It’s a striking image, isn’t it? A boy old enough to be in preschool still nursing from his mother’s breast. I believe the ‘shock factor’ intended has been achieved here in the United States. People are appalled – tagging the Time magazine cover photo as ‘sexual, indecent, extreme, crazy’ – and on and on the list goes. Yet when you open to the story matching the cover photo, something is lost in translation.
Attachment parenting is actually the topic being discussed, as shared in The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears. I’m not going to get into the debate here, but it has stirred something in me as a mom. I was one of those who subscribed to ‘The Ferber Method’ – let your baby cry until they understand you’re not responding or they fall asleep. I had fears about ‘holding them too much’ and having them end up ‘spoiled.’ There’s no question in my mind that were I to have another child today (which I am not, lol) things would be very, very different. What Dr. Sears recommends is holding them as much as possible – to help your baby feel safe and loved. While there are indeed extremes on either side of the conversation, I’m a firm supporter in the style of parenting that supports being present for our children rather than setting them aside to become strong and independent on their own.
Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever. ~ Author Unknown
As I thought about it, I realized the whole process my husband and I have been through with our older two children through the difficult teenage years has redefined who we are as parents and the style with which we respond to our children. R-E-S-P-O-N-D. Not react. There’s a difference. Having been raised by a mom (I love very much) who feels it’s her duty to do everything in her power to ensure I take the ‘right path,’ it’s been an inner struggle to figure out who I am as a parent. My husband and I began our entry into parenting teenagers with the intent to set the boundary and ‘make them follow it.’ HA! What a shock when we realized how impossible that is.
It’s taken time, very open communication, letting go of our own pride, allowing vulnerability and being patient with one another to come to this place of co-parenting. Our goal is no longer to make our children bow to our demands, but to allow them to find their own path at this tender age of exploring who they are, seeking their independence and making their own mistakes. It’s the falling down and getting back up that will open their eyes to the inner character they already have in place. Our job is to support them as people, to talk with them about how to set their own boundaries and to be there when they fall, assisting them in picking up the pieces.
Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children. ~ William Makepeace Thackery
I want to say this, too: however my mother or my husband’s mother may have been – I believe we are given exactly what we need in one form or another. My mom’s style of raising me may not be my own, but it worked for me as a child. Part of our challenge when we become parents is to sort out who we are as children from who we are as parents. We are not our parents, nor will we likely follow exactly in their footsteps when we raise our own children. I was blessed to have a mom who did everything in her power to give me all she felt I needed, to protect me from being hurt and to teach me how to look inward when life wasn’t going the way I’d hoped. Without a doubt, I have brought these gifts into being a mom myself…just in a different way.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m remembering just how graced I am to be living my dream. From the time I was a little girl, I envisioned ‘growing up, getting married and being a mom’ as my future. As these blessed beings whom I’ve been entrusted to care for over this short period of time spread their wings to fly, the love and adoration only grows deeper. There was a time I found no fulfillment or value in being a mom. That’s no longer true. Instead I’m filled with overwhelming emotion at the beautiful gift I’ve been given….these three amazing children who chose me to be their mom. And that’s enough. I Am….mom enough. This is my calling…and I’m overflowing with joy to answer.