Monday, August 30, 2010

Avant Garde Parent of the Week: Snapshot from an Attachment Parent

This is Heather. Not only is she the mom of two precious girls, a member of a community dance group, and active in her church, but she is also an uh-maze-ing photographer  (Look at the title of her post- get it?!). Can you say SuperMom??? Heather Attachment Parents her two girls, so I asked her to write about how AP works in her family life. Enjoy and leave Heather some love in the comments! 

When Jamie asked me to write a guest post about attachment parenting I hesitated, because I’m not an expert on the subject, and I’m not perfect…but I finally decided what I could do was share a snapshot of my life as I attachment parent. I can’t promise a professional portrait all polished and beautiful, but I’ll try to do the subject as much justice as I can…

Heather wearing her daughter
Before I go any further, I should explain what I mean by attachment parenting. To me, it’s kind of like viewing your relationship with your child as a duet…being in unity, harmonizing with her.  You’re the stronger partner, so you’re the one doing all the lifts and helping her balance, but it’s a collaborative effort. Dr. Sears has a number of really wonderful articles on the subject that give slightly more down to earth explanations. ;)

I began attachment parenting long before I knew there was a name for it. I’m pretty sure the first conscious choice I made to attachment parent was when my first baby was less than 2 weeks old and my husband and I sat down to watch a movie together.  She was asleep so I set her down, but within about 5 minutes of being away from her I didn’t feel right not having her in my arms when there was no good reason she couldn’t be. I went and picked her up and all 3 of us cuddled as we watched the movie. It felt so right and wonderful to just be physically connected to her.

I instinctively used a number of the attachment tools Dr. Sears describes, nursing on cue, responding sensitively, and carrying her. I didn’t get a good baby carrier until she was 5 months old, and I didn’t realize that co-sleeping is not unsafe until she was about 10 months old, so I got to discover the joys of doing those things with a newborn with my second baby.  Most importantly, I grew to be in tune with both of my children and I refuse to listen to anything that isn’t what I know is best for them and for our family (though, whenever obstacles come up that I’m not sure how to get around, I read, seek advice, and try things that I feel might be good options).

Now, if you took a look at Dr. Sears’ website, you probably noticed that it talks a lot about babies, and a little about toddlers…but this is a blog about preschoolers, so I’d like to take a second and talk about a few practical things I do to continue attachment parenting my 3 year old.
One thing that is probably slightly unconventional but that we both LOVE, is continuing to wear her. There are mornings when she wakes up and really wants me to hold her but I want to get coffee made and need to cut some grapes for my 9 month old to munch on, so letting her ride on my back in a carrier works perfectly. 

She’s quite independent now.  She’ll run off to the other side of the park to play with her friends, or even excitedly go stay at her grandparents for a week at a time, but she also likes to reconnect a lot. It’s her strong connection to me that provides her the security to explore her independence. The main way she reconnects is with physical touch. She’ll sit in my lap while I read to her, hold my hand while we’re sitting at our desks that are side by side, or I’ll simply rest my hand on her shoulder as I’m standing behind her watching her paint. And possibly most beneficial to her of all, we close every night by me or my husband rubbing her back as she falls asleep, and start almost every morning by cuddling in bed for 10 to 20 minutes before we get up.

Heather nursing baby
Another way I connect with her is really more of a way of thinking…Alfie Kohn describes it in Unconditional Parenting as working with your child rather than doing something to your child. So, for example, my preschooler LOVES to swim…and doesn’t like to leave the swimming pool. I could tell her she has to leave and punish her if she doesn’t, and then when we got home I would have a very unhappy child to deal with…but instead, I choose to work with her to help her be able to say goodbye peacefully. I make sure that we do swim as often as possible so that she always knows we’ll be back soon. I give her frequent notices that we’ll have to leave soon once it gets near time to go. I make sure she knows what enjoyable activity we’re leaving the pool to go do. When there are 10 seconds left we count to 10 together (happily, not in a stern or threatening way).  And finally we say goodbye to the swimming pool, the fountain, and the hot tub. None of those things take very much effort from me, but they help her leave happily and easily move on to what we need to do next.

Finally, I just ENJOY having two awesome girls and spending time with them! I don’t think of parenting as enforcing rules, laying down the law, or dictating ordinances. And you want to know a secret? I don’t necessarily even think of it as teaching in the traditional sense, either. As I attachment parent, I’m really just focusing on my relationship with my children, loving them and being caring and compassionate. Along the way, I teach…mostly by doing, and almost always while having fun. Occasionally I have to enforce rules, but here’s another secret…when I’m more busy playing with my girls than worrying about a bunch of rules, the rules that are important aren’t that hard to enforce.

I encourage you to come up with one way you can connect with your child today, and do it! 

More information on Attachment Parenting can be found at http://www.attachmentparenting.org/


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