Be the change you wish to see in the world.
I’ve seen a lot of confusion out there about what Attachment actually *is* recently. So much so that I feel that this post is in order. What do we mean when we refer to “Attachment”… what do we mean when we say “Attachment Parenting” and when we say that we are an “Attachment Parent” what are we seeking to assert, what sort of goal do we have in mind?
Attachment. If you don’t know about the history of the term attachment and how it came to be specifically applied to relationships then I suggest you read up on it here. Yes, it started out as a theory, first espoused by John Bowlby, that focussed on the relationship between parent and child, note I said parent. From the link I have referenced it states that:
“Its most important tenet is that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur normally.”
As Bowlby researched more and other researchers joined him from many different fields more things became apparent. It was discovered that attachment types in childhood grew up to repeat these attachment models in their adult relationships. Not just with their partners, but with their children, their colleagues, friends, almost with everyone they meet. Your attachment type will dictate how you see relationships, it’s a schema, a road map that you then use for ALL human relationships. We learn this schema when we are little, and so it IS crucially important to your child’s attachment schema that you try to develop a secure one for them. BUT your schema can get in the way of this, just as your schemas can get in the way of all of your relationships. Think of the woman who cannot leave an abusive man, think of the man who is dominated by his wife, think of all the relationships you have. They will all be informed by your attachment schema.
The wiki link goes on to say that:
“The biological mother is the usual principal attachment figure, but the role can be taken by anyone who consistently behaves in a “mothering” way over a period of time. In attachment theory, this means a set of behaviours that involves engaging in lively social interaction with the infant and responding readily to signals and approaches. Nothing in the theory suggests that fathers are not equally likely to become principal attachment figures if they provide most of the child care and related social interaction.“
I’d like to draw your attention to the phrase “responding readily to signals and approaches.” This involves a certain respect for the child. A respect that involves thinking that the child’s signals and approaches are to be respected enough TO respond to them readily. This sort of relationship is one founded on a deep respect for needs. One that provides a pattern for future relationships. If you weren’t respected enough as a child then chances are your attachment schema was damaged, and your parenting work will bring up past hurts for you, whether you are aware of them or not.
So. Attachment is a schema formed in infancy/childhood that can form a road map to all future relationships. Attachment Parenting then must surely be a response to a child’s needs in a deeply respectful manner.
Attachment Parenting therefore is NOT:
• Co-sleeping/Bed sharing
• Baby Led Weaning
• Baby wearing
• Baby sign language
• Home Schooling
• Eating healthily
• Being anti medication/vaccinating
• Natural Childbirth or home birthing
• Lotus Birthing or Placenta consumption
It is not even BREASTFEEDING
I can anticipate that some of you might be shocked by this. Let me elaborate. Attachment parenting is ENHANCED by certain practices. But is not EXCLUSIVE to certain practices. It is founded on a DEEP respect for the relationship. I can have an attachment relationship with my husband, and trust me, it doesn’t involve him consuming my breast milk from my breast. Attachment relationships, including parenting are enchanted by certain techniques, practices, and behaviors. Back to the breastfeeding example. Fathers can and do form attachment relationships with their children without breastfeeding, some do so in the absence of the mother who may be deceased, but this does not mean that those children will not be parenting in an Attachment Parenting manner. Some mothers genuinely cannot breastfeed, this does not exclude them from Attachment Parenting. The only thing that truly excludes you from attachment parenting is when you fail to respond to your children’s needs in a respectful manner. In fact this would be the thing that would exclude you from ANY relationship, when you fail to take the other’s needs into consideration.
All the things I listed above, yes, they are useful, and they have come about because they serve a purpose and they enhance our attachment parenting, but we can still AP without them. The road we tread might be harder, but it does not mean that it is impossible.
Remember attachment parenting is not the latest baby carrier. It is not the latest crunchy fad, it is about the relationship. It is about attachment writ large, it is about hoping that the dyad you are building between you and your child reaches past your own childhood, past your family, past your house and into the broader community and starts to effect change, big change. It is about love. Everything else is technique.