In honor of Independence Day being this past weekend I want to do a series on freedom. I think as mothers, especially in the first year postpartum, we wind up feeling so tied down, even imprisoned at times by our babies schedules and needs. We can so easily become blind to the freedoms that we have. The next few posts will be about finding freedom in different areas of motherhood and womanhood and I pray they inspire and liberate you!
Today I want to focus on freedom in parenting. The biggest thing that I want us to toss out the window is parental labeling. A) It’s isolating, and B) It’s debilitating. When I was pregnant with my daughter I became incredibly attracted to the theory of Attachment Parenting. The concept of gentle, close, intimate mothering jived with both my personality and with what I knew from studying developmental psychology. I donned the cap of the Attachment Theory Parent and decided that I would go by the manual. Simple right? 😉 Not. I know that there are some parents that this has worked for. You decided early on how you were going to parent, how often you would let Dad give a bottle and how often you would breastfeed, whether you would breastfeed at all, cry-it-out verses the no cry sleep solution verses traditional sleep training verses modified sleep training, Ferber verses Gerber…etc etc etc. And it worked! Some of you out there have stuck to your guns, made a decision and found that miraculously that decision worked for your child and for your family. If that has been the case for you then that is awesome! For others of us, we got stuck somewhere between chapter three and “my baby won’t take a bottle” and the theories and decisions have been modified. Sometimes a little. Sometimes a lot. When I decided that I wanted to jump on board the Attachment Parenting bandwagon I never considered that there would be things that wouldn’t work. After all, this highly researched and decades practiced method seemed foolproof. But I didn’t know at that time that I would give birth to a strong-willed, space-craving, bottle-loving daughter. Co-sleeping or bed-sharing is common with Attachment Parenting families. This was not an option for my little lady who was far too wakeful when she was in bed with us. And when it came to breastfeeding she could have taken it or left it. The flow of the bottle was her bag baby. 😉 I pushed through and we nursed until a month past her first birthday at which point she weaned herself from the breast and never looked back. And those things bothered me. It bothered me that I had to let her do some crying at night at 15 and 18 months when she went through horrible sleep regressions and would not sleep any other way. It bothered me that she didn’t want to be my little nursling until she was 2 years old. And do you know why those things bothered me? Because they weren’t the “Attachment Parenting Way”. It sounds silly, but that was it. By nestling myself into the comfort of a theory I had essentially imprisoned myself self-imposed parameters and taken away my own freedom. I started down that same dangerous path when it came to her education. When she was 2, I started researching schools and education theory and stumbled on the Waldorf/Steiner Education method. I started implementing Waldorf fundamentals into our home because Waldorf isn’t just about education, it’s a whole way of family life and child-rearing. Some of the things that I did brought beauty and balance and rhythm into our family life…and others just didn’t work. Waldorf early education is slow and earthy, whimsical and lovely. It urges parents to only bring natural elements into the home for play and art, to eliminate all forms of media, and to focus on movement and song . My daughter loved the idea of singing our way through the day and spending a lot of time outdoors. But she is not prone to play quietly and do anything slowly. She loves all things bright, plastic, shiny, and loud! Her first year of preschool was at a Waldorf school, and she loved it, but she will be entering her second year of preschool this fall at a Reggio Emilio school. Because I am learning to take what I like from a method or theory while tossing what doesn’t work guilt-free. There are naysayers out there who will scoff at this idea. There are those that will call that “flighty” or say it’s giving into the whims of the child. I simply think it’s realistic and kind. It is kind to consider how something is working for you and it is kind to think about how something is working for your child.
Now my son just might be your prototypical Attachment Parenting, Waldorf kid. He sleeps next to me in bed, nurses on demand, and thinks the sun rises and falls on my boobs. (I took the last line from a friend because it’s hilarious and so so true! Thank you, Katie!) His temperament is pleasant and even and strikes me as a boy who will be happy to play with rocks and blocks for hours on end. If we “follow the manual” for him it will simply be because it works. I’m not going to force it. Life is too short to live or parent by what works for someone else, even if it is incredibly well researched. Because in the end, you and I are different people. And our children are their own unique tiny people. And in order to raise them up in joy and in love I think we need to remember to also raise them up in freedom.