When I started this thread, I didn’t think that I needed to explain what I was writing about. Michael was reading over my shoulder (as he often does when I am composing a post) and asked, “What’s the family bed?”
I asked him if he remembered sleeping in bed with me and Chris when he was little, and he said he did. I explained that the family bed was all of us sleeping together. It is really a simple concept and one that didn’t need to be explained until the last 100 years or so. Our ancestors (and currently in some other countries), slept with their babies. They all slept in the same bed/area. It wasn’t until people started collecting wealth and building large homes that children were expected to sleep alone.
When in the womb, an infant is warm and cozy. He hears his mother’s heartbeat and her voice. This is his world. When he is born, he may be thrust into a world that separates him from his mother. He is expected to sooth himself, to sleep alone and to take nourishment from a plastic bottle. A lucky infant is the one whose mother is prepared to breastfeed and keep him close. When he is near his mother, he can still hear her heartbeat and it is comforting to him. He can smell her milk. He feels warm and safe. His mother is his entire world. By keeping him close, his mother meets his needs. Sometimes even before he can cry. He sleeps close to her and forms a strong attachment to her.
As he grows older, he begins to form attachments to others. But his mother is still his world. Knowing that she is there, trusting that she will keep him safe, he is able to explore the world around him. When he is little, there are few adults in his world beyond his mom and dad. His time away from mom and dad is minimal until he is ready to be without them. This is attachment parenting: the bond formed first between mother and child and then between father and child. The mother, when attachment parenting, learns to trust her instincts when it comes to her child and do what feels natural. It is an amazing experience: to know that your baby needs you and that for that moment no one else can fill the need.
At this point in my parenting journey, I have not been nursing longer than I’ve nursed. My boys happily go off to do their own things, knowing that I will be available to them when they want or need me. They have learned to take risks because they are accepted for who they are and loved unconditionally. As a parent, I trust my instincts about what I believe they need, but I also discuss it with them because they are usually able to tell me. They know what they need and how their needs can be met.
They are confident and well-adjusted (most of the time) and if it wasn’t for their dad’s cancer, they would be happy. Surprisingly, they very rarely get in trouble. Chris’ and my expectations are clear and they understand them. They know the consequences (they learned that word before they were 2) for not meeting expectations. Whenever possible, we impose “natural consequences.” If the boys are goofing around and talking in bed past their bedtime, they will be tired in the morning. They are still expected to go to school and do their chores. It didn’t take them too long to figure out that they didn’t feel well when they were tired and cranky.
I don’t believe in permissive parenting. My expectations (and Chris’) are extremely high, but they are reasonable. When we impose consequences, they are well thought out and not overly harsh. I learned very early in my parenting that I needed to follow through when I said something, so I shouldn’t say anything that I wasn’t prepared to follow through with.
I am not my children’s friend. I am their mother. However, they know that they can come to me about anything. They know that I won’t judge them and that I love them, no matter what. This is essential as my kids enter their teenaged years. David already knows that if he drinks alcohol, I won’t be pleased, but that I will come and get him wherever he is, if ever he needs me to. He understands that if he drinks and drives the consequences will be significant, but he can call me and I will get him. He won’t get off if he calls me, he will still have consequences, but he will be safe and alive. He knows that he can talk with me about any subject and I will tell him what I think. He must make his own decisions but he can trust that I will listen to his thoughts and his respect his right to make those decisions.
Parenting by heart, it is challenging and requires forethought and reflection. But, the results are amazing and even with the occasional lack of sleep, I wouldn’t parent any other way.