Blending families… Have I mentioned it’s really difficult? My husband and I have ONE huge disagreement. We rarely argue, but when we do it’s always about this one thing. Attachment Parenting vs. Traditional Parenting.
When Joliene was born, my life changed. Even though I had no idea WHAT attachment parenting was, and had no interest in breastfeeding, co sleeping, or cloth diapering, However, I naturally became a “crunchy” or “granola” mom, and did all of the above! I did not read any books, initially, I followed my instincts. I do not know if it has to do with my personality, my own upbringing, or maybe it was just love? We all show love differently. (There are 5 Love Languages, after all!) I show love by nurturing. If I love you, I want to take care of you, I want to make your life easy, and beautiful and I will bend over backwards doing so, if I feel it’s what you need. I remember Jo being maybe a week or 2 old, and her dad telling me that I could put her down, she was asleep, and I said, “No, I want to hold her.” That’s all I wanted to do.
A lot of people, family included, judged my parenting style, saying “It’s harder. It takes too much time. You’re spoiling her. It’s not necessary. She will never be independent.” I shrugged it off, I didn’t care what anyone thought. I was doing what I felt was right for Jo and for me.
Flash forward to the last year or 2. I moved in with my husband (well, now he is my husband, anyways) and his 2 kids and it was quite the culture shock. His family had all banded together to raise his kids, and it was kind of a clusterfuck. It was amazing that everyone had stepped in to do their part, while James had been working full time. As dysfunctional as the family is, their hearts really are in the right place. However, I felt like I was coming into a… I don’t know, it was like walking into a house that is so thrashed, and you honestly have no clue where to begin. I had 2 new kids who had never had a bond with their mama, and were emotionally band-aid-ed together. 2 amazing little people who had known unimaginable loss, and virtually no consistency. A 4 year old who was playing Black Ops, and running into the street without a thought, and only ate mac n cheese. An 8 year old who spent more time gone at her grandma’s house than home, who was so shy, and at the same time so eager to to be a big girl. The kids already knew what was expected of them, they took a bath, used the restroom, got dressed and brushed their teeth on their own. They really were independent. But, to me this was so concerning, because I saw these little ones doing everything by themselves, not needing any help, any bonding, or support. It was unnerving to me. You may be thinking “How great! they were so self sufficient! It must have made life easier for you!” No… It didn’t, it made me feel useless, and sad. I didn’t know where to begin with them, how to develop a relationship, a parental relationship, at that. Here I am with my 3 year old who only recently stopped co-sleeping, who sat on my lap for every meal… come to think of it, we didn’t even have a schedule, as I had always been a SAHM, we just went with the flow of life, day to day. My baby wanted to be wherever I was, and I wasn’t comfortable with her running across the street to their auntie’s house because I had no idea how she would react without me… I had so many concerns and I had to find a way to fit. I loved that my baby wanted her mama, I loved that she was so connected to me, that we had our own life that virtually revolved around one another. Did I need time and space sometimes? Absolutely. Was it hard sometimes? Fuck yes. But I was comfortable. And I looked at my “new” kids, and I felt sad. It’s funny that I felt so sad ( and in all honesty STILL feel a huge loss, because I wish I could have been with them when they were smaller, I wish I had had the opportunity to bond with them like a mother, to hold them, and feel connected.) they were perfectly happy. They didn’t know that they were missing, and thank goodness for that.
Here we are now, and there are like 3 different parenting styles going on in my home! There’s my husband’s: “Tough love, take it or leave it style” ( for the most part, he still has his moments with “his boy” Lj has been blessed by being not only the baby, but THE BOY, in a family that A) is made up of mostly boys, and B) has an obsession with sports. They pride their boys on their physical abilities and skills and they tend to bully the younger, weaker, more sensitive children. ) My parenting, which is based on each child in that moment and can look insanely unfair, if you are out side of the box. And the CRAZY parenting that happens when we cannot agree, so we kind of take over “our own kid(s)” and don’t let the other have anything to do with them. Jenna kinda swaps back and forth between me and James depending on the situation.
Crazy parenting happens after an argument, usually involving one injustice or another that was done to one of the kids by the “other” parent. It can be the simplest thing that one of us blows out of proportion, like, Jo likes purple, but James gave her a blue cup (tough shit), and I was annoyed that he even gave her the blue cup KNOWING she would want the purple one, but I have been REALLY working on supporting my hubby, so I said, “Now your cup matches Jenna’s!” (In my mind helping her to see bright side, no she wasn’t going to get her cup, and no crying about a cup would not work, but, check it out, blue is nice, too!) Enter James, who knows I’m annoyed that he gave her the wrong color, so he gives her a new cup (completely diminishing BOTH of our attempts at parenting, because now, Jo got her way from crying, and James is now upset because he feels like his parenting is undermined, and I am frustrated because I feel like I backed him up and then he dropped the ball.) So then he gets annoyed by anything I do to “help” Jo, in this case, she didn’t like the sauce on her salmon, so I wiped it off (easy fix). Now we are both frustrated and we are both triggered by the other one so our “never-really-ending parenting debate” continues from the LAST time we had a disagreement, and we both have a billion examples of how the other one is not consistent, which sounds an awful lot like an attack on the other parent’s parenting.
So here I am for almost 24 hours now trying to find a balance. Attachment parenting is based on the theory that we are shaped by our first attachments… “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” I have spent my entire life looking for someone worthy of a true attachment, I have felt alone and abandoned and my first true bond was my little girl. Jo put me together, and gave me my first true attachment besides my sister. I literally cannot help loving her, and wanting to show her in the most selfless ways. I see how that can be weird to a traditional parent, a traditional parent’s habits for teaching their babies to be more self sufficient may be more natural to them. However, having attachment parented for almost 4 years now, I have seen Jo grow up in her own time. Maybe I didn’t force her to use the big toilet when she was potty training, but one day, she made the decision to take off the booster seat and “balance” on the toilet like a big girl. I feel that growing up naturally happens, and it’s not a big deal if she chooses to use a booster seat, because one day, she will decide she’s over it. One day she won’t want to be in my lap all day… Oh wait, that was today. I don’t know why, but today she has been perfectly content to play on her own, and do her own thing. Some days all she wants is to be in my lap or under my feet. It’s organic, and it’s silly to me, to force her to feel something she doesn’t feel, or put her in a situation that make her feel uncomfortable. James feels totally different, like he should be able to tell his kids what to do, or say or how to act, and in that moment they should obey. I give Jo time to process, I don’t spring things on her, I warn her, that we are going to the dentist next week, and I repeat it daily, so by the time we are going to the dentist, she knows, and she may not be thrilled, but she is a big girl about it. However, if I were to tell her the morning of, the world would end, and the dentist, likely would not get anywhere near her mouth. I believe that in time, she won’t require so much warning, and it’s not even an inconvenience for me to let her know ahead of time. I would be pretty frustrated if suddenly I had to be at the dentist in 10 minutes, wouldn’t you? I almost feel like the way I parent is respectful to the child. Yes, I lay down the law when it’s necessary, and I try to be as consistent as possible, but I feel like its fair and better for the child’s sense of self to have some control over their little lives. Whether its a purple cup, warning about a trip to the dentist, or a choice of strawberries or an apple.
I don’t feel that this means Jo rules my life, I know that when you love someone you make changes and sacrifices to make their life easier, yes, but also, to better them, to encourage growth, learning and decision making.
You may pride yourself in your ability to say jump and have your child leap into the air, and I do have that experience with my (step) kids (depending on the situation…. ) and yes, it makes life easier, but I don’t know how “easy” parenting is supposed to be? Isn’t parenting about growing ourselves as we nurture a new life? Being a mother has taught me so much about myself, and I have had to make so many changes, and take serious responsibility. Knowing this, I feel our kids deserve some slack. Why must we be dictators? When we really are meant to be teachers. And I don’t know about you, but my favorite teachers were the ones who personally invested in me, pushed me to be better, and gave me some slack when I needed it.