Sunday, January 13, 2008

I can be taught!

There's a big brou ha ha going on here about Dr. Sears and attachment parenting and MomGuilt and so on. Because I have learned from previous experience, I am NOT going to comment over there.

But since y'all keep coming back, I guess you must have at least a moderate interest in what I might think, and so... Here's what I think about Attachment Parenting, Dr. Sears, etc.


I have two very different babies. Mary Grace Needs. She Needs attention, affection, love, touch, everything with a capital N. From the moment she was born, she was completely addicted to "the nurse." She would wake up whenever I tried to put her in the cradle or the crib. She needs almost constant stimulation and interaction, unless she's watching Mickey Mouse, in which case she's like, "Shut up and get out of my way, Mom, the Mouse is on." She is intense. She is demanding. She is (dare I say it?) difficult. Ok, not every day. Some days she's not difficult at all, but she is always challenging.

When Mary Grace was my only child, I thought that every baby Needed as much as she does. So, it made sense that the parenting method I used to survive (attachment parenting, in which you nurse on demand, co-sleep, and baby wear, among other things, but those are the holy trinity of AP) was the method I thought everyone should use. If I wasn't nursing her, sleeping in the same bed as her, or wearing her, she was screaming, for like the first 8 months of her life. Clearly, I thought, if all babies needed as much as MG, then any parent who didn't AP wasn't giving their child what s/he truly needed, and therefore sucked.


Then I met Claire. Claire sleeps. Claire sleeps so much that when she was new and sleeping in the bassinet, BJ and I would walk by and check, often, to make sure she was still breathing, because we couldn't believe that a baby would sleep that much. Claire entertains herself. She's perfectly happy to sit and watch the world (especially her fascinating big sister). Claire likes her father. MG didn't really warm up to BJ until she was bigger, mainly because he was not in possession of The Nurse. Claire, on the other hand, will get hurt and reach for him (which, to be honest, blows my mind after dealing with MG, but once I get over my initial, "HEY! I'm the mom! You want ME!" reaction, I'm glad to encourage). Claire will crawl away from someone to play with a toy by herself. Claire would bite me, then crawl away to play with something by herself if I tried to nurse her 24/7, whereas MG would still happily lie in bed and nurse all day if I'd let her (which I won't - it's safe to say, now, that she is officially weaned. Hallelujah!).

In other words, I would drive Claire insane if I tried to parent her the way I parented MG. We still co-sleep because I'm lazy and I don't want to get up in the night, but she starts the night in the crib - something MG didn't do until she was 12 months old, maybe older, it's hard to remember through the sleep deprivation. Claire will wean much earlier than MG did, because she's not a nurse addict. I wear her in the sling because I need my hands to wrangle MG, but she's just as happy in the cart or the stroller. I wear her because I want to, because I enjoy it, not because I have to.

In other words, different kids have different needs, and smart parents (am I flattering myself too much if I say good parents?) adapt their parenting style/philosophy to the kid they have.

You parent the kid you have. You give your kid what he or she needs to be happy and successful, insofar as you are able to do so. What works for my kid may or may not work for your kid. What works for your first kid may or may not work for your subsequent kids. So can we all stop judging each other and just get on with the business of doing what's best for our kids, ourselves, and our families?

And as for the "experts," I think it's a good idea to follow my rule - I only accept parenting advice from people whose kids I would want to live with. I might use other people (even people without kids) for ideas, or solutions I hadn't thought of on my own, but if someone whose kids are holy terrors (not that any of YOUR kids are holy terrors, I'm talking about foolish people who don't read my blog!) tells me that I'm wrongity wrong wrong, well, let's just say that I don't spend a lot of angst on their opinion. I don't know Dr. Sears' kids, or Dr. Ferber's kids, or Dr. Seuss' kids for that matter, and they don't know mine, so I reserve the right to completely ignore everything they say if it goes against my instincts, and you should too.


Trena said...

We are also doing the attachment parenting thing at our house...out of sheer necessity as well. I love Owen to death, but there are times where he just wears me out and it isn't worth fighting (listening to him just get more and more mad and not any closer to actually going to sleep when we try CIO with him in his crib) and yeah, I'd really like for him to be weaned at 18 months...but it doesn't look like that's happening any time soon either ;). I don't look down on people who do it another way (although I might be a little jealous of the amount of sleep those not co-sleeping are getting), we just did it this way because it worked for us and will change it up and around for any future children we might be blessed with as well.

I am hopeful, after reading about your experience with you two different daughters, that we too might be blessed to someday have a child who doesn't regard sleep as something awful and terrible. I joke to my husband that I love Owen dearly, but would really love it if our other children might come wired a little differently with regard to sleep.

Heather (the other one) said...

"In other words, different kids have different needs, and smart parents (am I flattering myself too much if I say good parents?) adapt their parenting style/philosophy to the kid they have."

Sweetie... that *is* attachment parenting. You're creating a close enough bond with each of your kids that you know what they need, in part because you can understand what they're telling you. You *get* that you have two different kids with distinct personalities, and you don't try to parent them both the same way.

I'm a big fan of the whole AP thing, but then I got lucky to have an easygoing, mellow kid. Her only problem is that since I self-medicated on chocolate through most of my pregnancy, she thinks she has a right to my organic 76% cacao gourmet nirvana.