Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Are You Mom Enough?" Detachment Parenting

People astound me. More folks, in my unscientific yet merit-worthy poll, find this parent more likely to be unfit:

Than this parent:

"It's commonplace in Europe," my mother said, on the subject of breastfeeding your school-aged children. Fine. They also serve wine to their children at the dinner table, and this is commonplace. (Wow, how weird would it be to have your kid still attached to your mammary glands every night AND sipping wine at the table?)

The tattooed mom is clearly comforting her toddler. Skinny-jeans-tank-top mom is smugly, defiantly looking at the camera with her tit hanging out and her preschooler looking forcefully smashed into her chest.  "Are you MOM ENOUGH?" Mom enough for what? To go on the cover of a magazine with my kid who can go to school, piss on a toilet, put his clothes on and most likely read and write, but who, due to an interest in "attachment parenting" is still breast-nuzzling (it's not feeding anymore, folks)?

Attachment parenting. The mere concept of having your baby/toddler/child firmly by your side like 24/7 is insane to me as a parent.

Don't get me wrong. I agree that "breast is best." FOR BABIES. Breast milk contains antibodies and other boons enriching a baby's brain and development that (naysayers claim) isn't in formula. Me? I flunked Breastfeeding 101, even having my baby a week after the class we took. Lactation consultants were on my like white on rice at the hospital after I had my c-section, getting me to try and pump at least colostrum for Luke to drink, even if I wasn't producing milk. Man can not live on colostrum alone. And Resurrection had that awful rooming-in game going on. Your baby is by your side in a bassinet 24 hours a day. A recent article in Consumer reports states that new moms get "as much rest" and "bond more effectively and promote breastfeeding" with rooming-in. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

The nurses always seemed to fixate the bassinet just out of my limited reach, and the c-section, after the anesthesia wore off, felt like I was being ripped open from stem to stern every time I attempted to get my screaming, hungry infant into my loving arms. He was about 2 weeks premature, which is ok, though he weighed 6 lb, 6 oz at birth and due to my inability to feed him myself, went down to 5lb, 10 oz in a few days. The lactation consultants were relentless and pressurizing. During the night one night, Craig was at home sleeping as he had to work, and Luke was just screaming and screaming. The bothered nurse said it was because he was starving, and she was taking him away to the nursery for a bottle of formula. As far as I was concerned, she could keep him in the nursery until it was time to discharge me, so I could get some fucking rest.

Brought Luke home and we *thought* our attachment version of parenting was good enough. We laid him down in the cradle Craig's dad made, that he refinished for Luke, at the foot of our bed, and though Luke was swaddled securely, he screamed....a LOT. My theory was that when he moved, the cradle inevitably moved, and he didn't like the motion. We sure as hell weren't going to co-sleep with him, as he had a perfectly fine nursery in the next room. Sure enough, we put him in his crib (with a little foam thingy to keep his body from flailing) and between that and the formula feedings, he became much happier and calm, as did his parents.  I didn't carry him around in a sling, like the attachment parents (who, by the way are the most likely to turn into helicopter parents) did. I didn't wear a Baby Bjorn, either. We held him, or he was strapped on the counter in his bouncy seat, when I had to do things in the house. Some days, we'd both conk out together for a nap, Luke lying on my chest. But certainly, Luke wasn't glued to either Craig or myself. He was very loved, adored and engaged with, even if the attachment parents deemed us as borderline neglectful.

Since I had him during the bleak/cold/snowy month of January, we didn't get out much those first few months. People mostly came to our house. Once spring arrived and I could take him for a walk in his stroller, I did that (first in his attached car seat and then just strapped into the stroller) regularly. Like I've said before, we read to him constantly in our arms or laps, with his bottle of formula, then supplemented with baby solid foods (except meats--I had him on silken tofu mixed into his baby food, and he was on soy formula). Gasp! I put him in his playpen when I'd go downstairs and get the mail out of the box in our apartment building or as I cooked dinner! Call DCFS!

It's not breastfeeding I inherently disapprove. What I think is tacky is a mom in a pair of skinny jeans and a tank top with her giant preschooler standing there sucking on her. My firm belief and opinion is that if you're going to breastfeed, wean the BABY off the BREAST once the baby becomes capable of being nutritionally balanced by solid foods and milk (soy, almond, cow's, hemp, whatever). Certainly wean him off once he's potty trained. If you haven't done so by the time the kid can whiz on the toilet, get dressed himself, go to preschool and read books, you're using your breasts as comfort magnets and nothing else. A ton of MORE breast milk isn't going to turn your school-aged child into the next Einstein who has the greatest immune system on the planet. It's out and out unnecessary. Time Magazine wants to challenge mothers with their headline of "Are You Mom Enough?" I'm mom enough to foster and encourage independence, non-conformity, self-esteem, confidence, and a desire to absorb knowledge, and I cut him off of his bottle, which at a certain point HE was using for comfort or to go to sleep when he was 2 1/2. If he was THIRSTY, he could have water or milk in a sippy cup until he was ready for a plastic regular cup. Jesus, attachment parents? Get your kid a Curious George to snuggle with, his favorite blankie and off his fucking case already, sleeping in his own damn bed. Back off, Bugaloo! I sure as hell wouldn't want to instill permanent brain scarring on my son by him REMEMBERING that he breast "fed" until he was 3,4 or 5. That's an unnatural thing to me, but makes sense to the true attachment parent movement.

If this seems careless or harsh towards Luke, it's quite the opposite. Sure, we had used the Ferber Method to get him to fall asleep without us rocking him to sleep and sitting with him until he fell asleep.   (Leave him alone for 5 minutes, check in on him, tell him to go to sleep and return in 10 on and so forth, until he goes to sleep on his own ideally much earlier in the night.) But we did it. Eventually, he learned that Mom & Dad had their bed in their room, and he had his bed in his room, and stopped wandering in during the night (once he was in a twin bed). Alas, for a while now, he's needed to be re-Ferberized, as he had been refusing to go to sleep at Craig's house unless Craig was sitting next to him in a chair. I don't know where that came from, but Craig's having success with the Re-Ferberization, and Luke's almost 13 for crissakes, get over your fear of darkness already! He wasn't like this as a toddler and isn't like that when he's at my house, at all. Am I, personally, Mom enough? To Luke, I am more than enough. I'm the quintuple model of enough Mom.

It's sad that people assume the tattooed (and probably pierced) mom is looked upon as being a scuzzy loser who had no business having a child. My friend, Christa, has multiple tattoos and a nose ring. She's a fabulously caring, loving mother. I'm getting another tattoo and as you know, I have a total of 10 piercings on my head at present. I may be the anti-authoritarian, liberal freaky mom, but I'm a great freaky mom. And it's a safe bet that I have a far more generally adaptable and independent 12-year old because Craig and I never smothered or hovered over Luke. When I went for the 1st tattoo, I thought of my mantra from years ago: "Do I really want to be an 85-year old woman with tattoos?" My line of thinking shifted to this: "I just want to be 85 years old someday." What I look like, how I dress or adorn my body is all immaterial. People are drawn to my charisma, not my wacky shirts or my ink and rings.

Regaling the hysterics of getting carded for cigarettes yesterday, on my 40th birthday, to my brother, he said I probably looked under 21 because I have "so many piercings" which apparently, to Steve, make me look like a "young kid." (I'm not the one who bought a motorcyle, speaking of being juvenile, ahem...) I asked the clerk for the carton of cigarettes, and she said, "Would you mind showing me an ID, hun?" I said, "Why, don't I look over 21?" She took my ID and looked at it. I said, "Today's my 40th birthday." Other than a "Wow! Happy Birthday!" she was shocked. I told her she made my day. Similarly, my next door neighbor, Patti, asked me if I'd had the hysterectomy yet, to which I said yes, and she told me I looked fantastic. I told HER the next day was my 40th, and she said "Wow, you look fantastic! You seriously look about 30. You're not overweight, you don't have any" Between the gas station clerk and my neighbor, who's yelpy little dog bit my leg last summer, I don't care. I have two new best friends.

One of Luke's gifts to me yesterday? He picked me up and lifted me several inches off the ground, with his own arms. Never say my son isn't strong....he also gave me Darth Vader Men's boxer tin case, full of mints, hand sanitizer, a red pinky ring, a deck of cards from a casino with a hole through each card in the pack, a dollar bill and a homemade (that actually works!) 1gb flash drive held together by 2 quarters and some Super Glue. Inventive. Ingenious. Inexpensive! Useful!

My mom made me a spectacular dinner last night of beef stroganoff, fresh popovers, and brownies with Snickers ice cream on them. Divine and more food than I've eaten in one sitting in like 3 years.

All things being equal, my 40th birthday celebration #1 was a humbling, oozing love fest. Between texts, calls and Facebook posts, I received approximately 130 birthday greetings. Until one special person forgot my birthday entirely. I had just gotten off the phone with Kate when I texted him at 11pm with an angry diatribe about his distaste for the virtual world, and how many people wished me a happy birthday, and referred him to George Harrison's "Isn't it a Pity" to listen to. Sheepishly, tail between his legs, he replied to my text last night quoting Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," with the line "From every mistake, we must surely be learning. Happy B'day, Love (Friend's name)." I responded late this afternoon with another Harrison quote, from his 1975 song "The Answer's At the End." It said:
Scan not a friend with a mircoscopic glass. You know his faults, now let his foibles pass. Life is one long enigma, my friend, so live on. Live on. The answer's at the end. (Chorus) Don't be so hard on the ones that you love. It's the ones that you love, we think so little of..."

I half expected to hear from him tonight, but didn't and don't expect a call tomorrow either. And while invited to my birthday party next Saturday night, he hasn't RSVP'd. I highly doubt he's coming, which leaves Pastor Dave as the only testosterone at the party. My birthday. A deflation after much elation. And so it goes...

"Isn't it a pity? Now, isn't it a shame? How we break each other's hearts and cause each other pain? How we take each other's love, without thinking anymore. Forgetting to give back. Isn't it a pity?" --George Harrison

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