Look, unless you’re physically beating him, sprinkling heroin on her Cheerios or dumping them off on my doorstep, I don’t care how you raise your damn kid. But the other day I met a grandmother struggling with a roochy eight-month-old who obviously wanted to get free and it made me kind of crazy.
“I can’t put her down,” said the grandmother, who takes care of the girl five days a week while her parents work. “Her mother and father follow attachment parenting. You have to hold the baby all the time.”
Years ago, I read the Time magazine piece, but until that point, I’d never actually met someone executing this form of hell, which sprang from the mind of a male doctor for whom constant breastfeeding is simply a fantasy. The concept is this: in order to fully bond with your child and gently immerse him into the scary world, you need to carry the child constantly (4-5 hours at home at night if you’ve been working all day), sleep with him and breastfeed him until he’s ready for Kindergarten. (Though traditional schooling, that’s a whole ‘nother thing that APs go nuts over.)
This is not how I raised my kids. Then again, you’re talking to a mother who, upon giving birth to child #2, took a shower, ordered a pizza to be delivered to the hospital, asked for a TV (it was Vermont) to watch the playoffs, and then cracked open a beer. (By the way, happy 21st birthday, Sam!) So I’m no Carol Brady.
But being a professional
snoop, writer, I am a trained observer of others, including those who raised loving, smart, generous, funny, healthy kids. Not one of them, to my knowledge, was an Attached Parent. However, they did seem to adhere to the same Three Rs of Successful Parenting. And I include them here not to make you, Young Parent, feel stressed or guilty, but to offer relief … and perhaps a sketchy roadmap to sanity.
#1 READ: I’m not talking about reading to your kid. I did that starting with week one. What I didn’t do enough of was reading grownup books in front of my kids. For some reason, I got it into my head that reading was selfish. Instead of passing out from exhaustion after two pages at bedtime, I should have had my feet up and my nose in a book in the middle of the day. And if some kid was bothering me, I should have snapped, “Not now, I’m reading.” This would have taught junior early on that reading was a Special Magical Experience and that he’d better learn his ABCs and get with the program if he wanted entree into this amazing world.
#2 RELAX: You know what? Life is freaking unpredictable. And short. (Often because it IS unpredictable.) All the crap I thought was important when I was in the thick of motherhood – the orderly house, the timely dinners, the endless after-school activities – isn’t. So forget the laundry and study a caterpillar on a leaf. Play a game. Throw Nerf balls at their heads and hang them upside down by their ankles. Draw mustaches on their upper lips and part their hair in the middle and call them Mr. Leroy. They’re kids, that’s what they’re there for – your entertainment.
#3 RELINQUISH: Good ole Lisa Scottoline. Though I’ve met her once or twice, I never got a chance to thank her for the words that would give me peace of mind as the mother of young adults. They came from an essay she wrote about her daughter, Francesca, returning home for school vacation. Though Francesca went to Harvard and was obviously Raised Well, it was still impossible for Scottoline to sleep not knowing at what ungodly hour her daughter would pull in the driveway. We’ve all been there, tossing and turning. And by all I mean not my husband who could conk out without nary a worry. It was at 1 a.m. while either Sam or Anna was about that I remembered Scottoline’s advice: “Close your eyes and hope for the best.” To me, this is, the ultimate metaphor for parenting. Because at some point, hope is all you’ve got. Hope that they don’t cross the center line or go with a hippy to a second location. That and luck.
(P.S. No doubt Attached Parents will stumble upon this blog and vociferously defend their philosophy. To them, I say, bravo! Also, check back with me in thirty years when your child is a fully empathic grown adult developing a system to clean drinking water for the world’s poorest while maintaining strong, loving relationships and polishing his or her Nobel Prize. Because, if so, I will recant every single word.)