One of the aspects of attachment parenting that I appreciate most, especially as T develops & grows, is its focus on providing the child the tools & support she needs in order to develop into her own person. (The painful irony of attachment is that it quickly leads to detaching.)
To take a survey of the popular literature on parenting, it’s clear that the dominant view of the child is that she is a pet project, someone to be molded & groomed according the the parents’ ideas of what a good child should look like.
Sleep training, time outs, tiger mothers… Most parenting experts come at it the same way: Do X to get your child to do Y (usually behaving in a socially acceptable manner…). Or, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we turn to the so-called experts in order to better control our children’s actions, personalities, habits, future, etc.
I cannot tell you how much I struggle to avoid this particular parenting trap! I want T to go to bed now! I want him to stop throwing his napkin from the table now! I want him to stop hitting me right now! I want him to learn that poop is not an acceptable dinner (or breakfast or lunch or snack…) conversation now!
I’ve been struggling so much lately that I’ve returned to many of the texts & ideas that have inspired me to be a better parent in the past: Alfie Kohn, Naomi Aldort, Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, etc. (all writers who tackle disciple with an authentic understanding of children).
At the core, I feel ready to tackle my control issues with a few (difficult but uncomplicated) tweaks in my parenting style because practicing AP has taught me that my child is his own person, that is to say, an independent person largely outside of my control. The main thrust (or at least my take on it) of AP is that from day one my job as a parent has been to respond to the needs of this little person we have welcomed into our lives in an attempt to lead him toward independence. That we have to meet him on his terms (adding a few of our more reasonable & important terms as he gets older).
And T reminded me of this himself the other day. He loves calling me “my mommy” (which can be at once endearing & completely grating as well…). And sometimes I counter with a “my T.” But the last time we played this little game he said to me: “No, not my T! I’m myself.”
He couldn’t have been more right, of course. He is not mine & he never will be. He needs me to be his, but that need will wane over time.
And it’s actually quite freeing. When it’s about me, it’s about me, not T. The desire to control the two of us is great. But if I can let one of us go, there’s automatically less to control & less stress. Of course our needs & lives are intertwined, but in giving T the space to develop as his own individual, I feel freer to be my own woman.
There seems to be a misconception out there that AP requires parents (& especially mothers) to subsume their selves, their identities. But, really, in a funny way it’s just the opposite.
Which isn’t to say that parenthood isn’t overwhelming at times or isn’t demanding. It is no matter how you do it, but especially as an AP-practicing parent. It is difficult to balance the work of responding to the needs of an often-helpless individual & our own individual pursuits.
But trying to control what is often uncontrollable is exhausting & crazy-making. It just makes our job harder. Aldort encourages parents to trust their children, to evaluate their own impulses when engaged in conflict with their children.
I’m trying to channel Aldort these days, when conflict seems to be taking up residence in our house.
Not easy, but I’m trying.