Time magazine recently ran a very controversial cover story about attachment parenting. The concept, introduced by Dr. Bill Sears, encourages parents to co-sleep, carry their babies in a sling close to their bodies, and breastfeed. The mother in the cover story is shown nursing a child who is about to turn 4, and the headline reads: “Are You Mom Enough?”
When our daughter was a baby, Dr. Sears was a prominent childcare author, as was Dr. Ferber, who wrote about sleep training. All of our friends were “Ferber-izing” their babies, and using his process of letting the children cry until they fell asleep, even if it took hours. His theory was that once they figured out that their parents weren’t coming to hold them or feed them again, they would learn to self-soothe and just go to sleep on their own.
As I poured through the volumes of child rearing books given to me when we were expecting B, I was struck by one thing. If you read enough of them, you will find one that agrees with what is comfortable for you as a parent.
We brought B home from China when she was just over a year old. Everything was unfamiliar to her. The sights, sounds, and smells were new, as were these 2 people who were to be her parents. In my opinion, it was more important for her to learn that we were there for her and would always take care of her, than it was for her to fall asleep alone. And boy did we pay for that! When all of the other parents were having quiet evenings together, and sleeping through the night, I was sitting in a rocking chair, softly singing (off key of course!) and offering bottles. This went on every night, all night. For a few years, I literally got about 3 hours of interrupted sleep per night.
I could hear the softest little utterance on the baby monitor, jump up from a deep sleep and run down a flight of stairs to pick her up, in what could well have set Olympic records for speed. I rocked and rocked, and when my rear end became numb, I carried her around the house, hoping she would fall asleep. B slept in my arms, waking only if I tried to put her down.
Sometime around 6 a.m. Daddy would take over, and the two would snuggle up on the couch and fall into a deep sleep.
I would crawl to the gym and head off to work, only to return around 7p.m. to serve a “family dinner”, bathe her, read to her and start that whole nightmare all over again. It is amazing that I functioned, but mothers are invincible at that point.
Was it wrong to go through all that? Who knows? The road to becoming a parent was a long and emotional one, and I convinced myself that I was making up for all the lost time she spent without me in the orphanage.
I also assumed that this time was precious and short, and that soon she would not want me around.
I now have a sweet natured, smart and creative tween. Every night, I lay down with her as she falls asleep. She calls it our “mommy/ daughter bonding time.”
Earlier in the evening, when I ask about her day, I get very little response. “What did you do in school today?” I ask. “Nothing” she replies.
“How was your field trip?” I ask. “Boring” she replies.
But later, while we lay together in her twin bed, she tells me all about the things that are going on in her life, and sometimes we giggle, usually at her father’s expense. She falls asleep pretty quickly now, and sleeps through the night.
Is it just as strange that I put a 12 year old to bed, as it is that someone else is breastfeeding a 4 year old? Not to me.
Just as no two children are exactly the same, there is no “one size fits all” method of parenting. If it feels right, and the decisions are made with love and common sense, then I say, “Go with it.”
Am I Mom Enough? Hell yeah!