How Attachment Parenting Found Me

 

I had always planned to parent similarly to the way I was raised but with more structure, like the southern baptist families that populated most of my schools growing up. I would have strict curfews, rules, dinner at the table, yes sir and no sir and my children would do as they were told. I saw plenty of children around me raised this way…then I saw them grow up. I wasn’t so sold by the time we were late teens and college age, many of them had rebelled and were left to face difficult consequences.

Over my first few years in the north I began utilizing another system in my role as a nanny, it was very popular in the area, I call it the rewards and reinforcements method. This style focuses on sticker charts, marble jars, chore sheets and other behavior incentives to train children to respond appropriately to expected tasks so you don’t have to punish them and when you do you typically do so by withholding a reward. I would soon see both in childcare and soon in my classrooms that this can breed a dependency on external motivators and in the worst cases students/children who know where the line is and will tiptoe until touching it as many times as possible, knowing they are invinceable if they stay just this side of the carefully outlined rule.

By the time I stepped into my first developmental pyschology class I was pretty sure neither of these two very common systems worked and I wanted something more for my future students and children but wasn’t sure what. When we reached attachment theory a lightbulb clicked and while I wouldn’t really think to label it such for years, my journey with attachment parenting began.

Attachment parenting is an oft abused and misused term. It is frequently misapplied to what is, in reality, permissive parenting. In some circles it is synonomous with hippie/granola/crunchy parenting and in others with certain choices like breastfeeding, babywearing or cosleeping. All of these things miss the mark of attachment parenting though. Attachment parenting is parenting with the goal of creating a secure attachment for your child and it can be achieved in many different ways but one thing is consistent throughout: Responsiveness. Attachment parenting might better be termed responsive parenting.

The eight principles of AP are:

  • Prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting.
  • Feed with love and respect.
  • Respond with sensitivity.
  • Use nurturing touch.
  • Engage in nighttime parenting.
  • Provide constant, loving care.
  • Practice positive discipline.
  • Strive for balance in personal and family life.

NOWHERE does it say that you must breastfeed, extended cosleep, cloth diaper, etc, etc, in fact that wouldn’t be AP if it was wrong for your child because AP is about RESPONDING to YOUR child.  Don’t get me wrong these things can be part of the journey for some families, I have nursed each of our children to 2+ years old and we had a family bed until our preschooler was old enough to feel comfortable in his own but that was what was right for us and it might not be for you.

The first few years of my oldest’s life I could feel the hesitancy from those around us about our choices, were we babying him or spoiling him? Wouldn’t nursing him that long hurt his growth or something? When was he going to sleep in his own bed? Why won’t you make him interact with people he doesn’t know, that’s what is normal. Then my child passed the attaching phase (typically from 6 months – 2 years) and the seeds we had been toiling diligently to plant in his life began to sprout. Those same people began to see that indeed he was more independent and capable than his peers in many areas and the questions changed in tone from judgment to advice, how can I get my daughter in law to try X, would my child benefit from Y. I responded to where he was and waited patiently for him to be ready for each skill and as such prevented the typical cycles of regression so many struggle with.

I’m not saying there is only one right way to parent but I do think that responsive parenting would be beneficial to every child. What it looks like varies widely based on the child’s needs though, even in the same family, because it is responsive! For example I would have never put my oldest child in a “time out” it was not necessary and would not have been effective, instead he and I cuddled and talked over the situation and it worked everytime. If I tried that with my daughter it would only escalate the situation as she does not like touch or affection when upset, so with her I simply remove her to comfy place, usually her room and tell her I will see her when she’s done crying and ready to talk.

Our journey is still in progress and I assume there will be many bumps in the road to come but I have no doubt that responding to my children’s needs and meeting them where they are will always be a positive choice.  As a Christian I have a Father who is always available, always willing to listen and guides my life through prayer, scripture and the Holy Spirit and I think that being a constant, loving, stable place for my child is one of the many ways I can model that relationship.

If you want to learn more about attachment theory there is a helpful summary here on Attach from Scratch and if you would like to know more about Attachment Parenting you can check out the AP International site.

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Thank You

 

Every day you work hard to provide for our family but that’s not what makes you amazing.

You get down on the floor to wrestle, change the princess dresses, play hockey in the drive and run around the playground but that’s not what makes you a terrific father.

You help me demonstrate every single day what a loving, healthy marriage looks like, that fun and love, apologies and respect are all part of the daily give and take but that’s not the thing that makes you such a titan among dads.

What makes you the example I thank the Lord daily for is the bible verses in your email, it’s the passion for understanding God’s will, it’s the desire to do what he calls even when it’s not what you “want”.

Our children are so blessed to have you, science can show the impact of a father on almost every area of a person’s life from self esteem to education and earning potential but it can not quantify the impact a Christ following father has on eternity. The seeds you are sowing in our family will sow seeds in their families and so on through the generations. I am thankful for the quanitifable impact you have on our kids but more so for the things that can’t be seen, those are the true treasures.

 

Stop Wasting Valentine’s Day

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Memes and blogs have been choking my newsfeed from women who claim THEY aren’t buying into traditional Valentine’s day hype because they are ok with just a card and chocolates (or taco bell according to one meme) or just a regular date, nothing fancy.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but ….you are still buying into it. Just because you aren’t settings your expectations high does not change that you have them.

I actually don’t buy into Valentine’s Day. I never really have. I looked at it from a historical perspective and thought it seemed a really strange day to celebrate romance so as a teen I dutifully received the roses and chocolates and jewelry from boys each year but the joke was on them because I wouldn’t have cared if I didn’t.

By college I told gentlemen I dated that Valentine’s Day really wasn’t my thing and I don’t like fresh flowers or wear much jewelry and chocolate should really be an anytime/ all the time gift but it tastes better when I pay half price after a holiday. When I found my husband he thankfully shared my views on the day and it passed without recognition most years except once when we decided other people spend money on Vday so we could totally go buy a Costco membership and call it a gift to ourselves.

A few years ago though I realized I was wasting Valentine’s Day, thanks to our pastor who really emphasizes that our lives need to be about service, starting with random acts of kindness expecting nothing in return. Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to show love to strangers without making them worry you are crazy!

We still don’t go on a date, buy each other stuff or even do cards but my husband and I totally celebrate Valentine’s Day now! We use it as a day to be mindful and go out into the community sharing Christ’s love and expecting nothing in return. I buy chocolates and roses and ribbons and make a few dozen Valentine’s “gifts” complete with scriptures of love then we head to places like malls with lots of people and let ourselves (and our kids!) be led to those who need some extra love that day.

If you feel loved every other day of the year try using Valentine’s Day as a day to show love to OTHER people, people you don’t normally show love to, maybe even people you don’t know! I promise you will not feel like you wasted Valentine’s Day!

 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4:9-10

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*Somehow women choosing not to celebrate is ok but men get painted as awful if they allow it so before my poor husband catches any heat, our decision not to celebrate Valentine’s day was mindful, deliberate and led by me, he even tried some small gestures in our early years of marriage but he knows me well enough to see I meant it and that stuff was wasted on me .* 

 

Love Doesn’t Change.

While the lights of the stadium still blazed at the Super Bowl last night and families in homes across the nation debated the merits of puppymonkeybaby or doritos dogs I had another thought.

A sadder one. A darker one. One that kept me awake for hours as I lay listening to my children’s peaceful breathing.

There are many people near that stadium tonight who would not have been celebrating no matter the outcome. When you are trapped in the sex trafficking industry there is little to celebrate.

This may seem like a strange introduction to the phrase Love Doesn’t Change but that’s exactly what my son reminded me as I hugged him while we chatted this morning.

I tell my children frequently that love doesn’t change. It’s a simple statement that reminds them of a powerful truth we discuss often. My love for them will never change into anything different than love. It can grow of course but it will never change into something else and nothing they do or anyone else does could ever cause it too. Even more importantly God’s love for them will never change either, someday I will explain the types of love to them but for now, the word Love is enough on it’s own.

This simple step; an open, ongoing dialog that reminds them there is absolutely nothing in the world that could make me or their dad stop loving them is the first step in preventing them from ever being one of those people trapped in the trafficking industry.

When children know they will be loved in any circumstance, even unspeakable ones, they become a very difficult target for predators. Predators don’t want to be noticed by the herd, they pick off those they can take most quietly and easily. When a child is too afraid to tell you something because they don’t know it wouldn’t change your feelings they become the quiet prey. Let them know. Tell them. You love them and nothing could ever change that because love doesn’t change, not real love, not the kind a parent has for a child or Christ has for us.

 

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I Admire You, Fellow Mom

I see you handling that tantrum compassionately.

I see you encouraging your child to be polite and well mannered.

I see you unpacking that healthy lunch that took alot of prep.

I see you letting your kid be a kid; a loud, noisy, wild kid, in an appropriate place for it.

I see sometimes when your child doesn’t respond the way you want but that’s ok because I see you trying.

I want to say good job or you seem like a great mom, I want to compliment you but…you know…kids. Usually by the time i’ve had a quiet enough moment to process you have already left, moved on, gone. And sometimes I get in my way, I wonder if you’d think i’m weird for complimenting you and I decide its safer not to.

I know you want the same things I do, you need to hear you are doing a good job sometimes, and I want to tell you, I really do but most of the time I don’t. I’m working on that, maybe you are too.

There are probably lots of days another mom is admiring your parenting handiwork and just to rushed, shy, jealous or distracted to say so but you still need to hear it. You are doing a good job. If you have kids that are loved and safe and happy (mostlyish) then you are doing a good job.

 

fellow mom

 

Politics, Religion and the Wisdom of Silence

Start discussions of FAITH with the nonbelievers and do not get sidetracked on the nuances of life and how to live it until they know WHO the live it for.

Save the discussions of politics for fellow believers so that iron may sharpen iron and you can grow in wisdom, better understanding HOW to live this live in glory to Christ

So I am a follower of Christ. That is no secret, nor would I want it to be.

I am also very politically active, with the majority of those activities leaning conservative, which does not seem like an issue, in fact being a religious conservative is fairly typical.

But there is a problem because the two things can not and will not always agree.

Sometimes my view as a Christian and my view as an American get mixed together because I happen to be both things but it does not change that they are not mutually inclusive or exclusive.

Sometimes what I know to be true as a Christian is not what should be legally true as an American.

My desire to defend the rights and freedoms of Americans is not born of my love of Christ. It does not mean it’s unchristian of me to do so but I have to examine these desires carefully.

Sometimes I’m compelled to speak, sometimes i’m compelled to silence. Sometimes I pray from a place of confusion, other times from one of peace.

Sometimes my religion is used against me by people who have never cared to actually understand what it is they hate. Sometimes my religion is used by people who think they understand it as a reason to hate things they don’t like.

But at the heart of all of this I think one thing can be forgotten by myself and my fellow Christians.

This it NOT our home.  America (or wherever you are reading this!) is not our country. We are foreigners here. We are strangers in an alien land. God called us to be. So everyday that you wake up and watch the news and feel like you just can’t understand all the evil and hate and ridiculousness in the world…you shouldn’t. You don’t belong here. We are here for one job, and it is not to fit in, it is not to change society, it is not to win battles. We are here to lead people to Christ.

I will still vote and remain politically active because I have children and I don’t want them to grow up in a place without the freedom to choose their own paths just like I got to. I will still debate privately with people who want to understand my perspective. I won’t let my political voice drown out who I am though, I won’t let the hatred that is synonymous with politics define me instead of the self sacrificing love of Christ. I will attempt to show Christ’s love to people I strongly disagree with.

There is far too much political apathy in the church and I don’t want to condone that but many have been driven to that point to avoid being associated with the small but loud and angry mob who use Christ’s name as a shield. We need more Christians who take stands in love, not giving up ground on issues of faith but not screaming and attacking over them either.

Proverbs 1:7 reminds us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” 

A relationship with God is the beginning of knowledge, you will never convince someone you are right on a political point that is based on a religious worldview until you first convince them of that religion.

Start discussions of FAITH with the nonbelievers and do not get sidetracked on the nuances of life and how to live it until they know WHO they live it for.

Save the discussions of POLITICS for fellow believers so that iron may sharpen iron and you can grow in wisdom, better understanding HOW to live this life in glory to Christ.

 

Preschoolers, Sensory Issues and Play

When I was teaching Kindergarten many parents would stress about the Kindergarten readiness test and I would reassure them with the truth, few kids “fail” the test, it is more about giving me a baseline on where they are coming in and to give the parents time to help them work on any area they might be “behind” typical.

I would also tell them the truth: I would rather have a student who can play well with other kids at playtime and recess and knows proper bathroom behavior than one who can read, add or recite the Gettysburg Address. Why? Because you can teach most “school” skills to kids at very young ages if you try but when you do you are taking time away from the skills they should be naturally developing. Kids need to be able to deal with their own emotions, share, take turns, maintain self control long enough to use a bathroom unsupervised, eat a food that isn’t their favorite, wear clothes that feel a little funny occasionally…in short to deal with life. They should have learned to bounce back from little unpleasantries (not getting picked first or having to wait for a toy another child has) and be able to use their imaginations, initiate basic problem solving and they should know how to fail sometimes.

When I went into education had a wonderful resource in my Nanny who taught headstart for years, raised 5 boys and helped with a dozen or so grandkids and 9 great grandkids to date. She used to tell me that the older 6 of us grandkids (we are in our 20-30s while the younger half are still kids in elementary-high school) were very different, that she had to “relearn” alot to babysit the younger set because kids today are different. She would explain how different play was for them but until I began teaching it wouldn’t full hit me.  Now I understand because play looks very different than it did for my generation or those before us. I spent many hours at my nanny’s as a child happy with 3 main “toys”: my cousins, nature and crayons (and the occasional nickolodean show when it was time to cool off inside;)). We climbed trees, explored creeks, fished, chased lightning bugs and played “bad guys” and “school”. Kids now want devices, toys, items and specific activities to play so even somewhere as untouched by some changes as Sardis, Alabama… kids are different.

This all came into play when my own son was born, I knew what kids used to be like and I knew what they are like now and I wanted him to be like I was…but can you control society’s impact? We would see. He was in daycare for the first 3 years of life and he did it very well, in fact, in very structured and routine environments he flourished. He was a model student who never got sent to the calm down spot and always got rave reviews from the teachers…but outside of “school” he struggled with free play environments. He had difficulty knowing how to play with other kids, make his own games and overcome small obstacles without a teacher there feeding him the “right” responses. I will never know how much that environment, which had lots of play but was still too academic for 18-36 month olds, combined with my mommy guilt inabling, played into his social and sensory issues because I can’t go back in time but I do know that the issues developed while in daycare and with a few years at home many are gone or minimal now.

At one point I considered having him seen for an official diagnosis due to societal pressure to “explain” his atypical behaviors, off the record a friend who specializes in this told me he would most likely recieve a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder but since it is not recognized as a stand alone disorder he would get slapped with something like anxiety then the diagnosis of SPD could be attached as a “rider”. I know my child though and I knew that even if he met all the criteria in the world he doesn’t have a “disorder”, he has some sensory issues (or quirks as I call them) but he is a perfectly healthy and functioning little boy and instead of getting him “help” to “accommodate” his issues I wanted to deal with the cause of those issues where possible and teach coping skills where not. I had a feeling this was stemming from unrealistic expectations and the lack of authentic opportunities to develop naturally occuring developmental skills.

I thought about my Nanny’s stories of how children have changed in the last 50 years and began a combination of occupational therapy based activities designed to help remediate his specific sensory quirks that my friend had recommended AND a change in what play meant to our family. I like reading to him, I like making him happy which, when I was working and filled with mommy guilt, meant playing board games with him when he asked…and blocks and cars and…everything I could find time to. No more. When I began staying home I stopped scheduling him in classes, activities or even library storytimes. I stopped taking him to museums or the zoo every single week. I started taking him outside…for hours…even when he got bored, while I did other things in the yard. He had to entertain himself. We would go to a nearby creek bed so he could throw rocks and build stuff with sticks. I would set aside hours each day for him to entertain himself while I cleaned, read or even watched tv (guilt free yo!) in the other room. I stopped giving him “craft” projects and started dumping the art supplies on the table and walking away so he could figure it out himself. I had friends bring their kids over for playdates and then we’d happily chat in my front room and ignore the crap out of the kids unless serious crying broke out so that they could spend time figuring it out themselves; no tvs, no adults, no direction.

It worked by the way. The kid I took out of daycare at 3 had enough overwhelming sensory issues to interfere heavily with his daily life; dressing, eating, changes in routine, it was all difficult and cause for a meltdown. I no longer have to spend 2 weeks of my life getting my child to transition to shorts for summer and then 2 more to get him back in pants during fall because the feeling and sensation of the material on his legs is so jarring. I no longer have to worry if he’ll ever make friends because he has lots and talks a mile a minute with adults (once he feels comfortable, he is still a shy guy but that’s just part of him!). I don’t miss having to stress over the temperature and texture of food because the wrong one can make him cry and gag. These things were part of my life for 2 solid years (from the time he left the “baby” room at daycare and went to a “classroom” to the time I quit my job) and I am so glad I didn’t give into the fear and have him diagnosed because there was never anything wrong with him. He might always hate the feelings of “sticky” or “messy” things, he might never enjoy certain types of foods or clothes but now when he has an issue he has the problem solving skills to work past it and if I had labeled him as broken and went around preparing everything to match his brokenness then he may never have learned those skills.

I’m not the only one to notice that sensory issues and the lack of true play in our society might be linked though…countless articles like this one “The decine of play in preschoolers – and the rise in sensory issues” are being written now that research is coming out to suggest that the two just may be linked.

[Despite the fact that Sensory Processing Disorder is one of the most “overdiagnosed” labels out there right now I am not downplaying that it is real and that for a very small minority of kids the symptoms could not be overcome without alot of therapy but the medical world would agree those children are the very rare exception (and typically have a diagnosis such as autism or adhd that might contribute to their issues). Since I know dozens of kids in my local area with the diagnosis that…well they can’t all be the exception, i’d say some of them just need the chance to fail and play and get messy and for the adults in their life to stop expecting them to sit still and be quiet and “behave” so much.

TRUE SPD is a neurological disorder that impacts the way the brain processes sensory information not just kids who haven’t learned to deal with certain things yet, every human has sensory preferences and left to our own devices we could easily take those preferences to a place that resembles a “disorder” it doesn’t mean we actually have one. ]

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