Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Attachment Parenting: Look! The Okinawans Are Doing It!

I'm sorry, I don't even know if Okinawan is a word. Do you ever notice that the people of Okinawa seem to have everything figured out? They always come up in news stories about how to be healthy, the best foods to eat, how to be happy, etc. Well, turns out they're baby experts too.

I recently (well, all right a while ago, but life gets busy!) read an article called Baby Wearing & Bed Sharing: The Scandal of Attachment Parenting from the blog The Fashionable Housewife. I enjoyed it because it gave a level-headed, historical discussion of Attachment Parenting, rather than the weak, over-indulgent reputation Attachment Parenting can have. I was fascinated by the section discussing the way babies and children were cared for in World War II Okinawa, where there were virtually no mental health issues. "Affection was liberally given to all children of all ages" - where did the idea of spoiling a baby come from? The Puritans? I saw a quote once somewhere in teh Internets that you can spoil a baby with THINGS - you CANNOT spoil a baby with LOVE. No, you're not going to hold the baby too much. No, the baby is not going to cry more if you respond when it cries (in fact, he or she will cry less). No, it does not mean that your child will not learn rules, morals, independence, or confidence (AP children tend to show more independence and confidence, and have a greater sense of boundaries). I wouldn't ignore a loved one who was crying - why would I ignore my own child?

I still wear my baby even though he is getting rather big! I have a Babyhawk mei tai and an ergo. We both enjoy when I carry him, and it has in no way impacted his independence. He still loves to explore, venture away from me (I could hardly keep up with him at the local library), and is quite good at being mobile, from walking to "running" to kicking or throwing a ball. We just like being close occasionally, just like we might enjoy hugging our friends or holding our partners. Nurturing touch is just human nature.

Attachment parents often seem to be portrayed as weak, indulgent, spoiling their children, "hippies", whatever, but I think it actually takes a certain amount of strength to parent in a way that seems to go against today's "hard" society. Attachment Parenting is not about giving in - it's about treating your children with the respect and attention they deserve as individuals in order to grow and thrive. My natural instinct has always been to try to understand my child's needs through his eyes and understand his instinct for survival from the beginning - it makes it pretty obvious that children are not being difficult or manipulative the way some adults claim. Learning about the ways human offspring react and develop, as well as discovering Attachment Parenting, has confirmed to me that my instincts are normally spot on where my son is concerned. I don't follow every principle of AP to a T, but I do strive to treat my son with dignity and make sure he knows he can count on me to be there at all times. I see this as simply building a strong foundation of trust that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

I hope this all made sense. I've been working on this post for a while when I have moments here and there. I was using principles of Attachment Parenting before I even knew it had a name, so it was nice to find a whole theory that was along the same lines as my own thinking. It just seems to make sense to treat my child with the same (or more!) love and respect that I would treat an adult in my life and hope to receive in return.