Parenting is a tough gig; you become so invested in the job. You’ve put in so many long draining hours for the benefit of another human being only to wonder,
Am I doing this right? I didn’t know how hard this would be. It is going so fast. It is terrible and painful and lovely and amazing at the same time. Why is it getting harder, people told me the first five years would be the hardest, why is it getting harder. It is turning me inside out. I’m worried about: (fill in the blank) her friends, her school, her growth, her height, is she reading enough, is she on the iPhone too much, do I have to allow her to drive at 16 when she can barely carry a dish to the kitchen without something going wrong.
I did the whole Attachment Parenting thing — I know, people have strong opinions about Attachment Parenting, but it worked for us. I breastfed my daughter until age three — I know, that doesn’t work for everybody, but it worked for us. We co-slept for what seemed like forever — I know, that doesn’t work for everyone, but it worked for us. And now, I can’t make her sleep with me; she is too independent, “No Mom, maybe some other night.”
What’s that shattering sound, Mom? Oh, that is just my heart breaking into a million pieces darling.
My daughter is excelling at being a preteen, doing exactly what is required of her to become independent — pushing me away.
She is doing what the stereotypical teen does: acting snarky, sarcastic, rude, pushing boundaries, breaking the rules, and making her friends her number one priority. She is demonstrating the monstrous traits of a teen, what everyone warns you about before becoming a parent and every parent swears won’t happen to their child.
I heard a line on HBO’s comedy series, Divorce, that captured this sentiment beautifully when Sarah Jessica Parker’s character is complaining to a friend about her teen’s recent obnoxious behavior saying, “I got custody of Lila’s inner bitch.”
I know how she feels.
My daughter is demanding detachment for her well being and growth, while I’m trying to hold onto her, not wanting to let go.
She will get independence any way she can, whether that means breaking my rules or pushing the boundaries I’ve imposed to their very edge. It is a constant push and pull and requires a lot of parental patience, understanding and rule enforcing.
One of the reasons I decided to parent with Attachment Parenting — a term coined by Dr. William Sears, a parenting style that promotes attachment through physical closeness and responsiveness to your infant based in empathy — was because it made the most sense to me.
Attachment Parenting sounds reasonable — respond to your infant’s needs so a bond forms, and the child recognizes what it feels like to have their need’s meet by a caregiver, establishing trust between parent and child.
Attachment Parenting is the way one would naturally parent a child before the advent of parenting books and parenting advice experts flooded the market and parent’s ears in the late 60s and early 70s. If you gave birth to a child in a cave, your instinct would be to give that baby what it needs to thrive, that is Attachment Parenting in a nutshell.
One result of Attachment Parenting is a closer attachment in the teen years because you put in so much time in the critical years — zero through five — through the physical closeness and bonding breastfeeding promotes. You get to know your child. It is like putting money into a conservative money market or a low-risk stock; you see your early investment pay off in the the long run.
All those hours you racked up putting time into your child pay off later down the road when your child is searching for independence and separating, while at the same time needing you to help them navigate the turbulent teen years.
The attachment you form early on gives you more influence over that teen who is sure to push you away, and who will definitely push boundaries and not always make the best decisions.
For the most part, this has been true.
My daughter and I are incredibly close, and because I know her so well I know when she is breaking some rule, or when she is omitting something. I have a sixth sense about her, and when I feel I’m not getting the entire story or something needs more investigation, I am usually right.
The only thing we have a hard fought struggle over, and disagree on, is her phone use. When it comes her phone use, the rules get broken, and often.
In general, and so far, she respects the rules I enforce. The other day she broke them and received a consequence she was not happy about: loss of her phone.
While my daughter is having very little trouble fighting for her independence and autonomy, I am having a hard time with her need to separate and push me away and test boundaries. I need to loosen the strings a bit and put trust in the early effort I put into parenting her.
Perhaps Attachment Parenting is good for the child but hard on the parent, something I never thought about in the beginning. Another selfless act. Letting go is also part of parenting, probably the hardest part.
I just have to keep reminding myself that this is the job; we want our kids to be independent, separate from us, be their own person, spread their wings and fly out of the nest. And have the confidence that they will do so and be alright. That when they fail, they will get up and try again.
When they are reaching for independence successfully, you can be sure you did what was necessary to allow them to flourish and believe that the attachment you secured early on brings them home again, on their own accord, to thank you for giving what was required.