When I read this letter to Dr Sears entitled "Why I choose detached parenting" - I actually said a silent thank you to my first born. Believe it or not I started out parenting with ideas not a million miles away from those voiced by ex nanny turned author Nicola Kraus; perhaps not quite as hardcore, but then I was never a nanny!
I've learned so much in 9 years, but yet I can remember the difficulty I originally had letting go of what society had deeply ingrained; it's a massive paradigm shift for some. You see unlike Nicola's child, my first baby had other ideas, and they definitely didn't fit the mainstream model (despite my endless attempts at trying). Instead my daughter dragged me down an entirely different path - albeit at that point kicking and screaming.
Years of reading, learning and growing later, I'm now grateful to her - because it's from that I've learnt so much about the emotional, psychological and physical impact of how we care for our infants. The downside? You want to share it!
And therein lies the problem. How do we effectively convey the importance of responsive parenting to those who have been suckered by the mainstream baby industry in to believing it doesn't matter? It's like that part of the matrix where he can choose the red or blue pill
"You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."The trouble is whilst your eyes are wide open in Wonderland, the majority of society are still wired up - and a lot want the blue pill. I can remember how resistant I was to what I perceived as permissive parenting, toddlers that never slept and parents shattered, controlled by the child with a stroppy toddler wedged between them at night (the reality by the way is nothing like how articles such as the above describe!) so what can we say that actually makes a difference?
This week on Facebook during a chat about infant sleep, one mum shared her heartfelt story about why she changed the way she parented. It felt like a polar opposite to the article above, which is what prompted the title of the blog. The mum wasn't a detached parent - but she did make the massive mental shift that has turned her parenting style on its head. Perhaps this will at least provoke thought...
For various reasons my eldest child was a "Gina Ford baby", who I fed to a strict schedule (breastfed until she was 1) and who I kept very separate from me to 'foster her sense of independence'. We also used controlled crying. She was a fabulous sleeper, doing 12 hours a night without making a peep from 16 weeks old. I thought I had the perfect Contented Little Baby and recommended Gina to all my friends and anyone else who'd listen. I was horrified by all these parents making a rod for their own backs by co-sleeping, feeding to sleep and carrying their babies everywhere. How horrible it must be to never have any adult time, and as for their poor children! They're going to grow up to be clingy and insecure and not understand that there are rules that we, as a civilised society, need to abide by. Fast forward 2.5 years and whilst Gina is now a distant memory...
I have an extremely insecure, jealous, aggressive toddler who suffers the most horrendous separation anxiety and WILL NOT SLEEP. And do you know what breaks my heart the most?
A few months ago I put her up for her daytime nap and for the whole two hours she refused to sleep, she just kept playing with her toys and running around her room. She wasn't upset or crying, she just wouldn't sleep! I was annoyed - she had to have her lunchtime nap; I had stuff to do! So I decided that she could stay there for the full time and eventually she'd fall asleep, I was sure of it! After two hours all went quiet. She was finally asleep - I knew I was right all along, she needed that sleep! After all, mummy knows best, right?! A further two hours passed and I thought I'd better check on her as it'd been four hours since she'd gone up to her room...
So up I went and there I found my little girl, just sat on her bed, wide awake, staring at her door. Not making a sound. I asked her if she'd had a lovely sleep and she said "No mummy, I didn't sleep. I'm sorry mummy. That was not good 'haviour".
In that instant my world came crashing down. I'd left my poor girl alone in her room for FOUR HOURS, thinking I'd won the battle. I thought that, because she wasn't making a sound, she was happily asleep. When I was faced with reality; that she'd been wide awake for that entire time but hadn't made a peep because she knew mummy wasn't coming, and she was apologising to ME, I broke down. I questioned all those months where I'd thought I had a wonderfully content baby, who slept perfectly.
Was she really asleep? Or did she just give up all hope of her mummy coming for her? Of course I'll never know, but I have my suspicions, and I'm sure that the way I raised her until that point was in no small way responsible for her crippling separation anxiety and her challenging behaviour.
In that instant I set about changing how I parent and it has resulted in a fundamental shift in who I am.
I sought help for my OCD and my PND and I immediately dropped any sort of routine for my then 12 week old (who yep, had been sleeping through the night 12 hours from 9 weeks). I read up on Attachment Parenting; I read Sears, I read ‘The Continuum Concept’. I bought a sling, made my youngest's cot into a co-sleeper and adjusted everything about how I parent my eldest: no more ‘naughty step’ and she's welcome in our bed whenever she gets scared of elephants at night.
It's a long old road, but we're slowly seeing an improvement in my eldest's behaviour - and in my youngest (now nearly 6 months) because guess what? She does feed off and on all night now. But I barely register it because I'm not fully awake and I don't believe that she's using me as a dummy, I believe that other babies use dummies as breasts. I know which is more natural and normal and I know which I prefer.