Some people are blessed to know from the start what kind of parent they want to be. But for most of us, we’re learning as we go. We love our kids and try to do what we think it right for them. We try to teach them right from wrong and instill qualities in them that will help them become successful and well-balanced adults later in life. Every parent has their own ideas and methods on how to do this, but some of us are shocked to find ourselves grow and change as a parent as quickly as our little ones do.
Lucky parents know from the start that they will never lay their hand on their child in anger. They understand that babies need to trust their parents to keep them safe and that leaving them to cry alone only destroys this trust. They know they will let their child be who they are and give their child room to explore this world they live in. But for some of us, these are things we’ve never even thought about. For some of us, “attachment parenting” sounds like a dirt word, something unhealthy parents do to their kids to encourage them to be needy. We don’t understand the principles of attachment parenting and confuse it with the clingy, coddled children we see that are too insecure to let mommy walk away from them for one second. I knew I would never be one of those parents!
I always wanted kids and was so excited when it was finally our time to have a baby. With the exception of a few things, I was very mainstream. I knew I wanted to stay home to raise my kids, have a natural childbirth, breastfeed my baby for the first year, carry my baby in one of those backpack things, and use one of those neat cradle like dividers I saw in the store that let the baby sleep in the bed with you. But I also knew that I would use spanking and time outs with my kids and that my kid would never behave like that in a restaurant!
Then I became a mother. All of a sudden, things were so different now that it was my baby. I looked at this tiny person who I was responsible for and knew I had to protect him from harm. As time went on, my baby grew and so did I. Over time, certain accepted and expected mainstream ideals no longer seemed as harmless as they once had. Many of my definitions of harm changed as I changed. Some sooner than others, but many only after lots of pain and regret.
Things seemed easier in the beginning. I parented from the gut. If it felt wrong, I didn’t do it. But things got more complicated as my baby grew and started to “misbehave”. After trying the more traditional methods, I decide that it just didn’t work for us and started trying to find other options. I started hearing more and more about “attachment parenting” and started finding myself moving in that direction.
Now, a mother of two, I proudly consider myself one of those parents! My kids are sometimes loud in restaurants, they scream and fight with each other often, and I still struggle to grow as a parent on my journey to being AP. But I know I can never go back to mainstream parenting. I am amazed at how much I have changed and grown over the years. My kids have been both my student and teacher as we learn from together what our family is going to look like.
I wish I had been one of the lucky parents that didn’t have to go through the tears and heartbreak to get to this point. And sometimes I feel overwhelmed by how far I still need to go. But I will never stop trying and am so grateful for the infinite patience and ability for forgiveness my children have with me. And I urge every parent to follow to their gut in finding something that feels right for their family. Don’t worry if you’re not one of those lucky ones, it’s never too late to start the journey!