Wednesday, April 01, 2009

What ARE We Doing?

I feel rather blessed. I rarely have people question our parenting style in a malicious fashion. I have fielded questions about why I baby-wear, why I breastfeed for so long, and why we don't make Gianna sleep in her own bed. Those are usually curiosity, and as I don't make general proclamations about many of our tricks, there are probably a lot of things that are unknown, and therefore not inquired upon.

Every family has to find its own rhythm and flow. It's said so many times, but bears repeating- what works for one family is unique to that family, and dependent on its current conditions. Add a child, or remove a job, or sprinkle in any other life-changing event, and methods and manners of operation need to be reassessed.

We don't technically follow a leader. We're not people who instantly run to some well-thumbed through book at the onset of a new developmental twitch to try to figure out what to do. I like to think that we parent instinctively- that is, that we view what Gianna is doing in the light of her environment and her developmental stage. How we generally operate does seem to look somewhat like Dr. Sears' Attachment Parenting. So far, it seems to be creating a joyful and intelligent little girl, with parents who are sometimes frustrated, sometimes overwhelmed, but always laughing. And, always amazed.

In an effort to prod myself to post a little more, I'm going to try to take some of the principles of Attachment Parenting, and explain how we've used them, or possibly how we've had to tweak them. I know like I know like I KNOW that if we would have done things differently, say, followed a "baby trainer," or sleep-trained, we would not have the child we do today.

I want to make a preemptive distinction before I begin: there is a huge difference between saying that "X method" or "Baby Trainer Y" is faulty for whatever reason, and saying that someone is a poor parent for using these methods. Parenting is a hard row to hoe, and many baby trainers are very convincing (I would be too, if I wanted to sell my books!) With the next few blogs, I do not intend to tear down another mother. If you get something from what I write, beautiful. If you get nothing, well, no skin off my back. There is truly something to be said for separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of what will work for you. I do urge you to be honest with yourself about what is "working:" if you have an eerily quiet baby who is not very active, and doesn't really explore, but follows a precise schedule made by a best-selling parenting book and gives you a fairly easy life, who is benefiting? Is this truly "working?"

When I was pregnant with Gianna, I met a woman with a daughter who was 6 months old. I never saw this baby out of its car seat, even for a feed- the mom simply stuck a bottle into the baby's mouth with one hand, and functioned without looking at the baby with the rest of her body. She gave me the advice of- "Make sure you get time for you as much as possible- I just stick M----- in front of Baby Einstein- it's very educational, you know- and I get so much done. I barely have to do anything!" I never saw the baby cry, or move at all, really. Its placid gaze gave me heartburn and I vowed to never do whatever it was that made this woman's child such a mannequin. I didn't. Stay tuned for what did work, and continues to work today.

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