I mostly parent using the attachment parenting method. I’ve explained my freakoness about nursing and cosleeping already. I want to continue the discussion with how we “train” and “schedule” our lives.
We don’t. Oh, we train them with rules like share, love, be nice, be gentle, obey. But as for sleep training infants and feeding schedules, we tried that, and mostly threw it out the window. Along with expecting our children to be perfect and sinless. Because really, am I perfect and sinless after years of training by my Father?
When we had our first child, when he was only a few months old, a friend gave us “To Train Up A Child” by Michael and Debi Pearl. I read it. And was shocked. That my friend had suggested it. That people really did this. At the same time, a different friend loaned us a copy of Ezzo’s BabyWise. It mostly turned me off too. But the only thing I knew to do was put him on a schedule. So we did. Mostly by the Ezzo book. And it worked. He slept. And ate every 3 hours. I did still retain my brain and my lactation consultant, so I knew I should watch for his feeding frenzies (growth spurts) and indulge him more during those times. We lived by it and missed out on a lot of our Adventure Day Parker spontanaity, until our second son was born and would not soothe himself. Ever. No matter how long I tried. We had a near epiphanic moment similar to this mother’s Ezzo realization. I brought my baby to bed, quit trying to fit him into my schedule and relaxed. However, the teaching in those two books and my desire to have children that were not those children in the store, well, it left me confused. Some of the messages in those books continued to haunt me for a long time. (In all honesty, they still do in most insecure times.) Because after all, didn’t I want the obedient sinless children they spoke of? If I did, and if it was attainable, then didn’t I have to follow their advice?
I followed a discussion recently on a blog about the very difficult issue of Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child and a very disturbing news article linked in and inspiring that mama’s post. And it brought back all those early years of wondering what to do. I wonder at those parents though. Don’t they step back and realize what they’re doing? Don’t they see the awfulness in it?Though I can see how a fail-proof plan of obedient children is appealing. Stupid, unbiblical, false, and stomach turning, but the promised results alluring, nonetheless to new parents.
But don’t the people reading these law-driven books see the mercy and grace offered them by their own loving Father? Don’t they see how they can extend that same grace or mercy to their own children?
Lately I’ve been feeling more under the microscope more than ever with so many “helpers”. I was shopping not too long ago when Matt called me on the cell. Please picture with me.. Me wearing baby, 3 year old BigMan running wildly from one thing to another, my girl having fun picking him up and dropping him over and over and then those 2 giggling maniacally, the two older boys cutting up, wrestling around me and my phone ringing. I whispered to Matt on the other end of the line that I couldn’t talk and please pray for me, I was struggling to not grit my teeth at the kiddos. He said, “Quit worrying about what everyone else is thinking and look at TheMiddlest. Is he enjoying himself? Try to capture that.” We got off the phone and I looked hard at my 6 year old. He was having the time of his life. In Kroger. I could stand to learn a little of that philosophy of life. And I smiled more throughout the rest of that trip.
Don’t these new parents feel the tug of their hearts? Can they remember when they’ve felt alone? And just wanted the one person in the whole world they trust the most to comfort them? Don’t they want people to accept them and not criticize at every turn? Do you see the connection?
I “trained” my oldest to sleep, nurse on time, keep a schedule, and behave. Some of the training worked marvelously and some of it failed miserably. But I knew what time he ate last and exactly when he should eat again. It seemed like some sort of sanity in the midst of my chaos. Fast forward 4 children later to my most recent child. I had a friend ask me when my baby was about 4 months old how many times a day he ate. I drew a blank. I had no idea. Not because I neglected him – oh far from it, because I indulged his every eating, nuzzling, desirous whim. Every time he even looked like he might think about nursing I nursed him. I don’t count minutes. When we brought him home from the hospital I did keep a chart. Just like each of the other children. But it was more to make sure he was wanting me enough. Keeping my sleepy brain in the game more. Not in an attempt to train him. It was to train me to see his needs. And meet them. Immediately.
I remember calling a friend who had (at the time) 10 children and I had 2. I sought her wisdom because I was losing my mind. I remember 3 very distinct things from our brief conversation – 1. She said all the answers I was looking for were in the Bible 2. She spoke Bible verses. I don’t know how else to say that. She had spent so much time studying Scripture and praying it that it was a part of who she was. She didn’t quote them to me, mind you. They just flowed like truth in everything she said. And 3. I wanted that. I got off the phone with her and went looking for “parenting” verses in my concordance. Not there. Looked for ”children”. There were verses, but not “How to’s” like she implied. I was lost and confused. I found Proverbs that spoke to my inadequacies, wrote them out on little notes, and began praying them over me. Slowly, through having more children, reading my Bible, and learning from my husband, I realized everything I needed to raise my kids really was there in the Bible. It was in all the other truths. All those verses about kind words turning away wrath – yep, that applied. Gentle words being soothing to the soul – yep. His examples of mercy – yep. His love – yep. When I don’t want to be interrupted – His words of “let the little children come to me” – yep. It’s all there. If I’ll just absorb it. And call after wisdom, knowledge, and truth. If I’ll just seek His face. Instead of worrying about the stares of the people in Kroger.
Then I read this article about The Consistency Myth. Ooh, that’s it! I thought. There are others out there who parent this way. If you’re just now seeking your own path of gentleness you can find more parents who pick up their crying babies instead of laying them down at the Attachment Parenting site.
With my first child I parented by the book. The wrong one. I shut off feelings to let him cry it out in his crib sometimes. I distanced myself. And I can tell you, looking back, looking at our relationship compared to the others who were embraced - I would do it differently. If I could go back, I would. I would not listen to the average “let them cry” person. I would put down the books. Pick up the only book that has solid advice. I have tried to follow my heart more each day, and each day I regret less. If I could pass along advice to new mamas I would say “Regret less.”
Because 6 months ago this child:
looked like this: