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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.

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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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