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Confessions of a part-time attachment parenting mother

I confess

This mom of three is confessing... she does attachment parenting on a part-time basis only. Each of her children's tiny genitals have been wrapped in disposable diapers. On a daily basis, their fragile, still-forming eardrums are exposed to noise in the 120-decibel range (namely her voice). She was lying when she said the children learned those cuss words in public school. But is she any less attached?

Mom with baby

The quest for hippies
I had struggled to be one of those Good Enough Mothers to my first son. The job description turned out to be very different than the fantasy I had honed since childhood. By the time Greg was two, I had eaten those same words you probably have (or will), "No child of mine will ever _______!" (Fill it in. I dare you.) At that point in time, my blanks were things like "wipe boogers on his wall in protest of bedtime," "talk back (at least not in front of other adults)," and "Ninja-fight me while I hold him in the time-out chair." When my discipline methods seemed to be failing and Greg was still filling all the blanks, I even took classes to learn how to be a more effective parent. Always a step ahead, the child showed an amazing aptitude to become a more effective kid.

Five years later, a second son was welcomed into our family and within days of his birth, expressed a repulsion of the Good Enough Mother theory. Apparently this child had come wired only for Attachment Parenting. Will refused to sleep in a cradle, sit in a stroller, drink from anything but a breast nor entertain himself with black and white OR color mobiles designed specifically for his wee cognitive stimulation. He wanted adult companionship and nothing less than a steady stream of it would suffice.

After a month of juggling my life while velcroed to another human being, I brought our dilemma up for suggestions from the women in my playgroup. They stared blankly at me from behind their Carolina Herrera sunglasses and shrugged their Liz Claiborne-clad shoulders. Clucking sounds were exchanged. I remember the word Ferberize was uttered. The bush next to me burst into flames. Obviously, they could never understand... I needed women experienced in dealing with this sort of child. I needed answers that fell beyond the mainstream of childrearing practices. I needed some hippies.

The world of AP
I did find just such a group. Women who still wore tie-dye and dredlocks, women who concocted homemade herbal bug spray. These women would recite the mail order number for Birkenstocks from memory while changing a cloth diaper with one hand, nursing a five-year-old in the other and opening a box of rice cakes with her teeth. Once they had chided me about my gold loafers and persuaded me to remove my aluminum-tainted deodorant, they allowed me into their fold.

Suddenly the world of Attachment Parenting opened before me. Here Dr. Sears was quoted with an embellished fervor usually reserved for Hamlet. Holistic living was appreciated and promoted, right down to something they called natural child spacing. I had to re-examine my entire lifestyle (plus hide a bunch of it) and create new priorities. It wasn't easy because we lived a basically mainstream life and subsisted on wholly un-holistic foodstuff. But at least I now had the freedom to allow our children to sleep in our bed without fearing they would never leave it. I no longer struggled with the question of when to wean my breastfeeding toddler; it wasn't even a question anymore.

When the topic moved to my discomfort zones, like methods of homeschooling or organic gardening, I would quietly slip away, lying that my son wanted more sprouts for his untouched tofu dog and sneak over to the clan chatting about non-circumcision or chiropractic. I was not only picking up new ways of parenting that showed potential in our existing lifestyle, I was the reigning queen of excuses for being spied in the Taco Bell drive-thru.

But I was trying. One day I even got a wild hair and prepared macaroni and cheese from scratch. It took an hour and a half (and two frantic phone calls) but as my son eyed the results warily ("Mom, why isn't it orange?"), I said, "Yes! I can do this!" Inevitably though, just when I thought I was fitting in someone would go and sew her own diapers out of forest-foraged moss. Oy vey, the guilt was killing me.

Is this about love?
While I was wallowing in my transgressions and hustling to keep up with the AP way of life, a friend told me she had quit an attachment parenting e-mail list. Someone told her how ashamed she should feel for wrapping her daughter's genitals in plastic. Then another friend asked me point blank what not circumcising or vaccinating had to do with attachment parenting. She hadn't read that part in Dr. Sears' book and honestly, I didn't have any idea what the two had to do with each other. I knew plenty of AP parents whose kids were vaccinated and circumcised.

But the soybean that spoiled the curd was an e-mail in which a woman said mainstream parents didn't love their children as much as attached parents did (supposedly that's why they yelled at them) and that AP kids grew up to be better people. Then anger set in. I knew I had raised both of my sons with the same kind of love in their first five years... I had only parented them differently. Was this about my love for my children? Was I really being neglectful in resorting to a diaper with a "cloth-like" cover? Was I interested in finding parenting choices that worked for my family or was I struggling desperately to keep up with the Searses? Did I even want to be like the Searses?

TO PART 2: I confess: I have Joan moments...

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