I don’t read many blogs much anymore. Sometimes I hate it because I know I’m missing some really good stuff. I also don’t like it because some of my “real life” friends communicate to everyone strangers and friends alike via their blog, and I don’t like to think I might be missing a pregnancy announcement or a call for prayers or something else. (If you happen to fall in this category, always, always know I’m a personal call, email, and text away from you. I want to hear from you about your life, your joys, and your sorrows! And if you never read this, good. I don’t expect you to keep up with my life and family on the computer screen. I promise to call or to write if I need you or if I’m just prompted to reach out to a dear friend.) But there are a small handful of blogs I still try to read weekly. This morning I clicked on over to one of these such blogs, and my eyes clouded with tears. These are the words God called me to read.
I was standing at my kitchen counter when I read the email asking me to consider flying with my toddler to New York for a Time Magazine cover story on attachment parenting. It took about a second to remember how exhausting (and frustrating) it was when The New York Times scrutinized our family for a piece on homeschooling. It wasn’t terrible, but it was intrusive and in the end, I didn’t feel like our message was conveyed well at all. In the next second, I thought of my nursling. Clearly, she’s an “older toddler.” She and I talk about nursing. And her nursing is limited to bedtime, in the dark and quiet of her bed. It’s her snuggle time. It’s our snuggle time. It was inconceivable for me to imagine nursing and posing. How would I even begin to explain that to her? This isn’t photo op. It’s a real life relationship. A relationship I would not exploit for anything in the world. Anything.
My reasons for declining weren’t as noble. But God sheltered my child and me, didn’t He? He sheltered other mamas I know, too. I realize now that I was being overly idealistic but when I knew I had a scheduling conflict, Time asked me if I knew any other moms who might be available and interested. So I immediately I forwarded the request from Time to a few Catholic moms I knew who I thought had a similar parenting style as I do, dear Elizabeth being one of them, thinking that this would be an opportunity to portray Catholic motherhood in a positive light. How wrong I was. When the cover came out, I felt guilty for even have forwarded the request to any mom I knew and thinking they could have been duped in to going. (I know one mom I’d passed the information along to whose bags were nearly packed when the trip fell through last minute. Deo gratias.)
Hindsight is always 20-20. I had no inkling that the magazine was going to try to exploit the intimate relationship between a child and her mother. What they wanted, they said, was a mom who could provide a “conceptual illustration of attachment parenting” (their words). The focus was not on breastfeeding although they did want a mom with a toddler. Nothing in the request I received hinted at what was going to end up on the magazine cover.
Still, I see now that I was being overly naive, especially considering the source.
In part, I wrote:
I need to start the day (after the prayer and exercise start) with a shower, clothing and lipgloss, and then some quiet time with the Bible. I want my children to find me in that room, with a candle lit and the Bible on my lap when they first wake up. I don’t want them to find me staring into my laptop.
I need to refrain from internet drama, even a little bit.
I’ve made a similar promise to myself and to my family. And I’ve broken it far too many times.
And then this:
I got an iPhone a few weeks ago. Suddenly, I was connected everywhere I went. I immediately made sure it would not chirp at me everytime I got an email, or someone posted to Facebook, or someone tweeted. The only notifications I left on were phone calls and text messages. Still, I heard the call of social media from anywhere, anytime. The weekend before last, I took my phone to a full day of dance competition. My daughter danced 3 times. We were there twelve hours. Nonstop dance, nonstop music, in an auditorium. I thoroughly drained the fully-charged battery on my iPhone. I was connected! I could post cute things about the day. Chronicle life’s happenings on Instagram. Do something. Read something. Anything. Everything. And at the end of the day, I felt that sick feeling.
Oh, I know that sick feeling all too well. I think I felt it yesterday after I responded to a comment when I promised myself I’d let it go…
My best writing takes its time. Says its prayers. I’m not a news chasing vehicle and I’m not about promoting myself while fighting for a cause. And this “cause”? It changed my life forever long before it was a cause at all. Attachment parenting matters to me.
I wish that women of the digital age could have learned this parenting style the way I did.
Me, too, Elizabeth. Me, too.
Oh, and these words rooted in Truth made me weep even further:
Mary White [one of the founding mothers of the La Leche League] told me after Mass how mothering is a beautiful way to live the works of mercy every day, how mothers are especially blessed to extend the mercy of God to others. It was never about being “mom enough,” but about being humble enough. Attachment parenting–and so, extended breastfeeding–is about the least of these.
And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
All day, every day, serving the little ones with the mercy of Jesus. That’s attachment parenting at its essence.
Attachment parenting grows up. And that doesn’t mean nursing while standing on a stool. It means that mother and child grow together. It means that when it’s not so simple anymore and all their needs can’t be met by stopping to nurse, we still listen. And listen. And listen. We watch over three hundred dances because somewhere in there, our teenager is in three of them and she cares about the other 297.
If we are at our best, we do it with our full attention.
The face of attachment parenting? It doesn’t reflect a computer screen. We can’t let ourselves care more about the cause than about the children who compelled us to learn about the cause in the first place. We can’t let ourselves be lured to spend our days chasing philosophies online, no matter how noble those philosophies are. We can’t endlessly chase decorating ideas or knitting patterns or news feeds, either.
Thank you. I believe this. I encouraged this. And then I was lured in.
Elizabeth is so right. You can’t find the face of attachment parenting on a screen. You can’t depict what extended breastfeeding or rather, the love and bond between a mother and a child can look like. You can only live it.
For today attach yourself to technology just long enough to read the rest of this beautiful reflection and then as Elizabeth reminded me, this is our mission: To go home and love our families. With your full attention. When you do, you will bear authentic witness and change the world.