Confession: I consider myself an attachment parent.
If you’ve read any of my other blog, you probably know that already. But if you’ve read any of this blog, then I hope you also know I’m not one of those AP moms who thinks this is the only way to parent, and if you don’t breastfeed and babywear through preschool then your child will be emotionally scarred. (I’m positive that’s not true. Because I did babywear and breastfeed through preschool, and now I’m a little scarred.) The truth, of course, is that Supermoms come in all flavors. Some of us breastfeed and some of us bottle-feed and some of us babywear and some of us always use strollers and some of us sleep train at 6 months and some of us don’t sleep till our kids are 18. And you are totally Supermom if you’re doing what’s right for you and your family.
That said, I think the AP evangelists could use a little marketing help. Because despite the fact that there are thousands of resources explaining the benefits of attachment parenting, nobody is mentioning the one thing that really made me glad I practiced AP principles when my kids were babies.
True, that natural birth idea won’t seem so empowering in the middle of transition. Extended breastfeeding and babywearing will run up your chiropractor bill for years. And you’ll regret cosleeping after 2.5 years of only sleeping in 30-minute increments. But eventually, it will all be worth it. Not because of the strong bond you’ll have formed with your child (there are plenty of ways to bond that don’t require you to sign up for years of feeling like an extra on the Walking Dead), and not because you’ll always win the sleep deprivation bragging mompetition at playgroup (that’s just a side benefit). No, the moment when you’ll truly appreciate your AP choices is a moment that no one ever talks about.
Because no matter how well you’ve bonded with your child, no matter how close and loving your relationship is, at some point that relationship will change. Usually this happens around your child’s third birthday (there’s a reason why we call these little monsters threenagers). Suddenly, your little angel, the one who clung to you so sweetly every minute of her babyhood and wept copious tears every time you stepped more than three feet away from her, suddenly she won’t like you so much anymore. She might call you names. She might even address you by your actual name instead of “Mommy.” She might say thing like, “I hate you!” and “I will never play with you again!”
As a parent, you know this shouldn’t bother you. You shouldn’t take it personally. She’s just a kid, and she’s allowed to have feelings, and it’s okay for her to get mad at you, and no matter what she says right now, eventually she will decide to be nice to you again because you are the one with the car keys. But in the meantime, she might say some really cruel things, and if you think a three year old is too young and innocent to be cruel, then you obviously haven’t met one.
But that’s when your attachment experience will come in handy. Because in that moment when your child says horrible things to you, yes, you might feel hurt for a minute. You might feel taken aback. But then your mind will flash back to all the sleepless nights when she wouldn’t leave you alone. All the trips to the bathroom when she followed you and wouldn’t leave you alone. All the times when you tried to run out to the grocery store for 10 minutes by yourself while she stayed with a babysitter and she cried and clung to you and wouldn’t leave you alone. All the times when you tried to just stand at the edge of the playground and have an adult conversation with another mom and she hung around you and wouldn’t go play by herself even for 30 seconds because she wouldn’t leave you alone.
And suddenly, her promise to never play with you again sounds like heaven.
And instead of snapping back or feeling angry, you’ll just smile sweetly and say, “Ok, honey. Don’t ever play with me again. That would be lovely.”
Even though you know it’s a lie, because within ten minutes she’ll be back at your side, begging you to read Knuffle Bunny for the millionth time. She won’t leave you alone. Ever. And you know this.
But in that moment when she says she will, you can pretend it’s true.
And you won’t mind one bit.