Attachment Parenting vs. Traditional Parenting (in my house)

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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.

Natural consequences... You fight, you hold hands.
Natural consequences… You fight, you hold hands.

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.

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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.

Jo getting her own fruit! #MissIndependent
Jo getting her own fruit! #MissIndependent

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.

They have their moments...
They have their moments…

Labor Of Love

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Sometimes I forget about the beauty in humanity, we are fed negativity, everywhere we look. I can get pulled into that deep dark place, where all I see is the ugliness people are capable of. It can be daunting, wondering, never knowing who to trust. Betrayal is a constant. Keeping my guard up is so exhausting, and there is nothing more comforting than finding true friends.

Last week two of my friends, Aimee and Alexis, took it upon themselves to give me a break. They knew I am emotionally run down, that I have too much on my plate and more responsibility than ever before. I was under the impression that our life would slow down, and the stress ease after the wedding was finally over. Well, it didn’t. We were thrown into the new responsibilities of school and homework (seriously, homework is a 3 hour event, that often involves tears, frustration and tantrums). So they decided to take me out to lunch (sushi, duh). Unfortunately Alexis was having “one of THOSE days”, her baby is teething, and they had no sleep, nap time just wasn’t happening and she has a home business, is a breast feeding mama, and needed to get some work done. Aimee and I were already at the restaurant when we found out that Alexis was not going to be able to make it. So we ordered her a golf pro hand roll, and took it back to the house, poured her (and us) a glass of wine, and Aimee immediately called dibs on the baby, so I was able to sit down with Alexis and help her get some work done. As we sat their chatting, I was blown away by the love and support friends so willingly give to each other. The simplicity, and and really the perfect circle this made, I needed time off from my stresses, my kiddos, and all of the baggage that I have adopted for my loved ones. (I have an inability to look at a friends difficulties and not somehow own some of it. I am empathetic to a fault, and I need to work on it). Aimee is also a fixer, and she had seen my frustrations, (and I think she also missed me, we used to see each other 3+ times a week!) and, let’s be honest, she LOVES BABIES! So Aimee was able to get her cuddly baby fix. Alexis needed a break, and to not feel so overwhelmed by everything she needed to do. It really was the perfect, almost therapeutic situation. And to top it off, I was able to be a part of Alexis’ dream job. I feel like it is something that every woman can relate to, whether you are a mother, pregnant, or simply have friends that may need a little encouragement. I was so inspired as I sat there and really grasped the beauty of her work, and felt compelled to share it.

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This is directly from her website http://www.laboroflovebeads.com/

“My name is Alexis Baxley and I am a new mom and creative jewelry maker located by the beaches in Oxnard, CA. I believe that childbirth is a rite of passage and that each birth is a unique experience for each mother…the path to motherhood is a highly personal journey. As I started to go to more and more friends’ baby showers, I realized that there was something missing. The baby gifts and games were fun but I always left wishing I could leave the mom-to-be with something to remind her of the love and support that her friends and family want to ‘shower’ her with. As much as the parties are about baby gifts, I feel that they should also be about connection and support.

When the time came for my own baby shower, I wanted to have a ‘blessingway’, something special to empower me for my labor. So I went to a few craft stores and put together my own bracelet making kit. It took some doing and quite a lot of measuring and testing to ensure that everyone would have enough beads, any skill level could participate, and each could be done in under 15 minutes or so. This is when it dawned on me that I was meant to produce a ready-made kit for others who want to create an empowering experience for their labor and the birth of their baby!

What better way to show support of a mom’s journey than by coming together to create a personalized gift through beading. When Mom wears her bracelets, she is reminded of those who created them and their loving support.

I had 16 bracelets from 16 different friends that I wore during my labor. After over 40 hours of hard work, I needed all of the strength that I could find. When I was slumped over my couch during contractions thinking “this is so hard! I don’t think I can do it”, I looked down at my wrists and saw my bracelets. That reminder of support that “I can do this” was what I needed to keep going. My baby girl, Harper Reese was born soon after and is to this day the greatest gift I have ever received! We believe in the power of giving back. Ten percent of each purchase is donated to the Bumi Sehat Foundation, a non-profit, village-based organization that runs two by-donation community health centers in Bali and Aceh, Indonesia. ”

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While I sat with these two amazing women, we each made one for ourselves, and as I type I keep glancing at this beautiful bracelet made of blessings. It is MY constant reminder that not only is there good out there, but I have the honor of knowing some of the most beautiful, women, with even more beautiful hearts. Women who make an effort for each other for no other reason than, we may not understand exactly what the others are going through, but we can ease the burden.

Having had a particularly difficult few weeks, I can’t help but think of my loved ones who need such a simple, yet powerful reminder, that they are not alone.

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*All of these photos are directly from www.laboroflovebeads.com*

**Feel free to check out Alexis on facebook https://www.facebook.com/LaborOfLoveBeads

and her amazing website http://www.laboroflovebeads.com/ **

The way it was, and the way it is now

A couple years ago I lived on fast food, I refused to go to the grocery store and I hated cooking. I also smoked a pack a day. I am ashamed to admit that while I was pregnant my food group consisted of Taco Bell, Del Taco, and Carl’s Jr. I quit smoking the week I found out I was pregnant (more because I was too nauseated to even think of a cigarette) but I had every intention of smoking the minute I left the hospital. I had no intention of breast feeding, either. Thinking back, I was so self destructive. No wonder I was depressed!

It was not until my daughter, Jo was born that I began making healthier choices, I think at that point my baby was real, up until then it was just this parasite sucking the life out of me. I made the decision to breast feed, even though I had no milk (milk production is strongly influenced by your mindset, the more you look at, love and connect with your baby, the more milk you will produce. And I think since my mindset was so far from parenting my breasts had no idea that they had a job to do.) Luckily after weeks of pain and sleepless nights, she finally latched. That experience is the one I look back at and think, wow, something was finally bigger than me. I had been so self centered my entire life, and this little person changed everything.

When Jo was about 14 months old I gave up fast food. I started going to the grocery store and slowly making healthier and healthier choices. By 19 months I had not spent a night away from her. I literally had no life, and that is when I started getting restless. Coincidentally this is when I weaned her, I’m sure that had a lot to do with the sudden loneliness that took me over. This is when I had to throw myself into another project, Project Me. I am still perfecting it.

The biggest change I made was cutting out meat. I am a pescatarian, I started out as one, actually, but if I have learned anything about healthy habits I know that they evolve. And my diet has continued to get cleaner and cleaner. A pescatarian does eat fish and sea food, but no other meat, no cow, pig, bird etc. And I do still eat eggs (Cage free!). Why did I give up meat? At first because I noticed that I made healthier choices when meat was not involved. Because, let’s face it, I may have given up fast food, but the temptation for a jalapeno burger and fries from Carl’s Jr was still there. You can easily gain weight when you make a change like I did if you do not add guidelines. Example: If you stop eating meat and switch to cheese pizza from Toppers instead of pepperoni… That is not any healthier, so if you make a change, be sure to incorporate it further than simply, I’m not eating that food anymore, commit to making your meals healthier.

Like I said, at first I gave up meat to encourage better choices. That is when I began watching documentaries. Food Inc. and Food Matters and more recently Hungry For Change. Now i have moral issues with eating meat. However, my kids do eat meat (grass fed, cage free, free range, no hormones added yadayadayada). And they don’t eat meat often. I still give them meat because I want them to make their own choices when they are old enough, for now I feel that it would be unfair to force a meatless diet on them because then they will never be able to choose for themselves, and unlike religion, if I took meat away now, their bodies would never be able to process meat. After research I found that green veggies are full of protein, calcium, fiber, vitamin c, folic acid… The list goes on. So I limit meat, and cut out dairy. The trick is getting kiddos to eat green food!

It has taken years, and I’m sure more changes will come, I can see my diet shifting slightly every few months, maybe I will switch to a plant based diet, for now, I focus on buying fresh fruits and veggies, and avoiding packaged foods. I work out 5 days a week, usually I run 2-3 miles and I do yoga or Pilates to work my core. Personally, I need my workout time because it is the only real “Me Time”. I encourage you to find some YOU time. While nourishing your body, and your children will go a long way, giving yourself that gift of time allotted just for you, doing something you want to do, especially if it is a physical activity will make the biggest difference!!

*I mention religion because it is another moral decision, and while I won’t choose their faith, they will always have a chance to make that choice
**I understand, however that MANY parents take meat out of the house, and I support that choice!! I also support families who do eat meat, I just ask that you know where your food is coming from
***I was inspired to write about my diet after reading my friends blog (http://rachaeljordanpages.blogspot.com/2012/07/child-autonomy-im-vegan-but-my-toddler.html?spref=fb) You should check her out, especially if you are vegan!

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