Saturday, January 29, 2011

Attached Parenting

Ten weeks to go until the expected arrival of baby number 2. I am so excited to meet this new little one! Realizing that a new baby is coming has made me reflect on my journey into attachment parenting.

When I became pregnant with Aydon (who is now almost three!!), I had no idea how I was going to raise him. I had a lot of church friends who sang the praises of a book entitled Babywise by Gary Ezzo. I quickly bought into the myth that a baby could easily destroy my marriage unless I made it sleep in a room by itself. Crying-it-out made good sense to me (now I shudder at the thought). The way CIO is described by Ezzo makes the whole process of "sleep training" seem so logical, practical, matter of fact.

But God had a different way with babies in mind for my husband and I. First of all, Aydon arrived quite unexpectedly at 32 weeks by emergency c-section. He spent the next six weeks in the hospital. I pumped milk for him, but I yearned to nurse him at my breast. When he came home, I struggled for weeks to move him from bottle (with my expressed milk) to breast feeding. God is good: once Aydon learned to breastfeed he did not stop until he was almost two and a half years old! I remember Aydon's first visit to his pediatrician, who looked at us sternly and said, "Let him nurse whenever he wants, for as long as he wants, as much as he wants." I remember breathing a sigh of nice it was to follow my instincts and to meet my little guy's needs, without worrying about some sort of legalistic "schedule" that I would have to keep him on!

On top of this, Aydon came home with an apnea monitor. It made sense to have him sleeping near us, in case something happens. I found it so comforting to have him nearby, hearing his breathing throughout the night.

I couldn't shake all of the Babywise ideas, though. I was convinced that if we didn't force our little guy to cry to sleep, he would never sleep on his own. Thankfully, the second time I tried laying Aydon down to fuss and cry to sleep, my husband said, "We are not going to do that. He is too little to understand what is happening." Thank God for my husband.

About this time, some of our friends stopped by, and brought me a gift: The Baby Book, by Dr. Sears. Waves of relief and freedom washed over me as I read the pages of this book. Overall, I gleaned from the pages that moms and dads had natural instincts that, when followed and listened to, would drive them to be good parents (such as, when baby is crying, and you feel the urge to respond, do it!). The main thesis of the book was that if we build a strong foundation of trust with our infants, their bond with us will follow them throughout their growing up years. Now THIS reminded me of how God deals with us, His children: He draws us to trust Him; He builds a foundation of relationship with us; He always answers our cries for help; He is always available to us; He never leaves us or abandons us.

For a long time, Aydon slept in a little bed beside ours. Once, we were on a trip to visit my husband's parents. It was deathly cold at night, and our little man woke every hour, freezing cold. My husband leaned over to me and whispered, "Just let him sleep in bed with us." Once again, I felt immense relief. We all slept so well that night that Aydon hasn't left our bed fully yet!

Our almost three year old is not a spoiled-rotten brat. He has grown from being very attached into having a healthy amount of independence for a two-year-old. While he is somewhat introverted, he knows how to smile and greet others with a "hi." He sleeps the first half of the night on a little mattress by our bed, by himself. When he wakes, he crawls into bed with us, quickly falling back to sleep. Some nights, I do not even remember him waking and crawling into our bed! He is weaned, though I would have nothing against him still nursing. Weaning was a beautiful, natural process. I was four months pregnant, and was producing very little milk. Aydon was only nursing at bedtime and naptime. I gently taught him to fall asleep with cuddles at naptime by telling him he could nurse for a few minutes, and then we would cuddle. At bedtime, I nursed him till he was almost asleep, then lay beside him, snuggling, until he drifted into dreamland. Soon, we moved to mere cuddles to fall asleep.

Has attachment parenting destroyed my marriage? NO! It has turned my husband and I into compassionate parents. When our little guy has trouble sleeping, we meet his needs, and we are a team. One night, I was somewhat frustrated by how long it had taken our son to fall asleep: my husband looked at me and said, "Well, he is just like us. Some nights it is harder to fall asleep than others." We have plenty of time to enjoy our marriage, and knowing that we both believe in being responsive to our son, helps me to relax and have fun during our time together. Enough said, there. :-)

Being an attached parent is wonderful, and I wanted to describe it here so that I will not forget our wonderful journey into attachment parenting.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thanks For Hanging in There for My Vent

I have always wanted to be gracious towards other parents, and as I was rereading my former post, I realize that it was more of a vent than an encouragement! Hopefully I didn't hurt or offend anyone.

God has really just been humbling me lately as a parent, and showing me how much I NEED HIM! My little guy missed his nap today, and we went grocery shopping instead....not always a smart idea. He did great, but when we got home, he was a bit stare crazy so I took him to the park at our apartments. He rode his tricycle as usual, and we were doing fine until we were on our way home, in the parking lot, and a car needed to back up. I told my little guy, "Uh, oh, car backing up, we need to move!" and he did not budge. Instead, he said, "no, it's not!" Yes, this is little man. He is very much like his daddy. Don't ask him to do something if he does not feel that there is a logical reason to do it. :-) I realized this recently, and I have started to rephrase my requests to "You need to, or mommy will help you," rather than giving him an explanation right then. Anyways, long story short, little man dug in his heals until I was forced to pick up him and his trike and move him to the side of the parking lot...and a massive fit ensued. Yes, for the whole apartments to see... I sat in the grass with him and held him while the fit went on and on and on...not at all typical behavior for my little guy.

Public fits really bring out the humanity in me. I was embarrassed and so tempted to be harsh and punitive. I did not look to God for help as I should have. The fit finally slowed and I told my son, "Listen to mommy first, and when you are not mad, we can return to your trike." He finally decided to listen, and calmed himself. I talked with him about how important it is to listen to me because I love him and am trying to take care of him...I wonder how much he really understood, because when I since looked back on the situation, I saw a myriad of factors that affected my son's behavior: lack of sleep, hunger, fear of losing his trike, fear of his big feelings. I do not regret standing my ground, but I wish that I would have in a gentler spirit, trusting God, instead of worrying about the neighbors. Initially, I tried to reason with my tired tot to get him to move out of the way; in retrospect, I should have said, firmly and kindly, "You need to move now, or else mommy will pick you up and move you," and followed through...we might have avoided what turned into a "showdown", adversarial type situation. Ugh, sometimes I hate the way I handle things. To make matters worse, kids are SO forgiving, so quick to go back to loving their mommies and daddies after rocky times.

I just realize how important it is for me to be gracious towards other mommies!  God always uses little situations like tonight to humble me, to keep me from being judgmental, and to remind me to rest in His strength, to trust in His guidance.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Prodigal Son

I am so frustrated! I heard the argument recently from another mom as to why we should spank. It went something like this: "It's not child abuse! You take the child into the room, explain to them their offense, and then spank them."

If I would have been quicker on my feet, I might have asked her the following: "If a man beats/hits his wife, that is abuse, right? (rhetorical answer, yes) If a man brings his wife into the room, explains to her her offense, and then hits her on her bottom until she cries remorsefully, is that abuse? (rhetorical answer, yes) What if the woman isn't submitting to her husband like God tells her to, and that is why he is bringing her into the room? Is it still abuse for him to hit her? I mean, she deserves it, right? (rhetorical answer, yes, it is still abuse)"

How can we call an adult hitting another adult, even if the hitting is not done in anger, even if it is done with an explanation first, abuse, and yet say that when an adult hits a child a CERTAIN WAY, it is not abuse??? Furthermore, I would like to have asked, if spanking is biblical, then you should be following the following Proverb literally: "Beat your child with a rod and he shall not die...". We should have big heavy rods sitting around our house, and we should be beating our children with them. Oh, wait, nope, not our children, actually, our teenagers, because that is what is meant by the word child in this verse (na'ar). Where is the Biblical prescription that says we should take our children into their rooms, explain the offense, and then spank? Where is it??

Certainly, the Proverbs and all of Scripture speaks to parents being authorities in the lives of their children. It speaks to parents being actively involved in training and teaching and correcting (nurturing and admonishing) their children. We see that all hell breaks loose when children are raised with no parental involvement, with no parental intervention when they are doing wrong. As parents, we have a choice as to how we will intervene with our children. Will we intervene with grace, will we correct with gentleness and compassion? Can we teach our children right from wrong without physically or emotionally harming them?

I have been thinking about the story of the prodigal son, for that is a story that describes God as a father. The prodigal's father allowed his son to leave home and to live in sin. He was not permissive, though: he let his son experience the intrinsic consequences in the sin. He did not bail his son out of his problems. But he was always at home, waiting expectantly for his son to return. Was he waiting at home with a rod in hand? No! In fact, the prodigal son, upon his return home, wanted to repay his father for all his offenses. He wanted to work off his debt to his dad. He was willing to be a servant in his daddies house. But his dad welcomed him home: no shaming, no punishing. The son was still a son. The son had experienced the yuckiness of sin, and knew that life with his father was infinitely better.

Now this is a model for us parents! When our children choose to do wrong, we do not always shield them from the consequences for their sin, especially when they are older. For example, if they steal, they will need to return the stolen object, apologize, and perhaps work for/serve the person they stole from. But do they need to somehow "pay" God or us as parents back for their wrong by suffering? No! That is where grace comes in. We are the ones who should always be waiting for our children with open arms, eyes full of love, of grace. Our children should never feel that they will not be accepted by us after they do wrong until they first suffer. Trust me, if we teach them this, they will approach God in this way. They will be afraid of Him after they sin...they will wonder, "How hard of a spanking (we Christians translate this into trials) will I get for this one?" Let's model to our children who God is correctly! Let's look closely at the Bible to see how God really wants us to raise our children. Let's not parent out of fear, feeling that we must control our children, let's parent them with confidence, knowing that we are their authorities, but that does not give us permission to treat them any differently than God would call us to treat a fellow believer.