I have been reading a good deal on parenting lately. I began with two articles (Porter’s Science of Attachment and Narvaez’s Dangers of Crying it Out) and of course, got lost in the references and reading some of those articles.
I’m particularly excited about a study by Higley and Dozier (2009) where they studied 52 mother and infant dyads and found “that mothers of securely attached infants had nighttime interactions that were generally more consistent, sensitive and responsive than those of insecurely attached infants”. That coupled with this from Porter:
Perhaps the most difficult application of attachment theory lies in our own childhoods. Most of us were not raised within the attachment paradigm. We may worry about the choices we have made with our children, or the implications of our own childhoods on our current lives. While the period of rapid brain growth that occurs in the early years is the most vulnerable time, it is not the only time in which brain development can be altered. The brain is a flexible and complex organ that is always capable of new learning. The acceptance, belief, and practice of attachment parenting can be a healing experience for the parent while creating the best possible environment for the child. In the words of Ghandi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
All of that is to say that I’m ever expanding on my identity as mum, and the whole notion of what that means for me and my family. I’m realising the extent to which all of those ridiculous clichés are true: children are the future. And holy shit! I recognise that it’s not that easy, not that black and white, but it really does start here, at home, period, full stop. For every time I’ve lost it, I see little man lose it. For every time that I’ve laughed and hugged, I’ve heard little man laugh and have felt his hugs.
Another cliché: kids are a reflection of their parents. I don’t believe that for most of a child’s life, but under 2, well, yeah, I’ll take full responsibility for that — although you know this team will take full responsibility of its members far beyond that! I’ve seen my best and worst in him, and they are both eye openers for me.
Porter’s words resonated with me because this is something I struggle with from my past (my ‘object of inquiry’ as Thich Nhat Hanh said). As I read the Higley et al study, I felt comforted by the fact that the patterns of nighttime interaction were much what goes on in my house. Let me state in the strongest of terms that my self-doubt is just that, it’s not a desire to be like everyone else (if you know me…), it’s that confirmation, as in yes, when my bub was 12 months old (as were the 52 bubs in the Higley study), our behaviour was much like that.
I realise that our time is limited. I realise that our nighttime waking for a feed and going back to sleep will not be here for long–those are the good nights, probably just over half of our recent nights. I cherish those nights, languid with sleep, rocking and nourishing, comforting.
I’m more committed to continuing to breastfeed for as long as he wants to. My initial goal was to make it to his first birthday. We are still going strong at 18.5 months! He only feeds 3-4 times a day and we are both happy with how it is. Admittedly, it was difficult to wean off from the ‘workday’ daytime feeds once I was back in the office four days a week, but we did it gradually over a month and came to peace. It was made easier because he is typically such a keen eater!
The past few days I’ve finally begun to believe that I am doing a good job overall. Of course, there is always room for improvement. I believe that as I begin to get used to sleeping a little more (I have had 2 nights of a solid 6 hour block of sleep this week!!), I’ll continue to move out of what for me is like ‘survival mode’. That time when I can think about leaving the house in the morning for a brisk walk or bike ride before work actually seems like it might be here within the next year, hell, maybe even the next 6 months! Or maybe I could actually bike to work, dropping off little man on the way — that is a goal, but I need to start slowly!
Parenting as we have chosen to do it is a mind shift. Even from the seemingly little things like saying “here comes trouble”. Do I really want him to associate himself with trouble? Am I being too serious? Reading too much into what I know about human developmental psychology? Not for me; I don’t think so. So I say “here comes our little sweet man” or something else positive. There’s enough negative, why expose him to more?
Parenting as we have chosen to do it is perspective altering. It’s not ever been ‘how can he fit into our lives’? It is more about how can we enrich ourselves as a team (because our team has grown). It is the same path the chef and I began on together about a decade ago (biking, running, yoga). We’ve strayed, but have slowly been making our way back over the past several months. As bub has gotten older, it is easier for me to continue moving in the right direction. I’ve just got to keep on moving. There are lots of things we can do as a family that are active and engaging for the little man. Yes, we do things that will make him happy and fill his needs. I think that’s our job as parents and I certainly believe that it is mine as a mum.
And no, I’m not there yet, by far. Yes, I did get annoyed at him just this morning when he was breastfeeding and didn’t want my arms to touch him, thank you very much! He just wanted milk!
Little man sees me for what I am, truly and deeply. I see the same in him. Big man sees me for what I am, truly and deeply, and we love each other with all our might.
It really is about how we demonstrate love: to ourselves, to each other, to the outside world.