Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Million Dollar Middle Ground

I am not really big on happy mediums. I am very much an either/or black or white yes or no type of person or at least I was. Something about getting older, getting married and having a child has changed me when it comes to hard lines. I guess you could say that I have “softened”, actually quite literally.

I have found parenting to be frustrating not because of parenting my child I actually am more what I would call an “instinctual” parent I go with my gut a lot and it really does work for us. I attribute a lot of that to being raised in a healthy well-balanced family. What I find frustrating about parenting is other parents. Not other parents exactly but all the different parenting styles that have labels and the fact that there seems to be a very black and white style face-off going on. I belong to several groups and they are very close to black and white opposites one is on the “attachment parenting” side of things and then there is the “babywise” style. Now if I need to label myself I would land on the attachment parenting side because I have seen first hand the damage done in the lives of children who were not firmly attached to anyone. I would also call myself an attachment parent because I firmly believe in co-sleeping, breastfeeding and responding to your infant. I do not think it is ok to leave your infant to scream, ever. I am bolding the word infant because I think it is very important to make a distinction between the way we parent infants and the way we parent as our children grow. One of my favorite analogies for raising a child is an inverted triangle, when a child is small the have very little room, they are kept close and tight to you and they are not allowed as much leeway if you will but as a child ages there is more and more freedom and they are able to make more and more choices on their own. I would not say that I have any “babywise” tendencies at all I just can’t put together the babywise philosophy with the way I feel like my child and the way I feel as a parent.

On the other hand… I am finding that there has to be some other thing that doesn’t have a name yet. I don’t know what it is. Whatever it is that is what I am. Why do I think that? Because researchers have discovered that there are two ways that a child can have attachment problems the first way is through their needs not being met and the second through everything being over-met, basically a child is smothered and spoiled until they develop problems.
I know this may seem shocking but I really do not believe that discussing things with a toddler works. I do think that is important to talk to your child even if it is over their heads and to explain things, even explaining the discipline makes sense to me but to watch a parent get down and have a serious talk with a toddler and actually think that it is going to keep them from hitting that other child again is actually quite laughable. Developing respect for other people does not come naturally. We are naturally very selfish creatures. You can see that in toddlers especially, we are not naturally kind and giving, we learn to do mean things without ever being taught how to do them, it is shocking but true. How do I know that it is true? I have watched it with my own child I have been surprised by some of the selfish behavior he exhibits without it ever having been modeled for him. Going back to the triangle analogy I find that confident secure children that grow to be emotionally, mentally and relationally healthy are those that basically “ran up against” their parents when they were toddlers and found them to be immovable. I do not mean unkind in any way but that they find that there is a safe perimeter set up in their lives that they can bend or break but it also can not be bent or broken by anyone or anything else.

So in practicality what I mean is exhibited in the story of my non-sleeping child finally becoming a sleeping child. My son was a terrible sleeper and was up 6+ times a night up until he was 11 months old. There was finally a point where we were both so exhausted that I put up the pack n’ play right by my bed, I was less than a foot away from him. I laid down in bed and placed him in the pack n’ play during one of his out and out fits about going back to sleep for who knows what time that night. He was nursed. He was warm. His mommy and daddy were right there. He proceeded to throw a fit the size of Texas. Then my child slept. And I slept. This did not stop all the waking. There were still waking but they were to come to the big bed with mommy and daddy which we willingly allowed (and still allow) him to do. He still needs us, he needs our comfort and we do not deprive him of that but we also came to a point where his waking was no longer needs based and his crying had turned from needs crying in to fit throwing and that is where he chose to start testing the parental walls.

I don’t think that this is a middle ground because I don’t think it is midway between “attachment parenting” and “babywise” I don’t think there is some mystical perfect middle ground so to speak I think there is just some other way of doing things, maybe if I come up with a good name I’ll write a book and make millions. But until then I’ll just remain broke and keep blogging.

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