Friday, January 21, 2005

Defining My Terms

What do you mean, "Attachment Parenting"?
I believe the attachment, or bond, between baby and parent takes precedence over other concerns, particularly in the first nine to twelve months. (For the record: I do not believe Bill and Martha Sears when they write that working during your baby’s infancy makes you detached. What a load of crap.) I believe that parents need to respond to their babies’ cues, so that babies learn to trust their parents. I believe that establishing trustworthiness and a sense of safety is the first job of parenting. I believe that what a baby wants and what a baby needs are the same things in the first year. I believe that holding your baby as much as possible is a worthy ideal.

I believe that parenthood gets harder as your child gets older, because the child’s needs and wants start to diverge, and because parents are supposed to start gently pushing their child to expand his limits and his horizons and to take a chance. I believe that your toddler will let you know when he’s ready to fall asleep on his own, stop wearing diapers, and spend more time apart from you. I believe that parents should respect separation anxiety and stranger anxiety and not force their toddlers to stand apart too soon. I believe that children should be cooperative, not obedient. I believe that children raised to be cooperative are not, in school or on the playground, significantly distinguishable from children raised to be obedient.

For me, leaving a baby to cry for any length of time had too great a potential to damage the mother-baby bond. Having multiples exacerbated that fear, because I found that I had a very slow learning-curve of "cry recognition." It took me a very long time to learn three different sets of cries: for hunger, wet bottoms, loneliness, anger, or "leave me alone, I just need to fuss about the world." I didn’t trust myself to know which cries could be left alone: I wanted to respond to all of them.

In general, the people I know who practice cry-it-out and parent-directed scheduling tended to say and post things like "my baby was twelve weeks old, he weighed twelve pounds, all this waking to eat at night was habit, not need." I tended to believe my babies knew their appetites for food better than I did. The parent-directed scheduling folks would write that their multiple-birth babies who fussed so much didn’t really need to be held, they were just wanting extra attention. I was always thinking, if this little tiny baby could speak, what would she be saying? Do I think she's saying, "Mommy, Mommy, I need you to hold me," and if so, do I want to respond, "no, no, Mommy’s too busy, it’s time for bed, you’re really just fine," give her a pat, and leave her to cry? At six months, the answer was "not in a million years." At four years, the answer is, a lot more often than I would have predicted. But hey, my kids are four now. They are, for all intents and purposes, entirely different people than the ones I mothered in 2001.

It drives me crazy when Calder loses patience and walks away when I start crying, and I’m an adult. I would never walk away from a crying baby.

Coming Next: You can't do that with multiples!

1 comment:

Cate said...

Hey Jody.

This is a great read. Thank you for doing this. I agree, how these issues have faded, though I still feel a pang in my heart when I see a baby whose "talking" is being ignored.

I just wanted to say that I think it's really interesting that a lot of the moms in my playgroup who were very pro-CIO when their kids were babies are completely unable to walk away from a crying toddler-preschooler. I think, developmentally, that walking away at this age makes a lot more sense. They know you're still there (object permanence). They are also more apt at this age (almost 3 in my case) to use crying as a tool for manipulation, and while advocates of CIO often ascribe that motivation to infants, as we know, that's not developmentally possible. Anyway, I still parent my kids to sleep (somewhat reluctantly at this point), but I really wouldn't criticize someone for setting limits at bedtime--even ones that result in unresponded-to crying--for a three-year old. That's me, though, and I suppose I've gotten a lot meaner as time has gone by, LOL.