From the time The Wast was born, he puzzled us. Here was a child who could not go to sleep for the first four months of his life if he wasn’t resting on my chest. As a result, I learnt how to sleep while half-reclining in bed, holding him loosely in my arms as I dozed. It was strange and we didn’t know how to deal with it until we stumbled across the term “attachment parenting”, which is a philosophy that prioritises parent-child bonding above everything else. In fact, you could say that The Wast actually set the pace by demanding attachment parenting from us. He was much more content (and quiet!) if he slept near us, was breastfed on demand, carried about in a baby sling and generally handled more than not.
Being an attachment parent can be very demanding but The Wast trained us so well that we fell into it again very naturally when Little Dinosaur arrived. It became normal to hold them at every opportunity, to check on them while they slept. Their beds were in our room and we co-slept until our move to Singapore. We eschewed baby monitors, pacifiers (dummies) and commercial baby food. And boy, it was tough. There were days when I was t-h-i-s close to a frazzled nervous breakdown. But we persevered because we had a long-term goal in mind, and that was to bring up children who considered us friends and who would themselves develop into caring, responsible adults.
When they started “normal” school, J and I hated it, although it took a few years to figure out why. Was it because we didn’t get to see them for the best part of their day? Was it their exhaustion when they finally walked through the door? The hours and homework that ate away at the time they could spend with us? But we kept them at school because that was how we thought it worked. We thought we had to put aside our own reservations for the good of their “education”.
Then, all the problems started and I won’t repeat them because I’m sure you’ve heard enough about them, and we made the hard choice to homeschool. And it’s turned out that homeschooling is exactly the right choice for us as attachment parents.
Our children are our friends again, and we share plans and projects with each other. We share our lessons and interests with them (the Byzantium Empire, cooking and publishing) and they share their lessons and interests with us (mathematics, movie-making, and computer animation). This is all apart from the satisfaction we get from crafting an individual educational framework for each of our children, one that’s seeing them move beyond their peers (and kneejerk diagnoses of “autism”, “nervous system disorders”, “severe retardation”, etc.) to achieve at a level a year or two beyond their age group.
Now, I sit back and wonder how I ever thought of education in any other terms. We’re not religious or dogmatic people. We homeschooled our children at first out of necessity, but are now finding it a joy because, in addition to the academic achievements, we’ve rediscovered our children and they’ve proven themselves to be wonderful, resourceful humans. We know they’ll go and find their own way in life — they must do — but, in the meantime, we’re proud to be sharing part of our life’s journey with them.
ADDITIONAL: One of the links I’ll be putting here is from a report by Bonnie Rochman, who says:
As I understand it, attachment parenting puts babies first and mommies and daddies trailing behind in a distinct second/third position.
While that may be how it looks to an utterly disinterested observer (and let’s not even start on the patronising “mommies and daddies” term! Jesus frickin’ Christ!), that’s not how the dynamic actually works. To me, attachment parenting is about respect. Just because you’re in a position of power over a child (and, as a parent, you are) doesn’t give you the right to dictate particular actions without respecting the child’s opinion or perspective. That’s it in a nutshell for us. And if you can’t do that (respect your child as another growing human being), then don’t have kids.
To learn more about attachment parenting, try Attachment Parenting International
You can read the opposing case from Ms. Rochman and Erica Jong at Healthland
Can I just say…Jong seems to think that caring for a child 24×7 “shackles” me, as a mother. Yet, not only do I do almost all the cooking at home, as well as homeschooling, ferrying the kids to a lot of their external classes, and seeing to the other domesticated animals, but I also find time to write for a few hours, chew the fat with J over a couple of glasses of alcoholic beverages, watch a movie almost every night, and get some recreational reading in. Not to forget my 8-9 hours of sleep. Admittedly, I couldn’t do all that with toddlers, but kids are only at that stage for a little while. Take it from me, attachment parenting is not a death sentence.
I’m back to writing BALANCE OF TERROR and am a little over 10% done. 90% to go!