Category Archives: Attachment Parenting

Inviting them in…

(Also posted on API Speaks. Join us in celebrating Attachment Parenting Month!!)

Sometimes being present in your child’s life has more to do with inviting them in to your life, rather than joining them in theirs. We focus a lot on setting aside time for our children so we can engage in their activities, which is definitely important, but it’s not the only way to involve them in your life.

I had my daughter, now seven, when I was twenty five. I was in my last year of college. I distinctly remember reading my criminal justice and criminology text to her as she grew in my womb. Once she was born, she came with me everywhere. When I went to study, she came along, sitting up in her little baby seat, smiling away at the staff and Village Inn as I read up on trial practice, literature and the law, and basic evidence. She flourished at my side.

When she was two, I entered law school and she entered pre-school. There were days when I would pull her out of school and bring her to class with me, so she could see what mommy did all day. At two, she would sit quietly next to me in class for the full hour and forty-five minutes, listening to a lecture on federal wildlife law, administrative law, and be happy as a clam. She would often raise her hands and ask questions of my professors, and in the three years I attended law school, she enjoyed every class she got to sit in on.

When I joined the American Inns of Court she came to our weekly breakfasts, and loved talking to the judges and lawyers, listening to their stories, and stealing bits of their bacon and cantaloupe. To this day she attends these breakfasts with me, and is very proud that she gets to come along.

After graduation I went to work for an attorney in NJ. At one point in time I had to bring Monkey to work with me. We had a huge filing due the next day, my husband was out of town, and there was nowhere else for her to go. She sat in my office with me from 3:30 p.m. until nearly midnight, happily drawing away. On the ride home I thanked her for being so well behaved. She said “You remember how I used to go to law school with you? This was kind of like that, I have missed it.” I was so touched to realize how much she enjoyed being a part of my adult world.

I forget how much it means to her, to be allowed in on the things I am doing. Sure, she is thrilled if I play house with her, or paint a picture with her, but she will cry if she misses Thursday morning breakfast group. I always worried she would find these grown up occasions boring, but she doesn’t. She involves herself, and finds a way to participate, every single time. She is so proud that she gets to attend grown up functions, and she is always well behaved at them. We may have tantrums in the store, or wiggling at a restaurant, but she knows when she has to behave well, and she is so pleased to be included that she goes out of her way to do her best.

There are other ways to invite children in, letting them cook with you, clean with you, choose items at the grocery store or make decisions about what you do as a family on the weekend. In my experience, just being asked to join in makes all the difference to our little people.

AP Month…

Attachment Parenting Month is here, and the theme is “giving our children presence”. As many of you know, I am a big fan of the AP principles, and I think they have hit the ball out of the park by choosing to focus on the importance of involved parenting for AP month.

There are many things I have tried to do to keep my family connected. I don’t have a car with a built in DVD player, and Ipod’s or MP3 players are not allowed in the car. If we are going to listen to music, we will do it together. I have gotten rid of cable t.v., and the nights that we eat in front of the boob tube we watch something all of us can enjoy together. I have brought my kids into the kitchen to help me cook, I have brought them into housework to help me clean. Lee and I try our best to live our lives with our children, instead of around them.

Still, it can be challenging to remain present in our kids lives. Life is hard work and we don’t do such a good job staying present for each other sometimes, much less our kids. After a long day with Otter, I don’t always have the fortitude to throw myself into Monkey’s tea party schemes. Sometimes I lock myself in my office and blog while the kids watch Little Bear on the Apple T.V.

So… for AP Month I want to ask my readers how you give your presence to your children, when you are too worn out to be present for anyone else? I want to explore the little pieces of parenting that make the difference for our kids, and us. For example, when I am feeling really worn down and I know I haven’t been particularly present lately I will take the extra minute to cut Monkey’s lunch sandwiches into heart shapes with a Valentines Day cookie cutter. That way I know she will feel that little extra bit of love when she opens her lunch during school.

What do you do? What are the little touches you add to your kids lives to make them feel that much more loved?

Sensitivity strained by boundary pushing

Responding with sensitivity. Keeping everyone’s dignity in tact. Using positive reinforcement and active listening instead of punishment and negative reaction. All of these practices are something I firmly believe in. I believe children are incentivized to behave well when their needs are met, their work praised, and their failures patiently worked through, instead of harped on. I believe in teaching my children about consequences, instead of punishing them for their actions. I am a big believer in patient parenting.

And then I met six.

Six has strained my relationship with my daughter, my role as an attachment parent, and all my fancy new fangled parenting skills. How exactly does one parent with patience during daily doses of the following:

“Mom! Can we play on the playground?”

“I’m sorry honey but not today, it’s raining.”

“Awww… but I want to! Just for a minute?”

“No dear, the playground is all wet and we need to get in out of the rain.”

“I don’t mind if I get wet. I want to play on the playground.”

“I understand that you do, but the answer is no.”

“But I never get to play on the playground!!”

“Monkey, you have played on the playground every day this week. Today it is raining. We are not playing on the playground in the rain.”

“Can I just go see if the playground is wet before we go?”

“No, clearly the playground is wet if it is raining. We are not staying, we are getting in out of the rain.”

“But I won’t play on it, I just want to look at it!”

“Monkey, you have asked me at least five times, I have answered no each time. There will not be a change in my answer. If you ask me again I will have to take away a privilege. Do you understand me?”

eyerolling “Yes” sigh “I wish I could play on the playground.”

It is enough to drive all notions of attachment parenting right out the window. To make things worse, if I ask her a question she doesn’t want to answer, she will just pretend I never spoke. It has gotten to the point where both my husband and I will reassuringly say “It’s okay honey, I heard you, you did actually speak out loud.”

What is a parent to do? I am trying not to envision my child with ugly green horns and bulbous spots when this behavior rears its ugly head, but I go not have endless reserves of patience. I can’t just turn off all my feelings and not react, even though I know her behavior is developmental, that she is testing her individuality and my boundaries. I know she is not out to get me, but it’s hard to know that in the middle of an argument.

I thought I would share a few of the coping methods I have attempted to employ in staying calm in the face of her powerful persistence.

1. Hum The Girl from Ipanema in my head and imagine I am all alone in an elevator that no one, especially my arguing child, can get into.

2. Envision myself on a beach drinking an icy cold fru-fru drink while a massage therapist works all the argument caused knots out of my shoulders.

3. Remind myself that calm and consistent responses will make a strong and healthy child.

4. Take a deep breath and warn Monkey that she is about to make me very angry. “Honey, I am getting very frustrated, if this continues, I may yell at you.”

If those don’t work I try to forgive myself for yelling, and her for pushing. I also try to apologize for losing my cool, and explain to her why I did. I use I statements when doing so; “I am sorry I yelled, I was feeling like you weren’t listening to me, and that was frustrating for me.” Usually she will apologize too, and we will hug, and the day will go on. On really bad days, we just have a fight, and then I lock myself in the bathroom alone for twenty solid minutes (after hubby is home) and either: read a book, do my nails, or take a long hot shower so I can recover some of my resources.

What do you do to stay calm in the face of unbelievable, epic persistence? What techniques do you use to keep your cool and respond with sensitivity? I would love it if all of you would share your ideas with me in the comments. I think we can all parent more patiently if we have a larger arsenal to draw from.

You may also view this post at API Speaks.