Friday, May 18, 2012

shut up, everybody. shut up, lutz

Well, in typical fashion I'm reacting to something just as it's on the downhill slide away from cultural relevance, so here's what I have on my mind about attachment parenting.

What is attachment parenting, anyway?  Someone please explain this term to me, and what behaviors fall within its borders.  From what it sounds like, pre-chewing your toddler's food, "co-sleeping" (and can we please deep-six that term?), carrying your baby in a sling so long he never learns to walk, and breastfeeding your five-year-old are all attachment parenting.  I'm a fan of babies eating table food where possible, I'm a fan of breastfeeding, and I'm a fan of showing your child abundant affection.  But I fail to see how "attachment parenting" is superior to "the kind of parenting you're already supposed to be doing."  I'll be honest, that Time cover bugged me a lot, because it looked like self-absorption and exploitation of a minor.  And can someone tell me where attachment parenting ends and lack of appropriate boundaries, if not sexual predation, begins?  Because I have heard some really hair-raising stories about what sounds a whole lot like sexual abuse masquerading as really involved parenting.  

And the truly ridiculous arguments I've seen over the last few weeks and months!  Anyone who questions the motives behind a woman "baby-wearing" (hideous) her forty-pound toddler, or chewing his food for him long after he's gotten all his teeth, or breastfeeding him when he's half her height and speaking in full sentences is told that they are the one with the problem, because they're not fulfilling their child's emotional needs, or they're sexualizing something that isn't sexual.  Other cultures don't fetishize the breast the way Americans do!  They breastfeed for years and years and it's no big deal! 

Well, by all means let us emulate those other cultures, the same ones that practice female genital mutilation and polygamously marry their grade-school-aged daughters to strange men twenty, thirty and forty years their seniors.  Because their decision process is OBVIOUSLY governed by "what is best for my child," not "how can I best exemplify the most brutal, ignorant folk doctrines collected over the history of human civilization?"  Yes, sometimes breast milk is the only safe and/or nutritious food available.  But not in America--not among the "mom enough" crowd, who are to a great extent educated, financially secure, with access to the highest-quality food in the world.  So what is the purpose of breastfeeding that long?  Please tell me what it accomplishes that snuggling and reading a story together does not.  Please prove to me that it's really about the child's needs, not the mom's.

It's possible this is an outgrowth of what John and I call Nerf parenting.  People want to baby their children and deprive them of boundaries and natural consequences and any opportunity for maturation or growth, until they create a  me-monster who is incapable of functional adult behavior.

Or possibly it's part of the martyr trend--the more you subsume your own selfhood, the more outlandish your self-imposed sacrifices, the more you prove your maternal superiority.  Either way, the results are the same. 

I can't adequately describe how strongly I believe in the importance, eternal importance, of proper parenting.  My wariness about attachment parenting is not born out of a disgust for people who undertake the job of becoming a parent--"breeders," as some call us.  The other day I read a review about a stupid movie in which the reviewer said, "they act as though child-rearing is divinely ordained," and it bothered me a great deal.  Even though it's not news, it was hard for me to have it stated so baldy that there are people who don't agree with that belief.  Because of course (see previous statements re: Mormon) I believe it is divinely ordained.  Not for just the mom, or the dad, but for both partners in the marriage to contribute equally to the raising of each child to become a decent human being.  That is their job. 

But let's not pretend that attachment parenting is offering something superior to competent, affectionate, balanced parenting, that produces children who enrich their family and their world.  Let's not say that women who don't do attachment parenting aren't "mom enough."  Are you as excited as I am to see what new trends will be absorbed by and forced to be evaluated through the lens of the mommy wars?


tipsybaker said...

I think most people agree with you -- and me -- on the absurdity of extreme attachment parenting. That's why TIME put the picture on the cover. I feel sorry for the boy, who will never live that picture down. He will always be THAT boy. If his mom wants to keep nursing him, well, that's her decision. It probably won't warp him for life. But putting that picture out there for the world to leer at and mock and judge ? That could warp.

Sarah said...

So I think maybe I'm practicing "de-attachment" parenting, by letting my kids watch movies for the entire week while they're barfing, rather than sitting with them and letting them barf on me. I'm obviously not mom enough.

All8 said...

The media feeds on the extremes, which is the only justification I can fit into the Time cover.

We watched a show the other day about Dogs (think it was Dogs Decoded by Nova). Anyway, they talked about how we are drawn to baby like animals. i.e. larger eyes, childish features and behaviors, etcetera. And I had a thought that rather than just getting a pet of some kind, these parents (women for the most part) are keeping their children as if they were constant babies. That will need constant care, just like a dog would for the rest of its life.

Having nursed 6 babies for about a year each, give or take, I do have to say that at some point they just don't seem as interested. I can't see forcing your child to nurse beyond their own desire. They were just too interested in the wide world to continue dragging on the boob; And A 5 Yr Old???!!! I can't even imagine.

I'm all for parenting and families and such, but isn't the whole point for kids to grow up (hopefully well) and go on and start their own family, rinse and repeat?

I am glad that people are breastfeeding; but that image on Time is contrary to anything polite society would deem appropriate, thus the article and the media simmering it up.

beckster said...

I am trying not to be judgmental about this, just honest and logical. If a woman is determined to breast feed her child beyond biological needs, then I think she should admit to herself that its continuance is meeting HER needs, not her child's needs. Based on children's needs for increasing independence to evolve and grow, it is illogical to say that extreme attachment meets the child's needs. I think this is on the opposite extreme of neglect and just as pathological. It is really delusional to say that this is being done for any reason other than to meet the emotional needs of the mothers.

Marsha said...

About 28 years ago, I began nursing my baby and stopped shortly after she hit two years old - she started solid foods at 6 months and was pretty much just supplementing at night after that, but she was skinny and the doctor said to keep it up until it didn't seem to make sense any more. It was nice to be able to speak to her and explain that she could cuddle with me and drink water if she was thirsty, but no more milk from mama. She was fine with that once she saw that I meant it, so weaning wasn't a problem at all. I hate to think what a five-year-old would feel and conclude when the cutoff time comes . . .

kacy faulconer said...

I so agree.