Last week, I talked about the approach of attachment parenting, as defined by Dr. William Sears, and the beginnings of this bond in the hours immediately after birth. Let me just reiterate Dr. Sears’ definition here:
Above all, attachment parenting means opening your mind and heart to the individual needs of your baby and letting your knowledge of your child be your guide to making on the spot decisions about what works best for both of you. In a nutshell, AP is learning to read the cues of your baby and responding appropriately to those cues. (The Attachment Parenting Book, 2).
In the infant stage, there are several things that tend to characterize attachment parenting: babywearing, breastfeeding, bed-sharing, sensitivity to an infant’s cries, and, generally, a baby-led approach. To put it in a few words, AP in the infant stage is the art of holding the child close, physically and emotionally, so that he or she can thrive from a place of security and love. As the child grows, attachment parenting transitions into the art of letting go slowly.
Dr. Sears discusses a number of benefits to the AP approach. Several of these benefits directly impact the growth of the child’s character, and the results become more and more apparent as the child grows. In particular, he notes that AP kids tend to have increased senses of empathy, fairness, and responsibility. Parents and kids tend to approach problems together and AP helps parents to feel connected to their children — the benefits of AP truly are a two-way street. (The Attachment Parenting Book, 11-25). For all of these reasons, AP can change with the child, adapting to his needs at every age and stage while remaining, at its core, a loving attentiveness.
So what does this look like, this slowly letting go as the child grows?
The physical closeness of babywearing and breastfeeding gradually gives way to the emotional closeness of a trusting parent-child relationship. The almost-constant snuggling of a newborn builds an emotional closeness that continues to blossom even as the child’s need for physical closeness wanes. As the child grows into an ever-widening circle of independence, the parents remain his haven, that secure place which grounds him and to which he can always return. It’s a precious relationship of trust and love.
For me, this isn’t just something I read in a book somewhere once. I see my preteen son voluntarily helping his toddler sister out of a tough spot or directing the lunch assembly line here at home, or taking responsibility for his own schoolwork and activities. I see my seven-year-old take the time to tie his four-year-old brother’s shoes when they go outside to play baseball. I see my ten-year-old help his brother bandage a scrape or take him a glass of juice when he’s sick. And my toddler will run to the baby when she cries and try to hold her close.
Yes, my kids squabble sometimes. No, I’m not a “textbook” AP parent, whatever that means, and I certainly make my fair share of mistakes. But I strive every day to make an investment in presence, in holding my kids close in love — whether that’s breastfeeding my baby or combing my toddler’s hair after her bath, sitting with my preschooler as he learns his numbers or listening patiently to my seven-year-old read to me, cheering for my ten-year-old as he pitches for the first time or giving my eleven-year-old a high five after he scores a soccer goal. And this commitment to presence is manifesting itself in my children as a confident independence that is rooted in charity.
And my job?
To hold them close in my heart, open my arms, and let them fly.
Mommy With Her Child At Beach by arztsamui (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Seagulls Flying at Sunset by Markuso (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
About Shannon Valenzuela
S.K. doesn’t believe in straight paths to anywhere. Her many meanderings have taken her through a Ph.D. in English Literature and becoming a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and she is now the homeschooling mama of four rambunctious boys and two darling little girls. Currently, she teaches prepared childbirth and baby care classes at a major Dallas hospital and freelances about all things pregnancy, birth, and mothering. Her book, Mothering the Mother of Many, will be released later this year. S.K. also enjoys writing fiction, especially in the medium created by the happy collision of sci-fi, fantasy, and legend that produced her debut novel, Silesia: The Outworlder. The sequel, The Lords of Askalon, will be released this fall. You can find out more about her current and upcoming projects at skvalenzuela.com.