Yes, I’ve seen the cover and the controversy it’s stirred up. My inbox is very full. No, I haven’t read the articles. I’m not sure I’m going to. That might seem like a cop out. Maybe it is. But I’ve just returned from a few days in paradise, and re-entry requires energy and time.
Plus, I’m pretty sure – despite the mixed messages that mainstream media continues to perpetuate – that attached doesn’t mean being attached to Internet debates over the topic or even being so attached to your personal parenting ideology that your kids are hovering in the trembling wake of your heated words and angry emails that you’re firing off more rapidly than the nervous system’s synaptic communications.
The cover (and maybe the articles are more fair, but I doubt it) does just what I recently argued against and sensationalizes extended breastfeeding and is, as a friend of mine described, “a brilliant piece of trash journalism.”
Sure, the cover bothers me. So does the title: “Are you mom enough?” As a Facebook friend pointed out, can we invite women to enter the mommy wars anymore than with a loaded question like that?
What likewise bothers me is that Time magazine approached me under the guise of respecting my own parenting choices as well as those of any fellow moms I know, especially since they’d told me they had read material I’d written on the subject.
If I cast aside my pride, it bothers me, too, that I was too stupid to see any of this coming. (My dad and husband were much more cautious about the whole thing.)
When I write about attachment parenting or extended breastfeeding, I write with charity. I am quick to say I’d rather not parent by the book or by the expert and simply follow my gut and try to parent as my God would have me do. I am wary of parenting labels. I am wary, too, of even attempting to mine out any useful gems in any type of magazine that purposefully sells something in such a provocative package.
I am not being pushed to extremes to nurse a 3-year-old because I feel guilty or pressured or scared or worried that if I wean before my child is ready, I am opening her up to a lifetime of pain. Nor am I trying to guarantee myself a winning ticket in the parenting lottery. I stand by own mom and dad’s wise parenting advice and refuse to take credit for the good knowing then that I’d have to take credit for the bad. Oh, yes, my child is a genius who started reading Tolstoy at age 4 and yes, she picks her nose and eats her boogers for an afternoon snack – neither of which have absolutely anything to do with me or my husband and my highly superior gene pool. (I’m jesting here. My kids don’t read Tolstoy, but I have a caught a little one or two with her finger up her nose.)
Honestly, as I’ve said before, it really just boils down to laziness. Weaning takes time and patience when it’s not child-led. I’m not ready to use up any of limited supplies of those precious resources just yet.
Have I ever fallen into the trap of thinking that if I didn’t form a secure emotional bond with my children or do everything “right” I would ruin them for life? Yes, in fact, I have several times stumbled into that treacherous and anxiety-producing trap (and still sometimes do).
During my eating disorder recovery, a therapist once told me that if I wasn’t obsessive-compulsive about food or my weight, I’d find something else to be that way about. There have been times, I admit, when I’ve gotten all OCD on my parenting. I’m trying to channel my OCD tendencies into something more productive – say, eliminating our wooden floors of crumbs and hairballs.
I actually wrote a whole column about my struggles with letting go in the parenting (not the house cleanliness) department and called my new form of parenting detachment parenting and, of course, some AP folks took the word “detached” the wrong way and saw it as an argument against the attached theory of psychology or that I think we don’t matter at all as parents. I’m not going to get into the whole nature v. nurture debate right now, but, nope, that’s not what I meant.
(Do you ever feel like you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t? Yeah. Me, too.)
No, I don’t believe I might as well as throw my children to the wolves (although they would have no problem nursing my pups out in the public of the forest) and let them fend for themselves. Nor do I believe I have no power at all to help shape their souls. I have a great responsibility as their mother. It’s my duty every day to give all in the hope that I can love them into loving and being good people.
When I wrote that column, I opened my heart up and talked about a difficult part of my childhood and how I was crazed, obsessive even, early on in my mothering career about not making even one misstep. Do I still struggle with mom guilt? You bet. Most moms do. We love our families. We want to do things right. Guilt is one of our most worn accessories.
Do I find the cover of Time insulting, sensational, ridiculous, ignorant, and a complete misrepresentation of attachment parenting? Uh-huh. Not that some parents don’t embrace attachment parenting – or any parenting ideology for that matter – to make up for a hurtful past, parental guilt, or simply to feel like they have more control over their children’s destinies.
I was really seething when the messages about the issue started flooding my inbox and Facebook wall, but then I realized that I was being a different kind of attached parent and was getting too far attached to the absurd opinions of others. One thing I’ve learned, especially since launching into an online writing life where I talk about my choices and my parenting, my joys and my struggles, is that there’s one thing you should never attach yourself to and that’s the opinions of others.
No, I do not want to raise “detached” children, but I do want to raise children who recognize the fruit of detachment. When we are too attached, to people, their behavior, or things like ridiculous magazine covers, we become anxious, angry, defensive, or hurt, and contentment is elusive.
Want to be (mostly) happy and at peace with your parenting? Then attach yourself, instead, to your husband or a trusted friend if you’re a single mama. Attach yourself to the thoughts of a solid, faithful spiritual director.
Above all, attach yourself to God. Forget the parenting ideologies. Parent out of love and let God be your guide for the kind of love you wish to bring to the heart of your home.
Attach yourself to hope for the future rather than everything you did wrong yesterday. To move forward, forgive. (I slipped up big time last week, and I’m having to really, really work on forgiving myself, but I know it’s absolutely necessary for the sake of my family and for me.)
When you’re angry at media for being unscrupulous, for supplying the mommy wars with some powerful ammo, and making an issue out of something that shouldn’t be an issue at all, take a deep breath, write a post, vent to your husband, write a letter to the editor or the person who originally contacted you, and then let it go.
Let it go….
While you’re at it, thank your wonderful, wise dad for being right yet again. He was the one who told you there was a reason that the photo shoot wasn’t going to work out. He’s never had much respect for Time’s journalistic integrity. (I tend to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.) Yes, Dad, they would have made me look like a freak. They would have tried to make an innocent nursing session look provocative. They would have tried to objectify me, my body, my children, my maternity, to sell a magazine.
Praise God that the friends you suggested to fill in for you were also unable to make it happen.
Attach yourself again, quite literally, to that handsome husband of yours who is so grounded in truth and looks past the rubbish and lets very little get under his skin, and give him a big hug. Thank him for taking you and your baby to the beach to celebrate 10 blissful years together. Thank him for offering to cancel the trip, but be very, very grateful you looked him straight in the eye and told him that being quasi-alone with him was just as much of a once-in-a-lifetime-experience (at this point of your life, anyway) as flying to the Big Apple for a photo shoot for a national glossy.
Nurse your baby. Nurse your 3-year-old who you were kind of thinking might forget about nursing while you were MIA but didn’t. Forget that stupid cover and the articles within its slippery pages that pit moms against each other and make cultural scripts confine (or confuse) certain moms.
Don’t let anyone or any parenting ideology push you to extremes, but do, my beautiful, fellow mamas, let Love itself take you out of your comfort zone. (We are all extreme parents because parenting demands extreme love.)
As Christian mamas, we need not be attached to incendiary magazine covers, misguided opinions, or our own ideologies or guilt. Let us instead try to attach ourselves and our children to Christ.
When everyone starts arguing back and forth about the perfect parenting style (there is no perfect parent unless you God or maybe the Mother of God), let’s remember this, too: Those sweet wounded, willful, wonderful children who sometimes drive you crazy and at other times drive you to love to extreme will grow up and become whom they were created to be in spite of you. You can do everything “right” (whatever the experts are saying is “right” at the moment), or you may feel like you’ve botched up things big time but one day, you’ll take a step back and see that like a young sapling, your child has a bend all of her own. Even in the most fertile soil things do not always grow as they should. And green shoots of life magically appear even in the most rocky and arid land. Dear mamas, don’t be afraid to get dirty, to dig deep into your own heart and into those of your children’s, but don’t be afraid to let go either. Though, as I have, I’m sure you’ll sometimes find that the holding on is – despite what the covers of magazines that victimize, objectify, disenfranchise, and stigmatize moms might have you to believe – is far easier to do.