19 December 2009

All parents are attached?

Yeah yeah, more philosophy with mama. ;) Today, something that I am having a hard time with when it comes up (as it has done a few times this week, oddly). The thread of reasoning is tangled as always, but here goes. Unravel with me.

The question usually comes after I have explained my theory (well, it isn't just my theory, it's widely held, but I ramble about it a lot so I'm claiming it for today) that Attachment Parenting is primarily differentiated from anything else by the attitude it holds about relationships. Then the question (oops, sorry, did I loose you all to the long and incoherent and very old post there?) comes up that if AP is a good attitude whether, since all parents love their children and are attached to them, they are not all AP?

Another yes-and-also-no moment. Well, yes. All parents love their children (can we discount those that deliberately harm as out of the running for role models here?) and all parents are attached to their children. But also, there are scientific criteria for behavior in relationships that defines that partnering as attached or detached. Science! Uhoh, probably about to lose some readers who understand it better than me and know I'm blagging half of the science, and others who don't care what science says about good relationships. ;)

Hey, wait, wasn't I talking about attitude being more important than behavior, because everyone lives out their ideals differently?

Right, scientific criteria. Well, those criteria don't propose to tell you what is in the parent's head or heart - in fact, nobody is equipped to say that for sure, probably not even the parent. The behaviors don't tell us the whole story, but they do tell us something. They tell us what the CHILD hears/sees/learns, not just about parenting methods, but about all human relationships. The behaviors tell us what the child is learning about LOVE.

So, from the point of view of us becoming better parents, the attitude is everything. To our children, the attitude and what we show them about attitudes to other people, what we teach them about caring, those are immeasurably important. I'm not entirely correcting myself here ;) though I'm sounding a trifle contradictory... The attitude can't be the whole story, because our children listen with their whole bodies, and they don't always experience the love we are sending out.

It seems obvious now I think about it, but as has famously been pointed out, trees are known by their fruit.

How much more true is that for babies, who have no possible way of comprehending our motivations (which, to be fair, can be pretty incomprehensible at the best of times)? You may be showing love to your newborn baby by working all hours to provide home comforts, but how can a baby perceive that as love? That isn't a judgment on it, simply an obvious fact - the baby cannot HELP but see that as a detachment. And if that is the case, the only way to stay attached, the only way to demonstrate love (if we cannot dispense with the working arrangement) is to give extra care to that relationship and not willingly compromise any other possible gift of ourselves that we can give.

We may be, in a cultural norm that has only disturbed me for half of my parenting journey, try to give love to our babies by rocking them in the buggy making shushing noises (while the baby makes increasingly frustrated "pick me up" noises). This is a parent trying to give love to their baby, not in any way consciously detaching or trying to override what the baby is asking for. This parent is loving, and feels attached to their baby. But does the baby know that?

That is partly to do with attitude, sometimes, but also frequently a lack of knowledge of what babies need and what is biologically appropriate for them.

Love is not always what we think it ought to be. It isn't always a gift of time, attention, or affection, by a means that feels comfortable (or socially normal). In order to make our love meaningful to our children and allow our relationship with them to remain simply normal, we need to question the ways in which we show that love. Even the ways in which, as an AP community, we assume that every baby will find meaningful.

Can I accept the challenge to look at This Child, Here and Now? Can I really know how to be meaningfully present and consistently loving, in their personal language? I have to, because there isn't any other way now I know that I'm not listening, haven't always let myself fully listen.

So I'm starting to see Attachment Parenting, not just as the way that I react to, feel about, see my children. It isn't, either, just a set of things I ought to do to be more attached. It is a giving and receiving of love, a relearning of relationships.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I see it is attachment with a small 'a' - that is the love that presumably every parent feels for their child, and Attachment with a capital 'A' which is the term used in its technical sense as coined by John Bowlby and is more to do with actions than feelings.
    I think what you're saying is that a parent can love their child hugely and still bring them up so that the child does not feel a secure attachment because they do not know how to act in order to ensure this, or they choose a method which deliberately introduces detachment, such as Gina Ford.
    I know many people people hate the term attachment parenting, and I wonder if we need to change the terminology so that other methods become known as 'detachment parenting' in order to make it clear what their main methodlogy is and implies?


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