Before my first child Hayley was born, I expected that she would immediately sleep in her crib and in her own room. I had visions of getting up every three or four hours, nursing her in the rocking chair in the moonlight, burping her, and laying my sweet little bundle back in her crib before returning to my own bed. That was my imagination talking. The reality was quite different.
The reality was that I came home with a baby who would wake up shrieking when her body was still three inches above the mattress. She woke up for nursing sessions every hour and a half. She hated the rocking chair. She slept best curled up next to me. In light of reality versus fantasy, I became a co-sleeper out of sheer desperation for a little sleep myself. Although I found myself in surreal moments where I'd realize I was lying there in bed feeding my daughter while simultaneously marveling that Martha Stewart aired at 4 a.m., I was still getting more rest than I would have had I stayed up for 48 straight hours trying to get my baby to sleep on her own. From there, I learned that co-sleeping and breastfeeding were two important factors in the world of Attachment Parenting.
I had never realized how formal a concept this AP lifestyle was, but I immediately began to label myself an AP parent. Over time I included an inability to let my daughter cry it out in order to sleep and gentle discipline to the list. I truly believed that I identified best with the "crunchy crowd". Except I was never really crunchy enough. A foray into a few attachment-friendly forums found that I was sorely lacking as far as some of the more militant members were concerned. Although I breastfed Hayley for over two years, I started her off on solids at 5 months. Although I co-slept, I looked forward to her having her own bed. I used a sling and loved it, but I loved the stroller just as much. I loved to snuggle her but was also content to put her in a swing, bouncy seat, or ExerSaucer. I made her applesauce but had no problems feeding her jarred food, too. I used disposable diapers. As she got older, gentle discipline gave way to clenched-teeth-okay-I'm-yelling-now discipline when I got frustrated.
Suddenly I noticed that if Attachment Parenting came with ID cards, the AP Police would have revoked mine. Also, for a group of parents who claim to be so gentle and loving and caring, the forum crowd gets awfully uppity with people who do things too differently. A short time spent on a major AP forum gave me a headache as I read some of the horribly snarky words towards those outside the crowd.
In late 2005, along came my second child Breanna. I still knew I was going to breastfeed her, though I am not making any blanket statements as to how long I'll do it this time. I know I want to do it for at least a year just so I can avoid formula and go straight to regular milk, because why buy something that my body will make for free? I co-sleep on a part-time basis but she sleeps just as well and just as happily for the first half of the night in her own space, and I'm feeling likewise about sleeping part of the night without a small body in my face. I have used the sling but she only tolerates it for so long before she wants out. I don't foresee doing anything else that will make the hardcore AP crowd enamored of me.
Therefore, I have decided that AP means something different to me now. I'm still AP, I'm just not necessarily calling myself an Attachment Parent. To me AP now means Adaptive Parenting. I'm adapting how I raise my children, and in more ways than one. I adapt depending on what is best for that particular kid; Breanna and Hayley are not carbon copies of each other, and one size does not fit all. I adapt depending on what is best for my own sanity, what is best for this family as a whole, and I leave room for further adapting depending on new research or ideas that I may not have thought of in the past.
The best thing about Adaptive Parenting (or perhaps I could call it Experienced Parenting, because with the second child comes more confidence and less need to worry about a checklist in a book) is that it's tolerant. I may not always agree with every choice another parent makes, I may not always understand the choice someone else makes, but I have, er, ADAPTED a "live and let live" attitude. As long as parents and kids are happy and safe, I can't be bothered to worry about what one crowd versus another might say about different paths each parent makes. I guess it's just the enlightenment that comes with a second child.
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