17 June 2009

Notes from a recovering Klingon

I promised my friend this story. So, here goes.

I hate being Wrong, even though I tend to be pretty good at it. When I discovered I was pregnant with our first baby, I couldn’t merely hate being Wrong, I had to get everything Right, and fast. I researched the parenting thing up one continent and down another, and before that baby was born I’d cobbled for myself a neat set of Rules for being Right. Most of those Rules were borrowed shamelessly from the Attachment Crowd, most notably Dr. Sears.

First Girl was a really good baby. She was Model. She snuggled into my shoulder and slept for the first several weeks of her life, and has spent the last several years being generally easy to handle. I was working full time during her infancy, and thus found my Rules to be about as easy to handle as my child. We latched and slung and slept our way through the hours we had together, and I was happy.

By the time my second baby made his debut, I was smugly assured that I had mad crazy momming skills. When the Man Cub turned out to be a REALLY ANGRY BABY, I was shaken but not stirred. I simply defaulted to my Rules. Again, I was working (¾ time plus I had a long commute during this infancy), and given our set-up that time around I really needed a prescribed system. I nursed the baby on demand because he simply would not take a bottle. I let him sleep in our bed to facilitate his nursing. I wore him around our apartment when I was home because wearing him kept him from crying. We kept an extra sling at the babysitter’s house, and she also wore him to keep him from crying. Attachment was basic survival for him, and I needed the Rules to keep me surviving for him at the end of a long day at an office filled with sneering people.

But I haven’t been Attached with our last two babies. Interestingly, I’ve also been Stay-at-Home, and these two babies have had me all to themselves, no breaks, 24-hours-a-day-every-day-to-time-immemorial-without-end. Under this arrangement, Attachment is a lot more trying; it’s easy to obey a set of Rules when the game only lasts a couple of hours a day. I simply could not take a bottle to keep me at it—a drunk does not a good mother make—so I had to make a few changes to my playbook.

I threw my beloved Rules, which served me so well over the first two infancies of my mothering career, into the local sump. I still nurse on demand (or cue, or grunt, or whathaveyou) and nurse as long as I can, but I allow myself a lot more freedom in every other aspect of child-rearing. Our new baby takes a pacifier, sleeps in her own bed, cries it out every now and again, and periodically has nothing better to do than stare at the light coming through the blinds, and guess what, America—she’s not dead. She’s not even brain dead. It’s a miracle!

I like Attachment in theory, and I’m really glad I had Dr. Sears to guide me through those first months with my first baby. I still reference his Baby Book whenever one of the kids gets sick, as he’s a lot more rational about fevers than WebMD. But I wouldn’t call myself Attached, mostly because I no longer wish to attach politics to my parenting. Too many Attached Parents (present company excluded) consider themselves to be morally superior to those who Ferberize or spank their unruly imps (as if “I” statements make any sense to a small brain lost in primal desire). Know what? Sometimes, a mom really does need to feed her baby formula (don’t get me started on this one), and shouldn’t be made to feel she’s drowning her beloved child in arsenic simply because her body betrayed her.

While some kids need to be parented according to those Attachment PSAs, most don’t. Some, in fact, should not be Attached at all. To each child his mother’s best efforts, whatever those efforts may be. All manlings are not created equal, and what warms some may smother others or leave their moms preferring the cold.

Attachment Parenting came about as a reaction against the strict, Scientific styles of parenting encouraged by Dr. Spock and his ilk, and Dr. Spock didn’t do anyone any favors. But people, how about we all stop blindly adhering to every piece of advice given by the priests of the medical and educational communities, regardless of their affiliation with this or that hip new idea? I have one degree in psychology and another in education, but that does not qualify me to advise you on the best way to feed your children, brush their teeth, or wipe their bums. It doesn’t even qualify me, really, to raise my own children. I receive far more to that end when I attend Divine Service every week and learn from our blessed Mother, the Church, the best means of caring for the young: give them birth, feed them wholesome food, hear their sorrows, assure them that their Lord is coming home soon, and clean them up with the tools He’s given before He arrives .

In our humble homes, as sinful mothers, the tasks of parenting are going to shake out a million different ways. Leave the really hard labors to Christ and His Bride, and keep your heads up. We’re all just doing the best we can.


Dakotapam said...

Agreed. Our firstborn was born in the Bible Belt...in Babaywise Heaven. I was told how many ways I would ruin the eternal soul of my baby if I fed him before 3.5 hours had passed between feedings. Thankfully, at age 13 this Saturday, I did not ruin him much, that I can tell.

Second boy child weighed in at 13 pounds and I just KNEW that no baby book in America was written to address a toddler sized newborn, so I fed him 24/7 for two years. I was a prisoner to my chair, but I loved him dearly.

Third boy child was a dream baby who wanted to ride in a sling by day and sleep alone in a crib at night. He only WANTED to eat every 3.5 hours, and potty trained himself at age 2. Tradeoff? at age 7 his nickname is Tigger/spiderman, he is fearless and is never ever still.

Fourth boychild was a mixture of his three brothers.

Other than my poor first child, who I ruined by listening to outsiders, the others I mothered by my heart and my mind, and had a much easier time of it...though everyone knows that mothering is not easy.

I'm curious to see what future challenges may be ahead!

Joy said...

Pam means 11 pounds, not 13. Although, he probably was 13 by his 2-week check-up. She's not exaggerating about the 24/7 part.

I too ruined my first (and all subsequent children) by not giving them bottles of apple juice at 3 mos. Grandma just can't let that one go.

The more I read, the more I think it's good, right, and salutary to take what works and ditch the rest.

Gautlets, no one likes being Wrong, but at least you're open to rational discussion. Not everyone is.

Pam said...

It really wasn't in my plan this morning to weep, Gauntlets.

But thanks anyway, because I apparently needed it.


MooreMama said...

The more I read, the more I think it's good, right, and salutary to take what works and ditch the rest.

^^ yeah. that.
And - if anyone else wants to tell me what I'm doing wrong with my baby, please pardon me if my eyes accidentally roll back into my head. I promise, I'm possibly the Most Neurotic Mother Ever and I don't need anyone giving me anything else to worry about.

I am the Mama, and God has seen fit to give me everything that I need to raise my child, who was custom made for me and my strengths and weaknesses.

Reb. Mary said...

Boy3 got worn more often than not, for purposes of protective custody. Not safe to leave a baby lying about with the big brothers cannoning through.

Dakotapam said...

You are right Joy...felt like 13 and was 13.7 at a week and a half, probably, beacuse, according to my mom, I fed him too much. Of course at 10, he is short and slight...go figure!

Sarah D. said...

That was really nice to read.

EKGaunt said...

And how!

Rebekah said...

Hey, great story. :D

But how on earth could such a missional, evangelical, authentic, ministry-minded office have been filled with sneering people?

Gauntlets said...


Really, Rebekah. Do not forget that those who sneer shall inherit the office.