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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I wonder how my life would be different if Father in Chief had been a religious kind of guy when I met him at 16. Would I have swallowed up the church and let God's love guide me into ignorant bliss? Would I have decided that Toddler in Chief's defects were punishment for not being a good enough Christian? Or a test of faith to bring me closer to God? Ganail says my son's defects are from Satan himself.

Would life be easier to swallow if I could blindly accept that everything happens for a reason and that some greater power is up there calling the shots, for better or for worse? But walking around with rose-colored glasses when the world ain't so rosy is just walking through life in denial. I prefer to have my kid's life founded in reality, instead of leaning on a crutch, as Jon explained it.

For now, TIC will learn that the greatest love is the one you give and receive to/from your family and friends. He'll also learn that helping people is part of being human, not part of an organized religion that is redeemable at a certain place and at a certain time each week.

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I’m with you on that "God's plan" nonsense. If everything is progressing along with "God's will," then isn’t praying a waste of time? If God is the warden of our goofy little asylum, I don't think he bothers consulting with the inmates.

But it has always bugged me when people decide they no longer believe in God after something terrible happens to them. It’s a negative and solipsistic view of faith that says "I'm into the God thing as long as there's something in it for me."

I was also interested to learn that more than 90% of the world's population believes in some sort of supreme being or spiritual force. So I want my kids to experience some sort of organized religion; if they want to join the vastly outnumbered nonbelievers, that's up to them. And if they decide to believe in God, I hope I can at least teach them that the nature of faith is not quid pro quo, and God's primary job is not to make sure everyone's life is fair.

Besides, you can't really decide if something is truly "terrible" until you've have a little time for the context to play out. I was laid off when Son1 was 14 months old, and it seemed like a bad thing at the time. But I used the insomnia spare time to start a blog, and then I got a job as a blogger, and now here I am, a happy agnostic, endorsing that kids be exposed to religion. Can life get any more random than that?

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Monday, November 28, 2005

My only positive memories of being affiliated with a church was when I was in the 6th grade. I was in bell choir and I got to leave school early on Wednesdays for practice. When we were done, we raided the cookie and hot chocolate supply in the church's pantry. I always liked the music around the holidays too.

Other than that, church seemed like a generational thing that I couldn't relate to. Then at the influential age of 16, I met Father in Chief. He was rational, logical, skeptical, sexy. He believed things were founded in science not theology. And I really liked him. So that was that.

The last time God had any kind of presence in my life was when Toddler in Chief was born with his assortment of anatomical abnormalities. People weren't sure how to respond to our email birth announcement that did NOT proclaim mom and baby were doing great. There were plenty of well-meaning replies, but some were not helpful: "God has his reasons." Or, "It's all part of God's plan." Or, "God would never give you anything you can't handle." I especially hate that last one. Do only people who can't handle a sick kid get a healthy one??

If God is so powerful and loving, why are kids born with life-shortening diseases? Mostly, people seem to fall back on God and religion when life has no real explanation. My kid will learn that his defects are a random genetic blooper and that science is the best chance for saving his life, not prayer.

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I don’t cotton much to the idea of a “mixed marriage,” because isn’t every marriage a mixed marriage? Otherwise, we’d all be married to our clones. But of all the many wrinkles in the exquisite tapestry of our marriage, the deepest and wrinkliest is over religion.

My parents took me to church every Sunday when I was a kid, but I never saw much point in any of it. And now that I’m an adult, I’m pretty comfortable in a life that’s random, brutish, and short. My wife, however, is a devout Lutheran, and she has a far more healthy and optimistic view of life than I do. It’s really quite sickening.

About the only thing we do agree on is that if Jesus came back and saw what’s going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.

Clearly, we had to address this before we got married.  So we made a deal.  My wife's faith is far more important to her than my indifference is to me, so the kids go to Sunday school and church.  That way, they'll at least be exposed to sprirituality and decide for themselves whether it has a place in their lives.  And when they're aloof teenagers who've decided that their parents are idiots, they'll know that one parent is a much bigger idiot than the other.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I don’t understand. Why can’t you “win” as an attachment parent? Because it takes so much work? Parenting is effort, period, whether your wear your child as a fashion accessory or you endure a gut-wrenching week of Ferberization. But you can’t sit back and impugn attachment parenting just because it makes you feel like you’re not “good enough.”

It’s easy for me to make a case for attachment parenting, since I’m out of the house nine hours every weekday. But my wife, who usually looks like she’s run two marathons when I get home, feels the same way. We like most of Dr. Sears’s methods not because of all the new-age hooey, but because the opposite doesn’t make sense to us. We’ve also seen that most of his attributes of connected children have held true in many of the kids we know.

Attachment parenting is thankfully a choice. If you characterize your kids as “takers,” “leechers,” and “naggers,” for example, and you “look forward” to your time away from them, the odds of embracing the attachment method are pretty slim.

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Laid-Off's Dad evidence that "attached" vs. "detached" parenting creates more secure kids is weak. He wrote: "The only evidence I have to support this is my son’s [seamless] transition into preschool." It's presumptuous and uninformed to say that the kids who wailed for mama must have been stroller-pushed, crib-sleepers, while the ones who sashayed to the play table were sling-worn, co-sleepers.

There are many ways to bond with your child. For 20 months, Toddler in Chief had hours of skin-to-skin contact when he nursed. There was even skin-time with Father in Chief during a weekend snooze-fest on the couch. Before he was big enough to bounce around a stroller, he'd ride in the Bjorn around the neighborhood, with his face contentedly nuzzled in my milk-heavy cleavage. At home, he was near us. He'd watch me chop tomatoes from the comfort of his bouncy chair, and he'd play in the bassinet that I wheeled from room to room. Then at bedtime, we'd go our separate ways. He's a fabulous sleeper, and he does not have trouble separating from us, as LOD suggested is a problem for parents who use strollers and cribs.

TIC likes to play on his own, but will occasionally come running into the office while I'm working and demand a hug. He also doesn't mind when I leave him with a sitter. He happily shouts, "Have fun Mommy!"

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Monday, November 21, 2005

I suppose if I need to categorize our parenting style, I’d put us on the attachment side of the ledger. I like Dr. Sears’s ideas about a harmonious, “cue-response” relationship with your child, but it’s hard to buy into everything he says. The way he throws around terms like “magnets” and "bonding" and “addiction” (sounds healthy!), he makes us think parents should walk around 24/7 with our children strapped to us with packing tape.

As I see it, the overriding theory of attachment parenting is that if you establish a bond with your kids when they’re very young, they’ll feel more secure when it’s time to separate because they’ll do it on their own terms. Conversely, a “detached” lifestyle (like pram/crib vs. Bjorn/bed) runs counter to a child’s early impulse to bond, and he’ll have trouble separating. The only evidence I have to support this is my son’s transition into preschool, which was remarkably seamless; while a lot of his classmates wailed for mama, he sashayed over to the main play table and started wolfing down paste.

There isn't much of a science to our "attached" style. We chose it because we like it. I like taking Son2 out in the Bjorn and waking up beside him in the morning, just as I did with Son1. These boys are my two favorite people on earth, and since I only see them for a few hours a day I want to enjoy these early, uncomplicated years as much as possible.

Permalink | Attachment Parenting | Comments (3)

Parents give a lot because kids are takers. They take our time, our energy, our personal space, our careers. They take over our bodies, leech off of us for nutrition, and nag us for toys when we're at a store. Sometimes it's endearing, and sometimes it's just plain exhausting.

Then there's Dr. Sears and his seven tools for "attachment parenting." They are: birth bonding; breastfeeding; babywearing; bedding close to baby; understanding your baby's cry; beware of baby trainers; balance."

Birth bonding, or getting to know your baby, doesn't need to be affiliated with a specific parenting style. I doubt many new parents head off for vacation without their newborn. And while I'm a pro breastfeeding, it's a personal and economic choice. Many women go back to work six weeks post-partum because they need the money. Then there's babywearing. I got through those nine back-aching months of pregnancy because I knew I'd eventually be able put my kid down. And crying? Babies cry when they're hungry, tired, bored, frustrated. They want to be held. They can't poop. And any parent who is paying a bit of attention will know what their kid needs.

Then there's my favorite "tool": balance. "[T]he key to putting balance in your parenting is being appropriately responsive to your baby--knowing when to say "yes" and when to say "no…" And I say no to babywearing, no to co-sleeping, and yes to some baby-training. "Attachment parenting" is a fancy term for "you can't win" or "you'll never be a good enough parent." Mostly, I look forward to all of my non-giving times when it's just me, so I'm refreshed for those never-ending giving times.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

I don't get the moral of Laid-Off Dad's story: "Don't launch a frontal assault against superior numbers armed with big, plastic sticks." Does this mean it's okay to launch an assault on smaller kids? Or kids who don't have big sticks? Or kids who look different from you? Especially if those kids are hogging the structure that you want to play in?

I like what Goldberry said: "My daughter, when caught in a confrontation, looks up at me for guidance. I have no problem nodding or shaking my head...Soon enough, they will implement what they've learned." Here, here. And, LOD, it's totally irrelevant if our kids are different ages. There is no age too young to start learning about sharing, taking turns, or peaceful ways to end disagreements. And there is no age too old to be using language instead of fists--if only our President would have learned this valuable lesson when he was a kid.

All I can say is that I'm grateful our kids don't hang out at the same playgrounds.

Permalink | Playground Fights | Comments (3)

Whoa-whoa-whoa, there. No one's advocating naked aggression--especially since it's really hard to be aggressive when you're naked. The Star Wars incident actually had the opposite effect; my son tried to achieve an end through overly aggressive means, and he learned it wasn't such a hot idea. Kids learn that hitting is wrong when they get hit and realize they don't like it. This is why a decorated general sees war as a last resort, while someone with five deferments from Vietnam becomes a strident war hawk.

And what's all this "boys will be boys" stuff? You think we Y-chromers are the only belligerents? Have you ever seen two little girls slapfight over a doll? It's brutal! When they're young, girls can be just as violent as boys; it's not until later in life that they develop such fine-tuned passive aggression, which all would agree is a far more potent weapon.

If a fight shows signs of being a real donnybrook, parents must obviously jump in and break it up. But if you trail your child everywhere and straighten out all of life's wrinkles for him, you're just another over-involved parent, spinning your rotors and stifling your child's sense of self-reliance.

Permalink | Playground Fights | Comments (1)