Thanks to our totally unbiased "just-the-facts-ma'am" media, Attachment Parenting has been attacked as an "extreme" method of parenting, and mothers or families who practice it have been vilified, mostly because people don't understand it.
Our family practices Attachment Parenting. While there are no rules or checklists one follows to "be AP", attachment parenting does have a set of eight principles that our family tries to implement as much as possible.
These are the Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting, taken from the Attachment Parenting International website.
1. Prepare for pregnancy, birth and parenting.
2. Feed with love and respect.
3. Respond with sensitivity.
4. Use nurturing touch.
5. Ensure safe sleep, physically and emotionally.
6. Provide consistent and loving care.
7. Practice positive discipline.
8. Strive for balance in personal and family life.
Here's a secret. I had to look these up. I knew there were eight principles and I knew positive discipline and feed with love and respect but um, that was it. When we became parents and decided to be "AP", the AP police didn't show up and say "Memorize this, there will be a test." And honestly, Andrew was a year old before I even READ the eight principles. So no, it's about about the rules or the checklists. The eight principles were developed more as guidelines, or a go-to if one really needs a check list.
Knowing this, I've often wondered how do I show what an AP family looks like? Are we really that "extreme"? Are we really that different that people have to say "These parents are what's wrong with American parenting" (comment from the infamous TIME magazine article)?
I decided to share a typical day. Hour-by-hour (or two hours by two hours). I picked today, because it's fresh on my mind and we actually left the house today. This is the best way I can share and show what AP "looks like". To help make this point, I put the principle number beside each event. If I didn't have these numbers and principles in front of me, I'd never be able to do this, like I said....these things aren't a checklist.
So here is our day. Thursday. May 17th, 2012.
(Currently, my son and I live with my parents. I am 23 weeks pregnant. My husband is active duty military and is currently on an extended TDY for five months. Because my family is close by, we opted to leave the area we were in due to the increase in crime and to be close to help in case I needed it during pregnancy.)
5:30 am -- I'm awake because there is a foot in my bladder. It's not the foot of a baby growing in my uterus. It's the foot of my nearly three year old son. At some point during the night, he must have climbed into bed with me. I go to the bathroom, return to the bed and snuggle with my son. (#'s 4, 5 and 8)
7:45 am -- I'm awaken again, by the toddler. He's awake and asking for his Poppa. I can hear Poppa fixing coffee in the kitchen so I tell Andrew to go see Poppa. He climbs out of bed and runs out of the room. I take advantage of the distraction to get about ten more minutes of sleep. I really only get five, because Andrew returns, asking for a sticker. I find the stickers and we start our day. (#'s 6 and 8)
8:30 am - Breakfast. Andrew asks for toast and strawberries. I have a bit of raw butter in the fridge and spread it on his toast. He loudly proclaims "Thank you momma...it's my favorite!!" I smile, because it is all "his favorite". While he eats, I do the same...only adding coffee to my breakfast. (# 2)
9:00 am - Showers/baths. We are picking up a friend around 10am to head to the park, so we are getting ready and packing a lunch. Andrew plays happily in the room while I pick out our clothes and fix lunch. He walks up to me several times asking for various, random objects. I am feeling hurried but I try to remember to stop and focus on him and his requests. He's not on the same time schedule I am on, and his focus right now is the monster truck. (#3 and 6) By ten, we are headed out the door.
10:45 am - After picking up friends, stopping by the bank and listening to Katy Perry's "Firework" about seven times (my son's favorite son), we arrive at the park. The first task is pictures with a local photographer.
I'm nervous. Andrew is NOT a fan of the camera.
We've been practicing "taking pictures" and smiling, but Andrew isn't very happy with me. I've let the photographer know that he's not in a great mood, and brought a long of few of his favorite toys. I have let the photographer know that if Andrew is unhappy, we will stop and reschedule. She's completely okay with this and I watch closely for signs of unhappiness or stress. (#'s 3, 4, and 6)
Thankfully, the preparation seems to help. Andrew happily complies with about 200 pictures being snapped, two outfit changes and various props over the course of an hour. It helps that the photographer brought a cupcake as one of the props!
12:15 pm - Pictures are finished! Andrew is hungry and fussy. I'm hot so I'm sure he is too! We get lunch out of the car and find a nice, shady spot. We share lunch but enjoy a bit of quiet time. Part of Attachment Parenting is knowing when your child needs to "recharge". A lot of behavior problems can be prevented by taking things slow, taking breaks and making an effort to CONNECT with your child. I'm blessed with a social child, but I suspect he may be an introvert like his daddy. So we take our time to relax, alone, when necessary. (#'s 2, 3, 4, and 6)
1:00 pm - We meet up with our friends at the Train Depot. The park we did pictures at is also the location of the local zoo, train, children's museum and a gorgeous park. Andrew loves trains and is excited to go on a ride. We meet up with four other mommies and eight other children, all around Andrew's age. He's happy to see his friends and they happily play together while we wait for the train. I'm happy to visit with friends and discuss life. (# 8)
The train ride lasts about 20 minutes. After we are invited to go to the playground but I can tell Andrew is getting tired. We say goodbye and head home. (#'s 3 and 5.)
2:30 pm - Home, after dropping off some cloth diapers for a friend and dropping our other friends at their home. Andrew has fallen asleep in his carseat but is woken up when I try to get him out. Hello tantrum. I bring him inside and we sit in the bedroom and snuggle. He can't decide if he wants to go back to sleep or if he wants to be awake and play. I sing to him, we look at a train book we got from the library, he eats a small snack and we just snuggle. (# 4)
At some point he lets his balloons from the photo shoot go and they fly into the fan. Luckily I catch them before it causes a problem. I tell him gently that we need to hold onto the balloons, or tie them to something so they don't float away again. I give him the option to hold them or tie them, he chooses to hold them. Two minutes later, the same thing happens and this time, I don't catch them. They get stuck in the fan, but don't pop.
I am frustrated. I JUST told him not to do that and he did it anyway. I recognize that I'm frustrated and let him know that I am frustrated and that sometimes when he doesn't listen things like this can sometimes happen. I go get my father to deal with the fan. Andrew volunteers an apology to Poppa, even though my dad isn't frustrated or irritated by the situation. He takes the time to show Andrew the various parts of the fan as he takes it apart to get the strings out. (# 3, 7, and 8)
3:30 pm - Andrew has settled down and is playing with his toys in the living room. I read. He comes up to me and tells me about his toys and asks me what I'm doing. I make a point to put my book down and focus on him 100% each time. We both enjoy the quietness of the house. (#'s 3 and 8)
We spend the rest of the afternoon reading, playing and enjoying some down time after a busy morning.
5:30 pm - Mimi comes home from work and Andrew is thrilled to see her! It's also time for dinner (my dad grilled tilapia, paired it with asparagus and quinoa). For the past few nights, dinner has been a battleground. A toddler who refuses to eat can be frustrating. But tonight he eats his meal and chats with my parents about the train ride. (# 2)
6:30 pm - Andrew heads outside to play with Bella (our dog) while my dad cleans up the grill, I browse Pinterest with my mom.
After awhile I bring Andrew in and we make chocolate chip cookies for everyone. Cooking with a little one is messy, but it's a really great time to bond. Mess can be cleaned up, but those moments with ones child are beyond precious. By 8:30 the first batch of cookies are cool enough for eating! (#'s 2, 3, 6, and 8).
9:00 pm - We get a call from daddy!! Andrew isn't too interested in talking on the phone, so I chat with my husband about the day and we make plans for his week at home, which is coming up very soon. After 20 minutes, I realize the time. We say our goodbyes and it's time to start bedtime with Andrew! (# 8)
Bedtime routine is milk or water while picking up toys. Andrew plays hard with his toys and they end up everywhere. We started picking up toys before naps and bedtime around the time Andrew was a year. Now it has just evolved into part of the routine for us. Some nights it is a constant "Pick up this piece, pick up that piece" and other nights all I have to do is announce "It's time to pick-up!" Tonight is more of the directed "Pick up this piece....." It makes me pretty frustrated, so I focus on cleaning up my own mess from making cookies, while gently reminding Andrew to keep working on his mess. We both finish around the same time.
He says goodnight to my parents and we retreat to our room. We say our memory verse, books of the bible and prayers, then Andrew gets to watch one show on Netflix. Tonight he chooses (again) the Christmas special of Phineas and Ferb. The kid loves Christmas. When it is over, he goes potty and we brush his teeth. Then it is lights out.
My son will be 3 in two weeks. He is still very young while he is extremely independent in some areas, he is very dependent on me in a few areas, and one of these areas is sleep. We are gently trying to help him learn to fall asleep on his own before the baby arrives. When he gets into bed, I snuggle with him for a minute or two, then I go to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth. He can hear me and see the light in the bathroom. When I come back, I snuggle with him for ten more minutes, then I move out of bed and to the computer chair. This is a big step up from just a month ago when I needed to lay down with him for 30-45 minutes. And considering that only three months ago he was nursing to sleep, he is handling the change quite well! Tonight I'm surprised when I return from washing my face and he is asleep. I kiss his chubby little cheeks and cover him with a light blanket. (#5)
It's now 10:15pm and I'm getting ready for bed myself, drinking water and enjoying one last cookie. I guess I need to brush my teeth again.
Not every day is like this. Some days are tantrum after tantrum, fit after fit, leaving me wanting to throw my own fit.
Some days are smoother than this.
I've never made a list of the AP principles and applied them to daily tasks before, but if I had, they would vary from day to day as well.
I share this with people in hopes that they will see that attachment parenting isn't extreme. It's not permissive parenting. It's not really anything all that different from the way a lot of people parent.
Attachment parenting isn't some crazy new fad. It's been around for centuries. The name is what's new, not the method.
And ultimately, AP boils down to respect. Respecting yourself as a parent, an adult, a person and also respecting the child as a human, with feelings, thoughts and emotions that matter.
Want to see what Attachment Parenting REALLY means to other AP families? Follow this link!
Kelly Naturally.com - What Attachment Parenting Is (and What It's Not)