Sophie is getting more & more independent. This past weekend, we were trying out our new tent, so Ben set it up in the backyard and the whole family was lounging in it. But Sophie didn’t lounge for long. She crawled out the tent-door and across the whole yard, not looking back once. You’d think this might make me feel spurned, but really, it makes me proud. Because I’ve already had enough of attachment parenting.
Attachment Parenting is the idea that the more promptly you respond to your infant baby, the more secure that child will eventually become. It was a theory that made a lot of sense to me before I had a baby. It involves baby-wearing in a sling, co-sleeping in bed, giving birth naturally if at all possible in order to enable early bonding, breastfeeding on demand and not by a clock… I like all of that in the abstract. In practice, I am here to report, it gets exhausting.
Actually, I love my sling (and my Ergo, now that Sophie is bigger) – but I am also grateful that Sophie loves riding in a supermarket cart. My back is grateful, too.
I loved our natural birth, I’m proud that I didn’t need pain medication – but I have a lot of sympathy for the people in our birthclass who felt like failures when they did need epidurals or even c-sections, lamenting what they missed, instead of simply celebrating what really matters, which is having a healthy baby and healthy mom.
I like cuddling up with Sophie in our bed at night, but I resent it when she kicks me in the face and pushes me to the edge of the bed – or even off the edge. I now have large pillows stacked beside the bed, because sometimes I end up there. I think that this attachment parenting means Sophie demands more nighttime attention than she would if she were in her crib all night – and I know that I desperately need my sleep. Sophie begins most nights in her crib, but gets to come in our bed when she needs it – which is starting to be earlier & earlier, ever since her ear infection. Next week I’m going to work on prolonging crib time.
In all my admiration for attachment parenting, I forgot to notice that it leaves parents little time for themselves. Once, when Sophie was young, I took advantage of her nap-time to try to change the kitty-litter. She woke up & started crying, but I had to finish changing the catbox and then wash my hands. And I found myself feeling guilty for making her wait. It’s an odd system indeed that makes me feel guilty for changing the kitty-litter.
I also didn’t notice that attachment parenting gets pretty fuzzy about how and when a child should transition from clinginess to independence. I guess the theory is that it will happen naturally, and I am thankful that it is happening somewhat naturally for Sophie. Now, sometimes, I can walk away from her when she’s playing on her own. I can go to the bathroom, weed the garden, and sometimes even cook dinner or grade papers without my daughter howling out that she is neglected. This makes childwatching far more fun. Sophie IS fun – every morning when we go for a walk, lately she reaches out to touch each flower we pass. But Sophie can also be boring. After fifty minutes of stacking blocks, I am ready to do something else. Finally, now, Sophie will let me.
She still cries every morning when I leave her at daycare. I try to just walk away, ignoring my attachment-parenting-induced guilt. I know that she stops crying as soon as I’m out of sight. I know that whenever I come to pick her up, she will be happily playing with her daycare friends. I hope that she knows how much she is loved, even though I no longer carry her in a sling, next to my beating heart, for hours every day.