Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Have An Attached Family

For no pay, I have willingly: given birth at home, cleaned my child’s boogers, pee and poop, breastfed on demand for more than 2 years, responded to baby whenever he cried, not slept for more than 3-4 hour stretches for 4 years, lugged baby in a carrier until he was a toddler of 35 pounds, massaged baby daily, turned down meetings/parties/events if children were not allowed, chosen not to work, chosen not to have a nanny, decreased any semblance of social life to kid's play dates and everyday family life. But who's complaining, my husband was there every step of the way and we have loved almost every minute of it.  

On our wedding day, my husband and I exchanged our own personal wedding vows to:

·         respect each other
·         treat each other as equals
·         trust each other
·         put each other before other family, job and selfish pride
·         communicate with each other
·         share unselfishly with each other
·         say sorry when at fault
·         support and encourage each other
·         hold hands always
·         stick together
·         be faithful
·         be healthy so we can live longer together
·         keep our friendship strong, and
·         strive not to be separated for more than a night.  

These promises are the sincere goals of our marriage.  Naturally, when the little creature we created together came into our world, these same promises carried over to how we choose to parent and interact as a family.  This is why we believe in Attachment Parenting.

What is Attachment Parenting?

Attachment Parenting focuses on loving, nurturing and respecting a child and creating strong bonds between parent and child. It does not use isolation, violence and aggression in raising a child.  According to Attachment Parenting International, its goal is to “fulfill a child's need for trust, empathy, and affection and… provide a foundation for a lifetime of healthy relationships.”  Many studies today, such as Dr. Darcia Narvaez’s “The Decline of Children and the Moral Sense” are documenting the relationship between Attachment Parenting and a child’s “intelligence, cooperation, conscience, empathy, self-control, aggression and depression.” 

How To Attachment Parent

The following 8 principles are important in building a more securely attached bond between parent and child:

1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting because in educating oneself, a parent-to-be is able to make more informed decisions. 

Our first step in parenting was choosing to give birth at home.  Since then, I have been constantly reading up on parenting books, websites and magazines from nutrition and discipline to education issues.

2. Feed with love and respect by giving baby what he/she needs and respecting when he/she wants it.

I chose to breastfeed on demand and allowed baby to wean himself at 2 ½ years old. When baby nurses from mother’s breast, hormones are sent to Mama's body to tell her what baby needs. We wanted to make sure our baby got what he needed. Today, I’m a Mama in my Kitchen and I make sure healthy unprocessed foods are in abundance at our house.

3. Respond with sensitivity by quickly soothing baby when he/she cries.

We had tried the mainstream “let the baby cry it out” method once.  After a whole hour, our baby became very anxious, super clingy and high-strung – not at all the calm, peaceful and happy baby we knew.  It was obvious that isolation was not the best response we as parents could give our baby.

Interestingly, responding with sensitivity also affects how quickly children learn to communicate. The authors of Nurtureshock discovered that it's not just the vast vocabulary heard at home that makes a child talk at a younger age, but more importantly, how fast, how many times and how accurate a parent interprets and responds to an infant who is trying to communicate. 

4. Use nurturing touch when interacting with baby.

We promoted skin-to-skin contact through constant carrying of baby in a carrier, daily massages and infinite amounts of daily cuddles.  Today, not a day goes by without cuddles when we first wake, cuddles at bedtime and cuddles throughout the day.  When he is upset, mad and especially after being told he has done something wrong, we make sure we always soothe with some cuddles

5. Ensure safe sleep, physically and emotionally by co-sleeping or bed-sharing. 

We decided not to co-sleep or bed-share in Mama and Daddy’s bedroom after our son was 4 months old.  Instead, we moved him to his own room where he preferred sleeping on the floor.  When he called during the night, I would end up co-sleeping on his bed.  Now 4 ½, he still calls me 1 or 2 times a week during the night.  My husband asked him just today, “Why do you still call Mama in the middle of the night?”  Matter-of-factly, my son replied “Because I love hugging my Mama.”  Enough said! I’m taking full advantage until he doesn’t want Mama cuddles anymore.

6. Provide consistent loving care because “[b]abies and young children have an intense need for the physical presence of a consistent, loving, responsive caregiver: ideally a parent. Daily care and playful, loving interactions build strong bonds.”

I am lucky because I get to be a stay-at-home Mama.  We are doubly lucky because my husband works from home.  We take turns daily caring for our son and enjoy time together as a family.  We eat all our meals together too.  Before our son was 4 years old, he had never had a babysitter – and even after then, he’s only had one babysitter once in his whole life, and she’s a cousin. 

Someone once asked me, “What’s the best place to take the kids?” My response was “Anywhere we are. Some people never leave home without their credit cards. We never leave home without our son.”  This is true.  Our son has accompanied us on all our travels, to gallery shows, museum celebrations, business meetings and various social events. Not only is he being exposed to new people and settings, but, as parents, we get to share our time and memories with our son.  Indeed, we are lucky that the people in our lives respect our parenting choice.

7. Practice positive discipline to help develop children’s self-control and self-discipline. 

Parenting is not easy and sometimes I forget to be positive.  When my son was 2, I was upset at him and screamed out of frustration.  My son looked at me suddenly quiet and through tears said, “Mama, you hurt my heart.” Needless to say, since then I have tried to model positive discipline to strengthen our parent-child bond, not weaken it.

8. Strive for balance in family and personal life to “ensur[e] that everyone's needs -- not just the child's -- are recognized, validated, and met to the greatest extent possible.”

My husband and I have learned to adjust not having as much time together as we would wish.  We make sure to spend some time alone together each day, usually after our son goes to sleep.  We watch movies together or talk about topics that don't have anything to do with family and our home.

That said we really enjoy being a family.  We homeschool our Kindergartener.  We don’t over-schedule.  We say no to various events.  We make sure to prioritize our family over everything else. We prefer a stress-free and healthy lifestyle. We love being home together, but we make sure we each have our own ‘quiet time’ once a day. 

Although I don’t ‘work’, I love being very active in the local community.  One important role I have is as co-leader of my local Holistic Moms Network chapter, which keeps me up-to-date on different holistic ideas for the family and provides me with a very important support network for the lifestyle I have chosen.  Another important factor in keeping balance in my life is keeping my passion for healthy unprocessed food alive.  As a Mama Food Blogger I pour my heart into Mama in the Kitchen, and she ain’t cookin’! when everyone else is sleeping.

How We Created An Attached Family
I love that something my husband and I dreamed in our hearts entered our minds and by being deliberate spouses and deliberate parents, our dreams have become our reality. 

Our goals for our marriage sustain our relationship and nourish our family life.  By striving to be present in every moment, we make every effort to create a securely attached family.  We love each other. We strive to respect each other, trust each other, communicate with each other, share unselfishly with each other, say sorry when at fault, support and encourage each other, put the nuclear family before other family obligations, job and selfish pride, hold hands always, stick together, be loyal and faithful, live healthily: eat well, exercise, enjoy nature, relax and de-stress together, make time for each other, do things together, be positive, have fun together and focus on strengthening bonds with each other.

I remember someone telling us once, "You don't spend a night apart?  You spend 24/7 with your family? I'd kill myself if I had to spend that much time with mine!"  In my mind, I was shocked because there isn't anyone else in the world I would love to be with more than my family.

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