Attachment parenting 20 years later, or “Babywear this!”

Babywearing!

When my first child was born 20 years ago, “attachment parenting” was a new and somewhat controversial child-rearing philosophy which involved strict adherence to a demanding set of rules and behaviors including: natural birthing, leaving boys uncircumcised, babywearing, breast-feeding and child-led weaning, co-sleeping, not allowing babies to “cry-it-out”, practicing positive discipline, and so on.  While I didn’t like to put a label on the way I parented my children, I was drawn to many of the attachment parenting concepts because they made sense to me and because they often seemed instinctive.  Admittedly, they were sometimes a last resort when I was at my wit’s end (i.e. co-sleeping and homeschooling).  I had “natural”, interventionless births with all my children, left my boys uncut and breastfed all of them including my third until I cut him off at two and a half years old (if I had let him lead the way with weaning, he might still be nursing….).   All of my kids slept in my bed at one point or another (like I said, not because I really wanted them them there).

Bully for me!  I also fed them McDonald’s Happy Meals and Lunchables, allowed them to watch countless hours of Teletubbies and Thomas the Tank Engine, and yelled at them when I got mad.

When my kids were young, I encountered some strident attachment parenters who were extremely judgmental about the way other “non-attachment parenters” were parenting their children.  Since I simply cannot stand being told what to do, nor can I deal with rigid rules that defy common sense, this did not sit very well with me.  On the other hand, neither did the scorn and derision I felt coming from the other camp (detachment parenters? non-attachment parenters?).

The following are the “Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting” set forth by an organization called “Attachment Parenting International”:

  • Preparation for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
  • Feed with Love and Respect
  • Respond with Sensitivity
  • Use Nurturing Touch
  • Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
  • Provide Consistent Loving Care
  • Practice Positive Discipline
  • Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

These principles don’t really begin to explain some of the crazy, neurotic attachment parenting behavior I witnessed when my kids were young.

It seems that when things become unbalanced, there will often be a pendulum swing which eventually helps move things back to center.   I believe that much of what the dogma of attachment parenting has offered is just that.  It’s a backlash to a way of living that is unsustainable.  Many of us have been left with a sense of frustration and dissatisfaction by the unrealistic expectation that families can have two effective, high-functioning, full-time working parents and still come home and give our children our very best.  We are a society that has bought into the idea that there are experts who are uniquely qualified to tell us how we should raise our own children in such normal functions of life as sleeping and learning to pee in a toilet.  We have been led to believe we need to look outside of ourselves for answers rather than allow a natural sensibility to guide us according to our own family’s unique circumstances.  Similarly we have lined the pockets of the CEO’s of giant corporations which have built their profits on our willingness to believe that our children are better off using their products than taking advantage of those things that nature has so perfectly and freely provided us. It’s no wonder a dogmatic DIY parenting movement like attachment parenting came when it did.  Attachment parenting is a big “fuck you” to all of that.

I no longer pay much attention to what is fashionable in the world of parenting, as I find most of it to be recycled and tiresome.  I’ve learned “happy + self-aware mommy = good parent”, and that’s good enough for me these days.  Plus my kids are teenagers, and in order to stay sane as the mother of adolescent children I am mostly concerned with maintaining my sense of humor.  Thus, I give you my updated “Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting Teenagers”, my backlash to the backlash so to speak, 20 years later.

1. Preparation for adolescence: weekly therapy sessions, a nightly beer or five, or self-immolation – you choose.

2. Feed with denial: Mountain Dew, Pizza, Taco Bell and Toaster Strudel.

3. Respond with incredulity: OH NO YOU JUST DIDN’T??? YOU DID WHAT? YOU ARE FREAKING KIDDING ME!!!!

4. Do NOT touch your adolescent child or she will scream at you, except for when she demands that you give her a back rub, which will most likely be at the most inconvenient or exhausted moment of your day.

5. Ensure that your teen sleeps somewhere other than the floor of her boyfriend’s closet, a bench in the park, or the beanbag chair in the TV room.

6. Provide consistent, loving access to your laptop computer, your car, your wardrobe, your bank account and all that you formerly held sacred.

7. Practice positive IAMGOINGTOSTRANGLEWHICHEVERONEOFYOUSTOLEMYGREYGOOSEANDREPLACEDITWITHWATER!!! discipline.

8. To strive for balance in family and personal life, confine all interactions with adolescent child to increments of 10 minutes so as to maintain sanity and be functional in personal life.  If adolescent is female and menstruating, reduce increments to 60 seconds.

The formerly babyworn

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17 thoughts on “Attachment parenting 20 years later, or “Babywear this!”

  1. Great post! I really liked this line: “We have been led to believe we need to look outside of ourselves for answers rather than allow a natural sensibility to guide us according to our own family’s unique circumstances.”
    And your attachment parenting stragies for teenages were hysterical!

  2. You are too funny. I just read your post on attachment parenting 20 years later – my blog Text Me, Love Mom is mostly (I go on about other things, too) excerpts from a book I’ve just finished writing called just that – Text Me, Love Mom – but I’m thinking of changing it to F##king Text Me, Love Mom – Lessons from an Empty Next. My kids think it’s a good idea. What do you think?

    • If you use the f-word more people will buy it. I think this could possibly be the first blog post I’ve written with the f-word in it. I swear quite a bit in real life, but I have kept it fairly clean in here. I’m reconsidering that decision daily. so I guess it depends on what your goals are….and what your true personality is. If you are really a swear-er, I’d say let ‘er rip.

  3. There is not a single bit of this particular blog that I do not totally identify with (written as Liv is raiding my closet for a black tank top and tights).

  4. I was a little wary when I first saw attachment parenting in the title, but then I was like, it’s misslisted, it can’t be too bad. And it was great. I have a friend who is nutters on the attachment parenting so much that it even more forecfully made me a detachment parent (I like that description, lol). Honestly, though, the actual principles you listed aren’t any different than what most mothers would want to do for their children. Make sure they sleep safely, get fed, are loved, etc. It’s just this militant way of going about it, that my way is the ONLY way that works, and if you don’t do it that way, you are a bad parent. In some ways, parenting can get to be a religion of sorts, and the backlash for not obeying can be brutal.

    I didn’t breastfeed my kids, and you wouldn’t believe the number of people, some I had never met, who had strong opinions on why I was a child abuser. I’m not even kidding here – I was actually accused of this. People even asked my mother why I wasn’t, as if she has control over my boobs? It was just so bizarre. Anyway, I have nothing against what other people do to raise thier kids. Whatever works as long as you aren’t REALLY abusing them – as in hitting them with hammers or something. No matter how tempting. J/k.

    And I agree – your teenager attachment rules are awesome! My girls are 8 and 12 now, so I have one officially in adolescence with a vengeance, and little sister who assures me she is in puberty too, because anything sister does, she can do better.

    Great post. May we all survive the upcoming years!

    • Hi, thanks for the “it’s misslisted, it can’t be too bad” compliment! ha! yes indeed, may we all survive the upcoming years….sometimes I feel like I’m doing great, and other times, I feel like I’m coming completely unhinged. Oh if only I’d carried them in their slings more, slept with them more, and breastfed them til they were 8, I’m sure it would be so much easier…

  5. What a treat to read this post! When I had my first baby, I joined a mom’s group that was very “Berkeley” and very pro-AP. After about a year of taking their passive aggressive abuse, I realized I was doing just fine on my own as my son seemed very happy and healthy. It was even easier with second one to let go of worrying about what other people think of my parenting style.

    Yay for this post! However, I am deathly afraid of having two teenagers someday. I’m mostly in denial about it.

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