You know, whenever attachment parenting gets into the mainstream media – as happened quite a bit this summer thanks to the controversial Time magazine breastfeeding cover – there are always critics who say “That level of intense parenting is not necessary. My parents let me cry it out and didn’t hug me all the time, and I survived just fine. You’re spoiling those babies and kids.”
But then I look at articles like this one in the NYT, which notes that there are strong links between our childhood experiences and adult lives. Or this one from the WSJ, which talks about adults who have severe separation anxiety due to unmet emotional needs as children. I look at the rates of alcoholism, suicide, bullying and other serious issues in our country and I wonder… are people really surviving their childhoods? I don’t think so. They may survive physically, but there are a lot of unhappy people out there with a lot of unmet childhood needs manifesting as major emotional problems once they reach adulthood.
You know what they say: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
If we parent the same way we were parented, or the way everyone around us is parenting, then how will anything ever change? That’s one reason why I’m glad we inadvertently broke from the mainstream and found our own path, which we later found was called attachment parenting.
If there’s a chance, even a small one, that we can help babies and children grow into adults who feel whole and secure and confident, instead of insecure with empty love tanks, imagine what a difference that would make. I literally think attachment parenting can change the world. And even if that’s a bit of a stretch, as a parent I personally want to strive for a slightly higher level of success than Zoe simply “surviving” her childhood. I want her to truly THRIVE in all areas of her life. I want her to grow up feeling loved ALL the time.
It doesn’t mean her life will be perfect, and it doesn’t mean that we spoil her – trust me, we say no all the time and use gentle, firm but loving discipline whenever it’s needed. But it does mean that we parent her all night long via our family bed, we hold her when she cries even if we’re mad, we honor and respect her as an individual even though she’s only two, we try to never tell her to “stop crying and be a big girl,” and we make certain she knows that we love her even if we don’t like a particular behavior at a particular moment.
Only time will tell if this way of parenting differently will have different results for the next generation. All I know is that it feels really good and instinctive and positive right now, even though it’s not always easy and it may seem strange to some. So far, so good. Zoe has amazing instincts for gentleness and kindness already, as you can see from the photo.
What do you think? Are you consciously trying to parent differently than your parents did, or follow a particular old or new parenting philosophy or school of thought? I am eager to hear in the comments below.