They used to say that children don’t come with User Manuals. And maybe that’s still true, for your particular model, anyway. But if you’re looking for a general set of instructions on how to care for and raise your recently acquired human flesh baby, you will not be at a loss for choices.
We have a particular, thick, worn out tome now buried under pop-up books and empty snack bowls. Its cover is severely warped, there are pages torn or missing completely and the whole thing will be forever stained with avocado, breast milk and urine. It was a go-to book during L.J.’s first year. She was new. Parenting was new. And our own parents were 3,000 miles away with their “I told you so’s” and their “Feed her a steak and she’ll sleep through the night.” The book guided us through teething and fevers and rashes and cradle cap. I had no idea cradle cap existed, so imagine my relief when the book explained that the grotesque yellow flakes of flesh peeling away from my child’s tender and fragile head were not early signs of now owning a lizard baby from the mini-series V.
But while this book could guide us through the straightforward medical type stuff (what temperature is mildly irritating and which temperature is a cover-her-with-ice Jacob’s Ladder scenario, for instance), it had little to offer in the way of how to raise this little bundle of poop, snot, flesh flakes and rashy redness. (L.J. was still cute, mind you. We have pictures to prove it.) Common sense tells us you should just raise your child as you were raised. This seems about right, though I doubt my children would want me to divorce their mother and only visit with them uncomfortably on birthdays and Christmas. And besides, I have no recollection of how I was raised and cared for during my formative years. I’m sure my single mother did a fantastic job since I survived those years without losing a limb, but as far as specifics go, I wouldn’t know. And even Mom only remembers bits and pieces of the details. Something about rolling off of a table and thinking my younger brother cried far too much.
Plus nobody wants their parents to tell them how to best raise their child. So my wife and I took it upon ourselves to research some parenting philosophies that would tell us how to best raise our child. There are plenty out there: Attachment Parenting, Continuum Parenting, Consensual Living, Whole-Life Unschooling, Micromanaged Trans-Parenting, Murphy’s Law. I might have made one of those up. Also, I might not have.
Truth be told, we’re not clueless people. If we never picked up a book or read a web page, I think we’d still be doing a decent job connecting with our kids, teaching them right from wrong and not losing them at the mall. But it’s nice to have some written guidelines to reference and refer to when you’re dealing with a screeching two-year-old on three hours of non-consecutive sleep. We easily gravitated to Attachment Parenting. Here’s the Wikipedia definition:
Attachment Parenting is a parenting philosophy based on the principles of the attachment theory in developmental psychology. According to attachment theory, the child forms a strong emotional bond with caregivers during childhood with lifelong consequences. Sensitive and emotionally available parenting helps the child to form a secure attachment style which fosters a child’s socio-emotional development and well being.
Hug your baby. Got it.
Of course there’s more to it, and the books break out the major principals and break those down into action items. There was little offered that we probably wouldn’t have been doing already– natural childbirth, babywearing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and so on– but it was nice to put a name to our already chosen style. At its core, AP is basically about being there for your baby with love, sensitivity and respect. Not hard to do for a man that fell head over heels in love with his kids the moment he saw the ultrasounds. As we dug deeper into Attachment Parenting, there were aspects we didn’t quite agree with or expect to practice, but that’s normal in anything. Like I think a lot of us do, my wife and I will often pick and choose the best parts of something to practice and enjoy. From religion we take Christmas and “thou shall not kill.” College basketball: Final Four. Pornography: girl-on-girl. The same goes for Attachment Parenting. Sure, we are comfortable calling ourselves AP parents, but we still eat meat on Fridays.
So, ironically, we’re not attached to Attachment Parenting or any other styles of parenting or parenting methods. (Though we swear by The Sleepeasy Solution. It saved us.) (Oh, and there’s one other method of parenting I champion because I created it. Or labeled it, really. Will be writing about that here soon.) We are, however, entirely attached to common sense, which was what we liked most about the parts we liked in Attachment Parenting. It’s hard to go wrong with Common Sense. If your child is crying, Common Sense tells you to go to her and ease her distress. Common Sense will also tell you when she’s faking it. If your child hits someone, Common Sense tells you to stop her and correct her. If it was a hearty hit, Common Sense tells you to enroll in some karate classes. If your child begins to choke on a grape, Common Sense tells you to try and get that grape out of her throat. It’s all fairly easy stuff, really.
Until you talk about it with another parent, of course. And then it is all wrong. All horribly, irreversibly wrong.