I was going to keep my mouth shut about this but there's just been too much media lately on the issue of parental attachment. I have to jump in. First off, this piece by one of my fave Seattle writers on the perceived risks of day care; then the double-whammy infant toilet training feature/Op Ed in the Grey Lady (I've decided to not link to it anymore, btw, you can find it); then the new reports on SIDS that say co-sleeping is a problem and pacifiers rule. Wow!! It's like a WWF throwdown: Dr. Sears versus those Babywise nuts. Should we glue ourselves to our children, anticipating their every tinkle, or throw 'em in a barren crib and let them toughen up?
As if we know. Parenting is such a bigger crap shoot than anything else I've ever done, I laugh sometimes just to think of the stakes of the gamble. You love, you act, and your kid grows up unpredictably. Will Bebe be the WNBA star I hope for, or a sad, lonely convenience store clerk? Will she even make it to the first grade without being diagnosed with some acronym? The anxiety's just so intense sometimes. ButI'm a writer, I thrive on anxiety. What I struggle with is the smug attitude of mothers who act like their "connection" with their child defies fate and time and human limitation.
What pushed me over the edge was an East Hampton mom protesting the new guidelines that say babies are safer sleeping in their own cribs by saying "the huge upside is the connection with the baby." Okay, upside for whom? For the mom, I think! If your baby might DIE because you sleep with her, is it worth it? Too often "attachment" seems to really mean "super-dependence" or, frankly, "control." It's like that Police song, "Every Breath You Take." Why is it now the ideal for a child to be unable to function separate from its mother?
I was really into the attachment theories at first -- I slung Bebe for almost a year, until my back went out, and we did co-sleep, off and on, for the first six months. Physical closeness definitely made a difference for me. I felt more enraptured after all that warmth and hugging. Did Bebe? Who the hell knows? She's pre-verbal! She's super happy and she passes the "strange situation" test, but she remains a separate person from me and very independent in many ways. I think that's good. I want her to learn to love being with and by herself. Isn't that was a good parent wishes for -- not the perfect reflection of herself, but simply a happy child?
The quest to be the right kind of mom is so much worse than the quest to be the coolest hipster ever was.