Attachment Parenting: Playing the Long Game

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Many of us discovered attachment parenting when our kids were tiny babies. We chose to hold them close, perhaps sleep with them, not let them cry, respond to their needs. We read about other parents like us and came to define ourselves as attachment parents as we worked to allow our kids to form secure attachments to us.

Then our babies became toddlers and then preschoolers and then school-aged kids. And we discovered something. We discovered what attachment parenting is not.

Attachment Parenting is not:

Babywearing
Breastfeeding &
Bed-sharing

Sure these things are amazing ways to bond with our babies and children but they do not define us as attachment parents. You can be an attachment parent and not do any of these things. You can do all of these things and not be an attachment parent.

Attachment Parenting is about respect and empathy. It’s about throwing away conventional parenting wisdom of rewards and punishments. And really, it’s about working on OURSELVES so we can be better for our kids.

Attachment Parenting is playing the long game.

My results-oriented husband sometimes feels like we are totally screwing up our kids. That the way we parent them is making them needier. That the kids that aren’t parented this way must not cry as much, must not want to be held as much, must not NEED as much. He wants to see the fruits of our labour. But our kids are still young so the fruits are few and far between.

I try to explain that isn’t how it works. All kids have needs, it’s how we meet them that makes the difference. That kids become what they experience. If they are treated with empathy and respect, they will grow into empathetic and respectful adults. He knows these things really, it’s just hard to remember when you are knee deep in whining, crying and just generally being needed constantly by two tiny humans.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any less of him for feeling we might be totally screwing things up. Sometimes I feel like I am walking blind too. I don’t personally know any AP’d adults who have grown up the way we strive to parent our kids. I don’t even know any other AP families in real life who parent the way we do. But I am part of a large and growing online community full of moms and dads at different stages in the same journey as we are so I hear their stories, listen to their struggles, ask their advice. And I read a lot of research. And I know we are on the right track.

One thing I know is having young children can be frustrating on a daily basis. If you let your frustrations build on top of each other you are not going to be the parent you want to be. You are going to go to bed each day wishing you had done better.

The way to do better is through working on yourself.

I often see parents talking about not getting any time away from their kids so they are never able to do self-care. The thing is, time away is good but it’s not the only way to take care of yourself. I personally find time away doesn’t do it. Don’t get me wrong, a solo trip to the grocery store feels like a pretty amazing outing these days but I don’t come back feeling rejuvenated. And I don’t like living looking forward to the next time I can get away.

Daily meditation, exercise, conversation with friends, projects to focus on. Things that make you feel like a whole person. When you find the minutes where your kids are actually occupied doing something on their own, use them to fill your cup.

I am currently writing this blog article and my daughter has just started calling me to help her find a certain costume. My 16 month old is now pulling on my leg.

My 5 minutes is up. But the 5 I had while they were peacefully playing outside not needing me felt GOOD and replenishing because I was working on something for me. I was not surfing the internet. I was not cleaning or cooking. I do all of these things too but they do not fill my cup in the same way. Writing calms my brain in a different way. A way that makes me feel whole. A way that lets me be a better parent to my kids because slogging it out in the trenches of “MOOOOOOOOMMMMMM, I NEEEEEEEEEED YOU” is deep down tiring. Figure out what those things are for you and build them into your days, every day.

Responding with empathy and respect is not the easy road. If you really want to play the long game you have to practice regularly. You have to hone your skills and when you fail you have to get up, dust yourself off and keep on keeping on.

When our kids are small, the finish line seems very far away. But it gets a little closer every day and before you know the long game will be over and our kids will have won.

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