Sunday, October 30, 2011

{Ottawa Doula} Frame of Mind

Before I even knew that the term "attachment parenting" existed, I was raising my daughter in a way that aligned well with this style of parenting. All the books and articles I read only confirmed my beliefs, and helped me to become more confident in the instincts that I was following. It certainly wasn't the norm to parent in this way, but that didn't stop me!

However, as with all ideas, beliefs and value systems, nothing is ever black and white. Attached parents may not be able to follow this frame of mind all the time, and different children require different strategies.

Although I can't call my child "different," I can certainly call her many other things - spirited, gregarious, head-strong, and challenging, to name a few.

Maybe she's only challenging to ME, the parent, who is perhaps less suited to this type of personality (I like quiet - lots of it!) But the most important lesson I've learned (so far) as a parent, is that we must accept our children for who they are, not what we think they should be.

Of late, we've had some challenges with A (not surprising, given she's 2!), that have made me question my attachment parenting frame of mind. I breastfed (still do), babywore, co-slept, avoided cry-it-out techniques and tried to understand my baby's cues. I didn't do all of this just because I read it in a book - I did a lot of it naturally (although self consciously at times).

Now that we're in the toddler years, and I'm working two jobs, the struggles with sleep and nighttime parenting have become an issue. For a while, we thought we were "in the clear," when she started sleeping through the night. That only lasted several months until she started waking up again - very predictably, at 1am and 5am.

It doesn't necessarily bother me to comfort her back to sleep and occasionally share the bed. What is bothering me is a niggling thought that I need to be "tougher." That given my child's boisterous personality, I need to perhaps apply some stricter boundaries.

It helps me to think about it this way - when am I giving up TOO much, just to make her happy? When am I ignoring all my needs?

And so last night, we had a big cry-fest, when I refused to give in to her demands. We can't shut the door and leave, as she knows how to open the door, but I just sat beside her while she threw a MEGA tantrum at 4:30am. She eventually went back to sleep, sniffling and hiccuping in that horribly sad way.

This is where my frame of reference becomes foggy, and I can't determine my true feelings. If I am an attached parent, don't I want to avoid letting her cry like this? Yet, if I tap into my needs and desires, don't I really need/want an extra hour or two of sleep before starting our day?

So my attachment parenting friends out there - tell me your experiences. Can I be an attached parent and avoid giving in to every nighttime need?


  1. Oh, yes! Sometimes I make choices that I think upset my child immensely because I KNOW it is best for her. And I"m not talking about the spanking kind of best for her. As soon as I realize that sleep or food or even comfort is a priority, I let very little get in my way of my mission. It helps to keep my eye on the ball as we go through the drama and hardship of it all.

    That said, I fail miserably most of the time with the conundrum you speak of. I wobble back and forth between thinking my children need more discipline vs. more understanding. As I remember, I think I could have used more understanding as a kid - but the previous generous surely had a different spectrum than we did!

    What I know for sure is that you will most certainly know what you should have done ten years from now in hindsight.

    I look forward to seeing your movie recommendation, by the way.

  2. I, like you, fell into AP and didn't know what it was until later. Since I've read more about the vaules behind this "choice" I have found a lot more confidence in my decisions. I think we always need to remember to do what is best for EVERYONE in the family. I dug this up and thought it might help you through your current struggles: "What AP is Not by Dr. Sears -

  3. I really feel for you right now because I have struggled with similar things. I had to night wean my ds around age 2. He was nursing ALL. THROUGH. THE. NIGHT. still and it was hard on me as I work full time. My back hurt and I was tired. I felt like I couldn't even go to the bathroom for fear of him waking up. All the things that I was totally fine with under a year, under 18 months, were really starting to wear on me. It wasn't a simple weaning process, but in the end, it was something that worked out for both of us. While I would and did "suck it up" age 18 months and under, as he was getting older, it was something that needed to be done.

    I absolutely think that you ARE an attached parent just based on this post. I also think that sometimes we mistake (as kids get older) needs and things they think they need (I'm not going to say wants here). Boundaries are good, and I don't think it means that you need to be "tough". With my son, I started talking about how "yums" were for before bed, and when he woke up, no matter how tired I was, I tried to gently reinforce this. When I really needed some help, dh stepped in.

    I think the key is to find something that works for you both, and be consistent about it. Talk about it in advance, let her know what you're doing and then implement it over the course of the next week or so on a consistent basis.

    Please let us know how it goes!


  4. I wrote you on this but it's not showing :(

  5. I don't have children, this is just my 2cents from working with so many in their home, class, and observing other parents.
    I think AP is wonderful, I plan on being one FOR SURE.
    I also know how draining and demanding the toddler years are.. and at that stage they clearly test their boundaries and limits. Setting boundaries and limits, schedules, routines usually DO make the child more secure and happy.. it can take careful observation (at least, for me) to know how to handle a situation. Everything is so different, every single day. I like to tell parents I work for that if something is not really a big deal, just move on and think "better luck tomorrow", but if something is a HUGE deal (ex: bed time.. meal times.. something that will happen EVERY DAY) it's better to try to get a grip on it as early as possible. Children, just like adults, get set in their ways. I think NO is a word children should hear from their parents, it is something they will hear their entire life. Who better to teach them how to deal with hearing 'No' than mommy?? You don't have to be mean about it, but when you say it , I think you should mean it. Crying is another, everyone cries, even adults. When the children I work with cry I try to explain their feelings to them , since they don't really understand frustration, sadness, whatever else yet. "I know, you are sad (mad , etc) that you have to go to sleep now.. " and cuddle, comfort them.. or if they are already speaking "Are you sad that you have to go to sleep? It is so hard to go to sleep, isn't it?" just acknowledging their feelings , in my experience, can calm them down and let them know it's completely acceptable to feel that way and you are there for them. Setting clear expectations seems to be another huge issue.. sometimes children just don't know what the parents are expecting, especially if every day those expectations change. I KNOW, you're probably like "Why are you saying this when you don't have kids?" but just advice from the pre-k teacher/nanny . Take it or leave it ;)! I love reading your blog! I have been meaning to comment on this since the day you posted it! xo- MEGAN


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