I’m an attachment parent.
When my oldest son was born, I cuddled him against my chest and latched him to my breast. He slept in our bed. We carried him almost constantly in a Moby wrap, and I learned to nurse without taking him out.
He was never left to cry; one whimper had me running. We didn’t own a stroller, a pack ‘n’ play, a crib, or an infant carrier — I used my wrap.
I breastfed him — and his brother — past the age of three.
And they have never, with the exception of borrowing one from a friend, had a disposable diaper on their booty. We went cloth, even on vacation. (No, cloth diapers aren’t necessarily tied to attachment parenting, but they go along with the general trend.)
I believe in attachment parenting, and the science behind it. I love the closeness we share with our kids, waking up between warm, sleeping bodies. I even mostly love night nursing. I love our family and the way we’ve chosen to make it.
But damn it, sometimes, I wish we weren’t such insufferable hippies.
Take co-sleeping. We used to have a beautiful, tall queen bed. Because of the kids, we had to ditch the bed frame (thus losing under-bed storage), drop the mattress to the floor, and sidecar a single bed to the whole contraption, because there’s no way two adults and three kids can sleep in a queen.
We call it a California Kong and it works, mostly, though we use two sets of blankets. One set belongs to the baby, who at age two, still falls asleep in the single sidecar bed. I sleep on the other side with my husband until le bebe squawks, when I move over and fall asleep nursing.
Then the big kids creep in, and we let them, because, hey, attachment parenting! They have a clear psychological need for us! They usually sleep with my husband, often one on each side, and squabble over who gets front cuddles. So now there’s three kids in the bed; my husband’s on one side, I’m on the other, and those kids are glommed onto us like insistent, sleeping octopi.
I love waking up to warm baby cuddles. I love when my oldest curls against my back; I love when my middle son burrows under the covers. But conjoined-twin-like proximity gets old. The kids wake up; they wake each other up; they wake us up.
We don’t sleep train, but damn it, if we had, I’d have a bed that wasn’t filled with tiny homunculi. I’d sleep better. I’d sleep with my husband. (Don’t take that the wrong way. We have sex. I’m just not saying how, when, or where.) The bed would be mine. Mine.
My breasts would be mine, too.
I love nursing; I breastfed my oldest two until age 3, and my current 2-year-old shows no signs of quitting das boobie. I nurse him to sleep each night, the same way I nursed both his brothers to sleep, and he breastfeeds on and off all night. (It doesn’t wake me up, except for the initial move back to him, so I don’t really mind.)
He also asks for milk all day. I generally oblige, because hey, hydration. But for once, I want to wear a bra that doesn’t snap. I want to wear clothes that don’t accommodate bras that snap. And I want a tiny hobbit to stop nursing and watching Daniel Tiger at the same time, which just seems gratuitous.
Once you’re attachment parenting toddlers, you move beyond meeting basic physical needs. Suddenly, the needs are emotional. When my 3-year-old throws the screaming tantrum from hell, I can’t spank him. I have to lean down and say something like, “You are mad! Mad, mad, mad!” Then I have to hold the flailing ball of toddler, who’s flopping like a trout, and perhaps calmly escort him from an establishment.
I really, really, really want to spank him, though.
But we don’t spank, because it can lead to all sorts of undesirable outcomes. We believe that physical violence begets physical violence. We want to discipline our children, not punish them; we don’t want them to think that the person they love can turn around and hit them.
But when my son jumps on the couch for the fifth time, I sure want to whale on his pale, white ass.
But I don’t.
Attachment parenting is for us. We believe it’s helping our children become healthy, happy adults. It can look insufferable from the outside — like I’m lactating at you or trying to win the no-sleep Olympics.
But parenting isn’t a spectator sport. We do what works for us. And attachment parenting works.
Even if, sometimes, I wish we weren’t such insufferable hippies.