There is nothing quite like a quick poke at parenting on a public forum or news site for getting the blood boiling. I wrote the other week about how Cherie Blair had rattled cages all over by saying that what children needed was to have their mothers out at work being proper role models instead of all this fannying around being at home with their kids. This week it was the turn of BBC Breakfast, cheerfully asking people to comment on attachment parenting as a way of caring for and loving children. It always amazes me how it is okay to offer ordinary, every day, hardworking parents who want to spend time with their children up as ‘debate topics’, whether of the attachment types or the home educating types or the anything else that isn’t government approved parenting. Apparently we are fair game for discussion. I don’t recall the ‘BBC Breakfast discusses parents who entirely rely on after-school clubs/childminders/babysitting by Xbox’ programme and in the same way parents who work full time seem to be protected by some invisible “they are just doing what they think is best for their children and trying to give them a decent start” force field. Not so those of us who want to listen and respond to our children’s needs in our own personally crafted way.
I’ve got no beef with people who work full time. I’ve not got any beef with people who use all the above options for childcare if it works, they are happy and their kids are happy. Plenty of people would love to do things differently and can’t either – and that’s sad and frustrating on many, many levels. I’m no fan of cry it out, but I’ve done it. I’m no fan of childhood by Xbox but my children watched a fair bit of CBeebies when they were little and you know, we have a Wii. But somehow it’s just fine to treat people who attachment parent as some type of freak show; light the touch paper and sell tickets to the event. You know it’ll be a good one. You can decide if we better fit the Mary Poppins model or the are more like the Von Trapps in The Sound of Music. (I sometimes wonder if the shrieks that erupt from these oh so perfectly parented children aren’t more Sweeney Todd but let’s pretend I didn’t say that). Either way, you can guarantee we’ll be good entertainment; sit back and laugh and point to your hearts content.
It disappoints me when it is an establishment I’d expect to behave better. No thread on a Facebook page discussing attachment parenting described as ‘extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping and always carry them’ in a sensationalist ‘what a bunch of weirdos’ way is going to make a confirmed follower of ‘give them a good wallop and wailing for 6 hours never did me any harm’ parenting change their mind. There are too many people determined to see it as the ‘expert’ on the BBC saw it – as ’emotional abuse’. 🙄 While I applaud the people who tried to engage, how can you fight comments like “they’ll never learn to sleep on their own” or “the kids in my class parented this way are a nightmare!” You might as well not bother. I’ve argued myself black and blue often enough to know that most people won’t change their perceived ideas about any alternative family structure. It’s pointless. I could tell you 50 instances of people telling me home ed must be wrong and can’t give kids all they need and then telling me all the things wrong with their school or why it’s hard for their kids. It would be the same about co-sleeping if I bothered to have the argument.
My form of parenting involves responding to my individual child’s needs as closely as I can. Mostly. I’m not perfect. The child who liked to be held was held. The child who likes to sleep alone (2 so far) sleeps alone. Bene is my most attachment parented child in some respects, he was barely put down for 3 months and he’s never been in a pushchair. He sleeps alone – all night – in his cot because that suits him and is happy to be handed about and cuddled by anyone. Josie was breastfed till she was 2 1/2. She stopped when she was a ready. Amelie still crawls into our bed once a week, but she can go away without us quite happily. Maddy was the cat who walked alone and still is. Fran was parented ‘by the book’ and we spent months with her wailing in her room at night, months trying to get some ‘us time’ without her and trying to train her. It didn’t work and it did far more damage that we had to fix. She was the only one to be put in her own bed on purpose and the only one to have sleep problems.
But no. The clever thing is to sell cuddling your child, breastfeeding them for as long as they want and letting them sleep the way most adults choose to (with someone else) as weird. Something where people can be clever by leaving comments like “bitty!” and (honestly, I ask you?) “She’s got younger children while co-sleeping, it’s just wrong for children to witness that”. Dear commenter, let me introduce you to… the sofa! The stairs, the kitchen, dining room, bathroom, garage… we do not all need to conceive in our beds. You muppet.
The vast majority of parents are busy trying to do their best for their children. There is room for diversity. There is room for error even. There is room for adapting even a parenting method with a name to the individual child. I stay at home with my children because having grown up with a career mum, I wanted to do things differently. Plus I didn’t have a career I felt passionate about. Some people would love to breastfeed longer but have to go back to work whether they want to or not. Some people are too scared to co-sleep or have children like Maddy and Bene who don’t need it. Some people hear rules laid down to cover smoking, drinking, drug taking parents and choose not to co-sleep because they are afraid they will do harm (I’ve never rolled on a child yet in 14 years of relatively persistent bed sharing but it worries Max so he tends to sleep in another room when they are tiny). Some people come to different parenting methods with experience, as we have done. Some people never really have the confidence to try a sling, some people just love the idea of spending money on a pram. Apparently, by the way, Victoria Beckham is leading the way in showing new yummy mummies to carry their children about rather than (and I quote) having them safely tucked up in a pram. Who knew?
What this country does not have is a hoard of 32 year old men and women still breastfeeding, tucked up in their parents’ beds at night who like to be carried in a sling everywhere, so overall I’m pretty sure it doesn’t inhibit independence too much. And of all the comments that made me sad while I read the responses of people at large in this country, the saddest ones were people snorting about how kids* don’t learn independence if their parents try to react to their needs by parenting them in a manner which encourages gentle, supported separation at the child’s pace.
Just how screwed up is that statement exactly? How have we come so far down a path of not respecting childhood needs that we think that? That KIDS need to be independent before they are 1 or 2 in order to be normal? Do we have a country entirely filled with well adjusted children to support this comment?
*Kids. Definition of kids is very small people learning to live in the world who need guidance, love, care and TO.BE.DEPENDANT on their parents until they are adults. Duh.