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One Reason (or, they did what?!)

October 27, 2010

[*disclaimer* Mom: I know you will read this.  This is not meant to make you feel guilty, because I know things were different 30 years ago. I considered not posting this but it has been on my mind for days and wanted to use it as a segue into a post about my chosen parenting style and the criticisms directed at me]

I was talking to my older sister on the phone the other day and she reminded me of a story that I have heard before, but didn’t really stick with me since it happened before I was born.  When I heard this story as a younger person, it was told in an almost humorous way, and I never thought it was such a big deal.  Now I have a baby though, and am acutely aware that the experiences my baby has now, even though she won’t consciously remember them, will affect her character and attitudes for her entire life.

My parents tied my older brother in bed when he was a toddler.  If you don’t have babies of your own, that statement may not have the shock factor that it now does for me.

I remember asking why they did it when it was casually mentioned, and my parents told me an amusing anecdote about waking up in the middle of the night to find my brother, less than 2 years old, sitting on top of the refrigerator eating a banana.  He’d pushed a chair to the counter, climbed up, opened the cabinet door, used the shelves as a ladder to get on top of the fridge where the bananas were.  If this sounds hard to believe, you don’t know my brother; his gross motor skills are beyond outstanding and always have been–he can ride a twelve foot unicycle while juggling four flaming pins (I can barely juggle scarves).

So, his being tied in bed was sort of played down as necessary for his own safety, and not really a big deal.  Then my sister brought it up the other day and described in detail how my parents would have to wrestle my brother into a zippered harness every night and how he would scream and cry and fight.  She was eight or nine at the time and she would sit by the bed and pat his head and sing to try to make him feel better; she can’t remember how long this went on, but she recalls the harness getting dirty and worn, and having to be turned around when my brother figured out the zipper, and that he chewed through one of the straps at least once.

I can’t imagine the terror in the mind of such a tiny person at being tied to a bed like a mental patient, and left to Cry It Out (CIO) in bondage.  I imagine it looked something like this (scroll down) and it makes me tear up just thinking about an energetic little boy being subjected to such a thing.

I remember my brother always being angry; if he didn’t seem angry at one particular moment, he was one poorly chosen word away from fierce, often violent anger.  But he never demonstrated those “naturally” violent tendencies like hurting animals or deliberately destroying things…he was certainly energetic, possibly hyperactive, but my childish memories of him are of an often sweet, playful big brother who had a terrifying hair-trigger temper.

Now I know  one reason why.

After that, my sister and I talked about parenting styles and how I like the style of Attachment Parenting (AP), because it focuses on being aware of your child and his/her needs, whatever those might be; AP does offer a lot of specific suggestions for things to do that usually lead to happy, well-adjusted babies, but it doesn’t say you MUST do any one thing.  Most other parenting styles do this: you MUST make your baby sleep in her own crib, you MUST have your baby eating three meals a day by 10 months, etc.  AP is about recognizing the individual needs of your baby and putting those needs ahead of your own because they are so primal.

Forcing a child to try to adhere to an adult schedule or adult ideals will leave everyone frustrated, and probably result in long-term emotional issues for the child.  I want to make sure that LM feels her needs are recognized and that she will be comforted when she needs it; critics claim that AP is child-led parenting (true) and that children shouldn’t be spoiled and must be raised to live in the adult world.

I believe in discipline, but my daughter will have to live in the so-called “adult world” for her whole adult life, and doesn’t she deserve a few years of confidence that someone will always be there to meet her needs when she is not able to meet them herself?  I believe that will help her be more confident and independent as she grows.  I have already seen it in older babies I know whose parents follow AP.

Given my own experiences and the research I have done, it makes sense that a baby/child who is constantly pushed to be too independent for fear of being “spoiled” will become even more clingy in response.  And as long as she never develops a genuine need for Barbies or Happy Meals, I intend to meet her needs to the best of my abilities and make sure she never feels abandoned or neglected.

“Children are like fruit: they only spoil when you ignore them.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 31, 2010 7:10 pm

    wow, through the strap?
    I have ridiculous stories that seem shocking now (my mom left me, at age 2, alone in our middle-of-nowhere house with the wood stove burning to keep the place warm, for example, but she is TOTALLY nuts, so it kinda doesn’t count). I wanted to share one about D as a baby until I got to the strap part. You totally trumped me 🙂
    I’m totally with you on the AP style and really hope W never needs barbies or Happy Meals. Please, God, no.

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