I wrote about the intersection of attachment parenting and Waldorf education some years ago in a back post, but it has been on my mind again lately…And then, just this week, there was a wonderful thread regarding this topic on Marsha Johnson’s firstname.lastname@example.org list. Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie of Wonder Of Childhood (http://thewonderofchildhood.com/) had some particularly wise and insightful things to say about the journey of the parent as a part of Waldorf parenting (which we often see in the work of biography in Waldorf Education, as we, the teacher and the parent, strive to heal and understand ourselves because we are not just teaching academic subjects but teaching how we view the world and who we are!) and how this intersects with attachment parenting.
My husband and I have attachment parented three children ages 11 to 3 as of this writing. I have been involved and am still involved in attachment parenting at my local community level, and I receive a lot of mail and questions from attached parents all over the world, so I think I am in a unique situation to know what’s going on in the world of attached parents.
So, today I want to write about some of the ways I personally think attachment parenting has been misunderstood and misconstrued. Again, this is my opinion, so please take what resonates for you, and leave the rest behind. There really are no road maps for the attachment parenting of the older child; I believe there is a book out by Isabelle Fox on this subject and I think I read it a long time ago but yet I have little impression of it at this point Therefore, these are just some of my observations from seeing attached children that are now over the age of seven, up through the teenaged years.
The attached mothers I have spoken to who have children over the age of 7 or 8 wouldn’t change the fact that they are attachment parenting but many of them would change HOW they did it. Most of the things they would change has to do with rhythm, how they communicated with the young child, and boundaries for the entire family.
So, without a road map for the older child, here is my perspective after being in the attachment community for eleven years now:
Number One: Some feel that in order to be an attached parent, the approach must be completely child-centered – ie, the child sets the rhythm, whatever the child wants to do the parent does their best to make it happen, anything the child says and does requires the attention of the parent. Yet, Jean Liedloff herself wrote about the unhappy consequences of being completely child-centered here: http://www.continuum-concept.org/reading/whosInControl.html
Actually, I think the attachment literature that has sprung up has done a decent job of talking about how the family needs balance, that the parent cannot “fix” things for the child…..BUT I don’t always see that in practice. What I often see is an exhausted mother, a husband who is completely involved but also wishes for some time alone with his wife, sometimes guilt because the mother feels she should be doing things “better” as an attached mother and if she was “perfect” she could fix every emotional challenge for her child and her family would float along happily with no conflict at all. Sometimes everything really comes to a head for the attached family after years and years of attachment parenting and multiple children….. I think some of this stems from the fact that when an infant is small, we need to respond to infant’s stress cues right away and that for many breastfeeding mothers, they feel many things are readily fixable with nursing…How that changes as a child grows into toddlerhood!
So, in response to this, I wish the attachment community would write more about how the child and the mother, whilst entwined at birth and through the physiologic acts of breastfeeding and attentive nighttime parenting (co-sleeping or sleeping in proximity), are actually separate human beings with distinct differences by virtue that one is the adult parent and one is the child with the consciousness of a child. I like how La Leche League put it in their book, “Adventures In Gentle Discipline”:“Bear in mind that to say children are equally deserving of dignity and respect does not have to mean that the relationship itself is of equal power. As a parent, you have a broader view and more life experience to draw from, and these are assets you bring to the child as his adult caretaker. You also bear more responsibility for choices surrounding your child than he does.” (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, page 11)
I believe many attachment parenting groups utilize The Gesell Institute books in their libraries, but I wish attached parents would refer to the developmental stages in those books more often in their parenting so they could really understand where their child is and have realistic expectations and realistic ways of communicating. I think these books highlight where a child is coming from, and how the adult can help their child best in each developmental stage.
I also wish the attachment parenting movement would talk more about the benefits of like-minded community to assist in balance for the family. The Continuum Concept certainly showed the benefits of community off!
More thoughts on this subject tomorrow!