|Day old Annabelle in the “close and secure sleeper”,
which, as it turns out, didn’t work for us after all.
I hadn’t given a lot of thought to how I came to find my parenting style until I was answering Shannon
‘s questions for my feature on NPN
. It wasn’t until then that I realized what a tremendous influence certain people have had on my journey to instinctual mothering
, and how different things could have been.
I could write for days on the wealth of knowledge and the depth of the wisdom I have gained from my grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, and from my own parents as well. They have been a tremendous influence on me, and I am so thankful to have the opportunity to learn from them. As much as I have taken and put into practice things I have learned from my own family, however, I find that my personal parenting style is different in many ways from theirs.
While my mother breastfed me and all three of my siblings for some period as babies and she could no more stand the idea of leaving an infant to cry it out than I can, she was in many other ways a ‘mainstream parent’. Thanks to her, and to other family members, I always saw breastfeeding as the norm and the question of whether or not I would nurse my child was never a question at all. We did, however, sleep in our own rooms and receive spankings when we misbehaved, and I grew up seeing these things as normal as well.
My first introduction to attachment parenting came in the home of a preschooler I often babysat. He and his family shared sleep, and I stayed over on a few different occasions while his parents had to be away overnight. Since I was completing my Montessori internship at his school, I suppose it was presumed that I would be accustomed to parenting practices that respect the child, so I was asked to sleep in their family bed. Parenting had not been covered in my training, however, and I’ll admit I thought this was a bit much, but out of respect for a lovely family, I obliged.
|Almost 3 month old Annabelle, showing me where she
I soon began babysitting for another family that shared sleep, this one with both a preschooler and a toddler. With this family, I never stayed the night, but when I learned that the children did not sleep in their own beds, I was a bit surprised. While the first family I mentioned had been undeniably “crunchy,” this family was so normal! Both parents worked, they dressed fashionably, they were social and fun. This challenged everything I thought I knew about the sorts of families that share sleep with their children. As I got to know this family better and their toddler reached preschool age, I learned that the mother was still breastfeeding her now three old. I tried to be respectful, open-minded, non-judgmental, but … really!? Breastfeeding a three year old? Oh, how little I knew!
As the years went on, I had other brief brushes with what I now know were “attachment parents” and some of these practices began to seem a little less, well, weird. I’m so thankful to have had these experiences before I became a parent myself. When I learned of my own pregnancy, I began reading obsessively. A friend introduced me to the site Peaceful Parenting
, where I began devouring resources that helped me learn that practices like cosleeping and “extended” breastfeeding are actually supported by research. I began to see the wisdom of the parents I used to think were insane.
I began discussing parenting topics with a friend who had recently become a new mom herself and upon hearing of a few of my plans for parenting, she asked if I was going to practice attachment parenting. My response: “Huh?” She explained to me a bit about what this meant, and I started doing some reading myself. Everything I read resonated with me – I guess I was planning to practice “attachment parenting” after all. I just didn’t know there was a term for it.
|Almost 11 months old, and still teaching me
how to be a better mom every day.
Still, nothing could prepare me for Annabelle’s arrival. Many of the things I thought I would do changed as a necessary response to her needs. She showed me what she needed. She taught me how to parent. The more time goes on, the more I see that “Attachment Parenting,” for me, really is what comes naturally. It is the only logical response to my daughter’s needs and the culmination of everything I have learned from those who came before me. I’m not a better mother because I breastfeed, or because I cosleep, or because I do any of the things I do. I do all of these things, because they’re all I know how to do. Because they work for us. It just feels right.
Last week, Dulce of the blog Dulce de Leche shared the following: “My parents showed greater gentleness to me than they received themselves as children, and my grandparents were kinder to my parents than their parents were to them. My choice to parent my own children non-punitively is not a statement against my parents. Rather, it is thanks to their way of parenting me that I was able to have greater tools and resources to parent my own children even more gently.”
By no means were my parents, or my grandparents perfect, but had it not been for their parenting, I would be a different person. By learning from the perfect as well as the imperfect, I have the unique opportunity to benefit from their wisdom, added to the wisdom of the parents in my life today and the wisdom I gain from my own child each and every day.
How did you settle in to your own parenting style? What, or who were your biggest influences?