system? Who are your rocks?

I have a group of girlfriends, who we kind of formed a renegade mom’s group and I single them out in the book. One of them is actually my friend who took the photographs for the book. She took the cover photo and, she’s one of those people. I have one La Leche League leader and mentor in particular who I kind of go to for all things even beyond breastfeeding, and she’s sort of my attachment parenting, well, everything. That’s pretty much it. I mean, we have a small circle. I do participate in La Leche League still and Holistic Moms’ Network events and things like that, but for me to have three people, three women in my case that I know I can turn to, even if they don’t agree or do it the same, I think that’s been the most helpful.

I personally struggle with this: how do you just do your thing without making other moms feel like you’re judging what they’re doing?

I know that other people’s opinions are none of my business now. And if people have guilt, it’s not for me to either create or take away. I simply keep it within my circle of my family, and know that what’s working for us works.

I had dinner the other night next to a very prominent celebrity mom and she was there with her nanny, and her two kids and I was there alone with my two kids, and it was very friendly and very nice, but I was kind of wondering, does she look at me and think, how’s she doing it? Why am I not doing that? Why can she do it? Do I even what to do what she’s doing? And I looked at her and I was kind of wondering, wow, that would be really nice to have an extra set of hands right now!

But again, I learned early on that you never know what goes on in people’s families or what they need, or why they’re doing what they’re doing or not doing what they’re doing, so I really try to mind my own business. I mean, honestly I try to mind my own business and I also make sure to use general concepts and phrases that I do believe are true. That we all want to do the best for our kids. It may mean different things to different people, but we all want to do the best. And once you kind of level the playing field, then you can open up a conversation and then you can get away from all that stupid mommy wars stuff.

Do you remember a turning point when you decided that attachment parenting was the way you wanted to do things?

Before we had our first son, both my husband and I were both planning on research professorships. I don’t know, I struggled a lot with breastfeeding. I had a difficult, slow learning curve, as it were. And I think making the commitment to stay home for 40 days, which is something we did after both of our sons were born, I think that tuned me into a new rhythm that I decided not to fight. Because I know a lot of people fight it, and I know people who go back to work after 2 and 3 weeks, you know? But I think for me it really helped tune me into that rhythm, and help us make that decision.

Does your husband read the AP books? Does he do the research?

My husband is rarely yes dear about anything, but if he sees something for himself, that’s the proof he needs. He’s a very principled, rational, confident person, and he, honestly, he doesn’t like to read things like that. I mean, he does a tremendous amount of reading, but no, he has really become a phenomenal example of someone who is not super interested in emotional attachment or psychological development, hadn’t really given it much thought, and literally lived for himself the evolution of this beautiful, beautiful relationship that he has created with our kids and that we have in our family. Although he sees, for sure not one of the principles of attachment parenting was something he thought was totally nuts, and once he saw how it worked, totally jumped on board on his own. But he’s not the kind of person who reads up on things or says yes dear, so it’s been actually really interesting to see. It’s even worked and made sense for him.

Who are your influences as far as parenting goes?

I admire Dr. [William] Sears and Martha Sears a lot, also for their functioning in a conventional world as proponents of attachment parenting. Our pediatrician, Dr. [Jay] Gordon is a huge influence for us, and then personally I mentioned my La Leche League leader, Shawn Crane who is also sort of my everything mentor and parenting expert extraordinaire. But I feel like the real people that kind of make it happen are my girlfriends, Nancy and Denise.

What was it like to work with the Sears’ and Dr. Gordon?

What’s impressed me kind of in this whole book journey has not only been the support on the professional side, from API and the Sears’ and from Dr. Gordon, also a really really positive, healthy general notion that we’re all working toward something good and trying to empower parents to make decisions that are good for them and for their kids. And I think that’s actually been honestly surprising. I’ve been shocked at the lack of ego that I’ve run into and I’d like to think that it’s indicative of the attachment parenting philosophy at work in adults.

Mayim’s new book, Beyond the Sling: A Real-life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way, will be available in stores March 6th, 2012.

Photo: flickr/pennstatelive

Does attachment parenting require feminism?

I’ve been exploring the topic of attachment parenting and fathering as part of launching my new Go Fatherhood site and bumped into a thought-provoking article on a mom blog that claims attachment parenting requires the mom to be a supporter of feminism.

I don’t buy it.

The author’s point is that “traditional” attachment parenting is based around the baby being with the mother 24×7 for the first year or two, and it’s easy to then assume the woman’s role is as mother and that anything outside of mothering is irrelevant and should be eschewed. Author “Blue Milk” specifically states:

Attachment parenting needs feminism because without feminism women’s lives have a tendency to be decontextualised and devalued, and that isn’t good for mothering.

I’m torn on this, because on one hand I think that in modern culture a successful woman needs to be able to speak up for herself and establish her own identity outside of her roles as mother and partner. I’m just not sure that the identity requires everything that comes along with the loaded, hard to define concept of feminism. More to the point, are women who don’t care whether there’s true gender equality but follow the tenets of attachment parenting not actually attachment parenting mothers? I certainly don’t think so.

I’m also very conscious that the author hasn’t acknowledged the role and importance of fathers in this situation. I’ve always supported gender equality as a baseline from which men and women can make their own decisions about who they want to be and how they want to live their lives, but that’s not really feminism as I understand it: Feminism is about women not just having the opportunity to be equal but taking the opportunity, not deciding that they are perfectly content with a possibly less equal role both in a relationship and in parenting.

When we had our babies (now 8, 11 and 15) and decided to travel the path of attachment parenting, my now-ex and I also decided together that she’d stay home and nurture them for the first year or two while I worked and brought in what income I could. Was that a feminist-inspired decision, were we unwittingly decontextualizing and devaluing Mom’s role?

I don’t think so, but that’s just me. What do you think, API Speaks reader?

The Benefits of Babywearing Your Toddler

My daughter, Bella, is almost 22 months. My husband Sam and I still babywear her many times.

To some, this might seem a little crazy. She is perfectly able to walk and we own a stroller she loves. She isn’t as easy to carry anymore, and it requires some maneuvering to get her in an arrangement we’re comfortable with for a while.

But Bella had severe reflux when she was born. Because of this, she threw up for the first 6 months of her life around the clock. We tried every babywearing device we could think of to help; Moby, slings, wraps, Bjorn, Ergo – but nothing helped. I remember clearly the time Sam wrapped her forward facing in the Moby to walk around and she projectile vomited all over it and the floor so much we had to take her out and wash it. I had to use layered burp cloths when I wore her facing me – and each time she’d throw up I’d pull one out, shove it in the diaper bag and keep going.

The reflux ruined our love of wearing her. It was hard for her to enjoy it either. I felt awful that it was so difficult for us to be close. I eventually tucked most of our carriers away because it was frustrating to clean them and only be able to have them on for a few minutes at a time.

When she turned a year old and was no longer throwing up, I decided to try again. I bought a ring sling, got out the Ergo. I don’t know how to explain it, I simply felt a need to be close to her in some way that we had missed before.

It wasn’t easy. She was used to be on her own and while she loved to be carried, she wasn’t keen at first on being snuggled against us. Sam tried different ways to wear her and she came to love the Ergo with him. He was gone for 4 months with the Army, and coming home he carried her around all over in it.

The ring sling was something we both ended up loving – I could wear it for hours without it hurting my back and shoulders, Bella was up high enough she could see and use her hands to point and hold onto things, but when she grew tired it was simple for her to rest against me. I can adjust it, take her in and out of it quickly, and it’s sturdy enough I never wonder if she’s safe.

I feel as if I’ve gained back some of the time we lost with her as a baby. I love having her next to me as we walk through zoos and museums, knowing that she’s seeing what I see and I can easily talk to her about everything. I also love that I probably burn twice as many calories carrying her around 🙂 but that’s just another benefit.

There are so many benefits of babywearing an older child. For us, it proved to be the bonding experience that most people get in the early months. I’m thankful we were able to do it successfully the second time around, and for the carriers that made it possible and easy.

Interview Series: Dave Taylor

We are continuing our interview series with API Contributing Bloggers with Dave Taylor of APparenting.com.  Read on to hear more about his life as a single dad of 3, and his thoughts on parenting preteens and teenagers!

Tell us about your family.

I’m based in Boulder, Colorado and am a single Dad to three terrific kids: a 14yo daughter, 10yo son and 7yo daughter. They’re all very artistic and talented athletes too: the older girl is a star of her school volleyball team and my son is one of the leading players on his YMCA basketball team. In fact, his team made it to the championship just a few weeks ago, but, alas, ended up in second place.

What led you to Attachment Parenting?

I was definitely not raised in an attachment parenting household. In fact, my childhood is better characterized as an English “stiff-upper-lip” philosophy where I was left to my own devices from an early age and my parents were involved, but less and less as time went on.

When we had our first child, I was prepared to continue that same parenting philosophy when their Mom suggested that a more affectionate, more hands-on approach to child rearing would garner benefits for both them and us. Honestly, co-sleeping, slings instead of strollers and the like just felt natural and it’s a heck of a lot of fun to have that close a connection, that much proximity, to a wide-eyed new life. It’s all felt very natural and empowering.

How do you deal with friends/family/strangers who don’t understand or who disagree with AP practices?

I am blessed to be surrounded by family and friends who accept my parenting choices and are supportive of the children. We get an occasional confused comment about our sleeping arrangements (it’s not unheard of for my 10yo or even 14yo to grab a sleeping bag and bunk on the floor of my room on a stormy night). Even better, the school they’re in has many parents of a similar philosophical bent, so the child pushed into being independent at a very early age is the oddity, not the one who is still held, loved and nurtured by their parent.

I don’t really feel like I’m an evangelist for AP, but I will admit that there are times when I watch someone pushing a shrieking infant in a stroller and bite my tongue rather than say “y’know, if you just held them, they’d stop crying…”.  Why?  Because I don’t want people to judge my parenting choices so I extend the same respect to them. I can’t know why they choose to parent the way they do, so it’s better – in my opinion – not to get involved.

What does 2011 hold for your family? What goals do you have for your kids/ family in the coming year?

Goals? Our goal is always to attain as much peace and harmony in our lives as possible. It’s tough for them with two households, we try our best to minimize it, but it’s not as smooth as being in one house with two parents who get along well and enjoy each other’s company. But somehow we make it work, with a pinch of humor and a dash of silliness. At least, most of the time. 🙂

How has attachment parenting evolved as your kids get older? I don’t hear enough about parenting teenagers and preteens and would love your insight into the new challenges and opportunities that come with older kids.

I have to say that like many parenting approaches, I think AP is more suited for younger children, toddlers and babies, for children in the developmental phases where they seek to stay attached, not detach and explore their world. On the other hand, we all appreciate someone who can listen to us, respect us as individuals and give us a hug when things aren’t going well, so the core concepts underlying AP are still quite relevant for parenting adolescents. For me, it’s about listening, respect, and being straightforward with them. When we get into a tussle, I explain my perspective and do my best to then be quite and listen to theirs. We discuss solutions, come up with compromises that meet both our needs (as best we can) and go on our way together. It’s not always easy, but parenting isn’t easy. But it’s worth it. I will add this too: I think it’s critically important for parents to be their *parent*, not a child’s friend. That always influences my interaction with my children, but that also helps them know that they still have that great safety net as they learn to explore…

Thanks for your insights Dave! Please check out Dave’s Attachment Parenting Blog for more on his great kids and his journey as a single Dad.

Getting on the Same Parenting Page

My husband Jon and I disagree on many topics. I enjoy novels, he enjoys weighty non-fiction histories. I like spicy food and he prefers peanut butter and jam sandwiches. In the years we’ve spent together, we’ve learned how to negotiate our differences and in some cases we’ve even come around to share the other person’s point of view.

When our children arrived we entered a whole new phase as a couple. Suddenly there was a whole lot more at stake – two little people were depending on us. While it was easy enough to laugh off our different movie preferences, it was not so easy to laugh off our divergent parenting opinions.

For us, the early days were the most straightforward. While my husband was informed and supportive, most decisions surrounding pregnancy and birth fell to me. Breastfeeding was another easy choice for me, which my husband supported. Co-sleeping was a natural outcropping of breastfeeding and my desire for rest as well as our shared choice to not leave our babies to cry.
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Dads Can Help Breastfeed Too

Button your shirt back up – that’s not exactly what we had in mind. But, you’re much more valuable to the breastfeeding experience than you think. Dads can certainly contribute to successful breastfeedingbreastfeeding if it’s treated as a team effort. Here’s how to help mom and baby get off to a great start.

Speak up, your lady is listening! Does dad have any influence on mom’s decision to give baby breast milk or formula? To find out, researchers assigned one group of expectant fathers to take an infant care and breastfeeding information class, while another group learned about infant care only. Nearly twice as many mothers whose partners learned about breastfeeding decided to give it a try as did mothers whose partners learned about infant care only. It appears dad does have a say in the matter.

Get her started. Once the decision has been made, dads can help moms get the hang of it. Help your sleepy partner remember what the lactation consultant taught. Fetch her earmarked nursing books and tall glasses of ice-water with a bendy straw. Seek information and assistance before problems become overpowering. Your partner’s experience in the early days often determines whether or not she can happily continue. Do all you can to make breastfeeding convenient, troubleshoot problems, and help your partner embrace the many positive aspects of feeding time.
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