Photos © 2012 Brian Adams
I am always reading something, and especially since Elliott was born. (There are usually two breast-feeding sessions a day after which he prefers to snooze on my lap, which limits my activity to reading or looking at facebook on my phone. I generally opt for the former.) And so we've been intending to start a bi-weekly post on all of the wonderful words we happen to read each week, and share a bit of what we've learned.
To kick this series off, I wanted to post about three books that are interconnected, by the same authors, and very similar: The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two (Revised and Updated Edition), The Discipline Book: How to Have a Better-Behaved Child From Birth to Age Ten, and The Attachment Parenting Book : A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby, all of which are a part of the Sears' library collection and have been wonderful insights for new parents like Brian and I. I am choosing to write about all three of these instead of one at a time because they are really similar to one another and at the heart of each all say the same thing: love your baby, learn the way that your baby's brain is developing, make changes within yourself and your schedule because of your love and what you learn, and you'll be a good parent.
First of all, let me say this: there is more than one way to be a good parent. Every parenting situation is different; besides single parent situations, there are divorced parents, families where both parents work full-time, adoptive parents, and on and on. Every family has its own needs as does every parent and child. Knowing yourself, your child, and your family is the first step in being able to make the best decisions for your family. Brian and I parent the way that works best for us and Elliott is doing great, but we also have friends who parent their children completely differently than we do and their children, too, are thriving. I just want to be clear that I am not a fan of judgement when it comes to parenting styles. There is not one right way to raise a child; there are, without a doubt, seriously wrong ways, but not one right one. Parents need to stick together and create a healthy community for our children, not quibble over carrier choices, co-sleeping choices, or long or short breast-feeding stints.
Brian and I had no idea what kind of parents we'd be while we were pregnant. I was quite certain that I wouldn't breastfeed for longer than a month, that we'd get Elliott on a regimented schedule by three months, and that I would push my baby into independence as soon as possible for his own good. He was under no circumstances going to sleep in our bed. I had seen how damaging it can be when parents abuse their babies' natural dependence on them to satisfy something within themselves, and I was determined not to allow that to happen to me. Elliott was going to be his own person. And that was that.
What I didn't realize at the time that I made these assumptions was that there is a definite balance between these two extremes, and that babies are naturally dependent for their first year. I didn't know that humans are actually born prematurely in comparison to other mammals (because of the size of the human head at birth and the size of a woman's pelvis). I had no idea that the development of an infants' brain is quite dependent on the level of attachment that he or she develops during the first year. Sure, I knew breast-milk is better (I myself am allergic to dairy), but I wasn't prepared to give that much of my body to someone else after already being pregnant for almost 43 weeks.
But then I met Elliott. And everything changed.
After Elliott was born, I realized that I'm not the person I've thought I was all along, that I wasn't going to be the kind of mom I thought I'd be, at least not entirely. I wasn't as regimented. I didn't (and still do not) mind if Elliott makes a mess--he's usually learning something, like how cool it is to play with water, or how it feels to rip a piece of paper from a book or the lovely sound two pans make when they are banged excitedly together. I didn't mind breast-feeding; the first week was a painful one, but after I saw how much Elliott enjoyed it, and especially when compared to a bottle of pumped milk, there was no way that I would force him to wean early. And even though Brian and I have to work with each other to make sure we each have time to do our work, we both couldn't be happier that we are able to stay at home with our son. He is thriving, happy, and healthy.
Sometime during our first month with Elliott, I began to hear about "attachment parenting," and after reading just a little bit about it, I realized that that was the kind of parenting that Brian and I had naturally fallen into. And so, wanting to read more about healthy parenting, I picked up The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two (Revised and Updated Edition)and The Attachment Parenting Book : A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby.
The Baby Book is a great book for any new parent, whether she ascribes to attachment parenting or not. It covers all sorts of things that new parents have questions about, from weird baby skin conditions to proper latching techniques to development timelines for babies newborn to a year. For us, it introduced the concept of attached parenting, which is a style of parenting that is more attached on the front end, but statistically leads to independent, healthy babies.
Attachment Parenting is based on seven B's:
The Discipline Book: How to Have a Better-Behaved Child From Birth to Age Tentakes these principles of attached parenting and communicates what discipline in this sort of family looks like. We are not, with a 9 1/2 month old baby, in a very disciplinary stage yet, beyond teaching Elliott that some things in the house are off limits, that biting mama is not okay even if he's playing, that when I say "no," it means "stop what you are doing." We are not in the phases of tantrums and meltdowns yet. That said, I so appreciated everything I read in this book. Our family is and never will be one where hitting--whatever you want to call it--happens. Ever. To us, it is messed up and barbaric. A child should never have to worry about his bodily integrity in his own home. We have very strong opinions about this. I don't believe in corporal punishment because I don't believe that it is wise to teach someone not to do something by doing something that they are being told they cannot do. I do not believe that a parent should "yank" something from a child (unless it is something that is going to cause him harm), because this teaches him to do that to other children. There are better ways to communicate to your child, and I've seen parents that do this are happy with happy children. It takes a little more time on the front end of things and a lot of talking to your child, but in the end, according to Dr. Sears and those parents we are fortunate to know, your child will be a more sensititve well-behaved child. Disciplining in attached parenting homes, according to Dr. Sears, is more about promoting positive behavior and creating an environment in which to create positive behaviors, than it is about punishing negative behaviors.
This is, of course, all just a very skeletal review of Dr. Sears' works. So to read more, just pick up a book and do a little reading. Whether you're a fan of attached parenting or not, I'm sure it will at the very least inspire you to think about your child and parenting techniques in a new way. We do not follow all of the Sears' advice; we take what works for us and leave what doesn't. But all in all, his books are well-written, well-informed, and refreshing. If you are not a work-at-home pair like we, you no doubt will have a more difficult time with some of his writing. If you are a single parent, you, too, will have a more difficult time with it (as a person with a degree in women's studies, I cringe at some of the ovelry heteronormative speak that takes place in the book, even though I am married to Brian and we have an incredibly heteronormative set-up). But applying the main conversation of the book, which encourages connection and communication between parent and infant, in whatever way you can in your life, is rewarding and, well, awesome.