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.