Are We Too Attached to Attachment?

In light of labels and their limitations

Here’s a good example. Let’s look at the label of Attachment Parenting.

I love attachment parenting. But…

I love the premise, the practice, and the observation that this is now becoming common practice.

However, I challenge you, moms and dads, to please consider this.

Are we accepting the label without considering the full meaning? Are we turning to the protocol of practice as a “bible” which we may blindly follow, or is it simply supporting our conscious decisions and personal choices? Are we taking responsibility for our unique lives and families? Or are we going by the book, and doing what we think we’re supposed to do in order to fit the currently respected label of “Attachment Parent?”

By accepting a label, we accept rules. We accept limitations. We lose the element of personal choice and thought and mindfulness. We are simply accepting. When I see how hard it is on parents to abide by the currently clearly spelled out rules of attachment parenting, I wonder if we may not have taken this too far, or somewhere along the way, missed the point. Isn’t the point to support our personal choices of parenting? Or is it, like so many labels, to define us, set boundaries, clarify our options, and keep us connected with a group? As soon as we call our parenting style by a name, give it a label, I wonder if maybe it is no longer ours. We are simply following…

No, I am not trying to convince to drop your attachment practices – for your own good and for the sake of your children. What I am asking you to do is to simply think about them in terms of yourself, your child, your family. Step out of the comfort of the label, and create and nurture a style that is unique to you. Perhaps based on the principles spelled out by Dr. Sears and other proponents of this powerful shift in parenting. But then taken a step further. Go beyond the label defining you. Make it your own.

For those practicing Attachment Parenting, you probably know that this parenting theory begin in about 1969 with the work of John Bowlby who “introduced” the concept.  Having been a little one in the 60’s and early 70’s, I can tell you this theory and practice didn’t get too far back in the days of “let her cry,” “he’ll get over it,” and “I was spanked, and I turned out okay…” (Though seriously, folks… I actually still hear these phrases in use today. Don’t get me started there.)

No, I’m not going to say “put him down,” or “careful, you’ll spoil him,” or “really… you’re still nursing?” Because I did all those things, on instinct, against what those around me suggested. There was nothing I knew of called Attachment Parenting back then. And though it turns out I practiced by the principals, I am grateful I didn’t know I was. I was just doing what deeply felt right.

Then as the bestselling author, Dr. Sears, brought the philosophy and practice to the mainstream more recently, he coined the phrase – the label if you will – and literally “wrote the book” on attachment parenting. The rest is history.

The premise, regardless of what we may call it, I believed when I was raising my child and still believe, is beautiful, healthy and natural. We used to call it alternative. That gave us alternatives. As a mother, it gave me responsibility, power, choice, decisions to make, and work to do. I had to figure it out myself. The label was just beginning then, and not clearly defined and utilized. It did not bring me mainstream comfort nor community back twenty something years ago, but gave me a little psychological backing. As in: I may not be part of a group, but I’m not the only one. Other moms have done similar, and their kids turned out well. It confirmed my hunch that mine might too. (He did.)

It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as it is your conscious choice. However the problem with labeling is that rules and restrictions are imposed, and suddenly we may feel we’re not doing it right, or have to compromise our family values to make it work correctly. When we get this far, we’ve gone too far. The label is no longer serving us; we are serving the label.

So though the movement towards attachment parenting styles is beautiful to see, the key here is to use what works for you, but not have it define you.  As a reminder: as soon as you hear yourself labeling your parenting style, you might have gone too far. Let us never overlook the importance of using our intuition, making our own observations, listening to our inner wisdom, feeling deeply for our own unique family members as well as our selves, and taking responsibility for our own actions. Simply, make it a conscious choice. All of it. Not just the choice in joining and accepting a label.

As soon as we name it, it becomes its own identity – it no longer serves us; we service it. Do we give up common sense? Do we give up intuition? Do we give up the uniqueness of our self, our child, our family?

As soon as we have labels, we have limitations. We have directions. We no longer have to think for ourselves. We simply follow the rules.

Follow your heart. Follow your inner wisdom. Follow the lead of your own family. Chances are, you still may find yourself in line with the principals and practices of Attachment Parenting. But this way, your practices and principals are yours. They belong to your unique family. You have created them yourself… anew.

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