Friday, December 2, 2011

You Won't Win a Medal

You haven't heard a lot from me here lately. I won't make excuses, but I will give you a reason. I have been struggling with where I fit into the whole attachment parenting/natural family living community. Idealistically, I subscribe to almost everything to do with the philosophy. Realistically, it just doesn't play out that way. I don't know if I'm overwhelmed or overstressed or it's just the voice of almost every other parent I've ever known ringing in my head. They all seem to scream the same message: "You won't win a medal! Why don't you just [insert conventional parenting method here]." The truth is, I'm not trying to win a medal. I'm just trying to give my kids the best possible start in life--to raise them to be kind, thoughtful, confident and fulfilled individuals. Most days, I feel like I am failing.

I especially worry about my oldest child. He is a quirky, bright, creative five-year-old. He does very well academically--especially in reading. He is generally outgoing and talkative with people, even those he has just met. Still, some days it feels like I'm not getting through to him at all. I can address the same problem behavior--say, writing on the walls--again and again. I can explain why he shouldn't do it (because we work hard to provide this home and want to take care of it). I can provide paper to write on and other creative outlets. I can even put all writing implements that I can find out of his reach. He inevitably extends his reach or finds something else to creatively use as an art medium.

It is on days like these that I relive his entire life history, wondering where I failed him. I was younger and less informed when he was born. I should have stood up for my rights during his birth. I shouldn't have allowed the doctor to clamp his cord immediately. I should have breastfed longer, worn him more. I should have been more selective with child care providers. I replay every scenario and wonder if that would have made the present any easier. Of course, dwelling on it won't change the past, but if I knew where I went wrong, maybe I could figure out how to undo the damage. Then those sneaky voices start telling me, "He needs discipline!" And they sure don't mean gentle discipline. With my guilt pulling from one side and societal pressure pulling from another, it's enough to pull a mom apart.

Despite all that internal conflict, what pulls me back to my senses is neither guilt, nor pressure, but the constant, gentle tug of something deeper. I'm not sure what to call it, but I feel it when I treat him with respect and watch him open up to me. I feel it when he models that same respect to his brother and sister. It's amazing how a change in my tone can set the mood for the day. I realize that ink pen with clean, or at worst can be painted over. Suddenly, I don't need a medal, or any outside acknowledgment, to know that I'm on the right track. My children's love, their trust, and--if my instincts are correct--their future, are the only prize I need.


Mama Birth said... [Reply to comment]

I hate to call myself an attached parent too- For some of the same reasons and for some others too.
You have three kids- it is different with three. I don't even know what it means to attachment parent a five or six or seven year old- they change. They go through stages too- it will be so hard for a moment, and then suddenly, you have a perfect child for a few months.

Be easy on yourself, your children, and your conscience. Remember this- sometimes you have to attachment parent yourself!

Zoie @ TouchstoneZ said... [Reply to comment]

The pressure to be the perfect mom, in whatever way we each feel is the ideal we fall short of, can take the focus off of what is really important: connecting with each other. Even that isn't perfect, but as long as most of our time is spent connecting, it will be what they need as our kids and what we need as parents.

It's not easy to let go of guilt. That last sentence sums it up beautifully. There's so much healing we have to give ourselves.

Momma in Progress said... [Reply to comment]

Sigh. Yes, what she said. I am THERE. Hugs to you. I'm also in the "reliving everything" phase. Now that I have three, and they aren't babies anymore, this whole AP thing is taking on a whole new meaning/direction. It's always a work in progress.

Inder-ific said... [Reply to comment]

No matter how you parent, your kids will have different personalities, you know? And some kids/adults are more into pushing limits than others. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it can sure be challenging! Anyway, I think it's important to step back and realize - we don't have that much control. As moms, we tend to take too much credit when our children are "good" and too much blame when they are "not good." The truth is, your child's personality is not something you created. Some of that, they are born with, and you just have to work with it as best you can. Which takes some trial and error. Sometimes a lot of "error." But there's no other way.

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