One of the issues with using a label such as “Attachment Parenting,” is that it infers that if one does not follow the eight principles to a “T,” that they cannot be part of the club.
Particularly when you have one child, and they are very young, most of us in this generation just want to do the very best that we can, but sometimes it can cross the line and become a little obsessive.
Personally, I understand this well. I am a recovering perfectionist/control freak, and my adventures in parenting has afforded me the biggest life lessons. I believe that if my first born was not the highly sensitive soul he was/is, I would have continued my controlling pattern. In many ways, I am still unlearning and very much a work in progress.
The way dogmatic parenting manifests negatively is similar to any disordered habit. Striving for perfection, following tools as if they are RULES, sabotaging relationships, and feeling shame, depression or anxiety when you veer from said rules are all results of rigidity.
When my first born was a toddler, I began taking a series of parenting courses. I loved meeting other parents with common values. I enjoyed the time away to learn and grow. I respected the facilitator, and was fascinated by what I was learning about infant and child psychology. The teacher talked about the negative implications of screen-time, about ensuring as a parent that you are the “alpha,” and how and why we need to set boundaries, especially with our “alpha” kids (often what a high-needs baby evolves into). I began to believe that my toddler was addicted to the tablet, that it was negatively affecting his emotional regulation, and I then deemed it necessary to eliminate all screens.
What happened next is not a reflection of the teacher, but more so a reflection of my own issues in how I translated and applied what was being taught. Instead of achieving my goal of perfect-parenting, what I did was temporarily damage my son’s trust in me. I set myself up for an unreasonable expectation, and made life unnecessarily hard for everyone.
Rewind to when my eldest was 5 months old. I was following a sleep strategy which meant caregivers had pages of instructions to read and follow for the “routine”. I had recommended novels for my parents and in-laws to read, so that they too would become the enlightened human I had become, and be able to provide optimal care for my baby. Today I roll my eyes at this memory of myself!
In retrospect, I think this was like going on a strict crash-diet, and the results were similar. At first I told everyone who would listen about what I was learning and doing, and how fantastic it was going. You have probably heard other parents preach too, and maybe became influenced to follow their advice, whether that be with sleep-training or enforcing certain discipline tactics.
When my little utopian bubble popped (because life happens) I felt like that 10th grader failing the math quiz. With shame comes denial, and proof of THAT is how you rarely hear from parents who have sleep-trained. Do they necessarily remember to circle back to you a few months later when baby is back in their bed, or to tell you how the night weaning went backwards, or how their 4 year old is waking up more than the newborn? Not often enough do we share the whole picture of parenting, and that it can never be perfect.
For me, the pendulum swung in the far left-hand side and in response to my screen-time elimination experience, I wrote a piece on how Limits and Boundaries are Buzzwords. I totally slid into another perspective, and again, due to my interpretations and applications, there was a new set of repercussions.
The lesson in all of this is you can’t be perfect–you just can’t–or, you already are perfect, even in your self-imposed struggle. What makes a good parent is not how well-behaved their children are, how many hours their baby sleeps in-a-row, how early their toddler learns to potty, or their child’s regimented screen-time schedule. Spending a prescribed 3-4 hours outdoors per day and wearing logo/character-free garments does not guarantee a perfect “end-result” either.
What makes a good parent is very simple, and can be summed up in just one word: FLOW. If you are lovingly engaged in the parenting journey, you can afford some missteps. You’ll all be okay.
The principles of Attachment Parenting are meant as a guide to connect and validate your intuition. There is a lot of grey area, and a lot of room for adjustment to the many varying possibilities of circumstances you might have been dealt as a family.
The idea of Attachment Parenting is not to alienate, discriminate, or judge one another, but to provide community, compassion and courage so parents can parent from their heart. Our organization is non-profit, and we operate from the understanding that peace in the world begins at home.
Sleep consolidation, table manners, early-literacy and being diaper-free are not measures of success. The bravado around parenting and the divisive nature of this delicate journey, seriously needs to stop. If we can ditch the dogma around parenting and be able to nurture our children (and ourselves) in a way that simply puts love and empathy first, well, that my friends, is world-peace. Such a simple concept, but so difficult. Rather than cling to an ideology that doesn’t serve us, we can choose ENJOY this time and live happier, fuller lives with our families.