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Saturday, August 1, 2009

A shift of perspective

Probably the biggest paradigm shift I've experienced lately speaks directly to my parenting style. I have spent years in full-immersion attachment parenting, to the point where accusations of "enmeshment" are definitely accurate. Now, I'm not going to debate whether there is One Superior Way to parent, because if I have learned anything from parenting more than one child it is that you often cannot even reliably use one approach for all parties within one family. So please don't read this and feel judged or attacked, or proselytized to. I'm just documenting my experience.

That said...yes, I was enmeshed with the kids. And things were working out fine, thanks. BUT. I started seeing some disturbing trends. An often panicked dependence on me by my eldest. Irritability on my own part. And a general sense of "it feels like I should be doing things this way...so why aren't we happy?".

After much, MUCH soul-searching (which sidelined into the inevitable questioning of my commitment to, reasons for, and preparation for, homeschooling), I have made a slight yet siginificantly world-changing adjustment to my parenting approach and expectations. The best way to describe it is to say that I have changed from "child led" to "child aware".

Many detractors of unschooling or attachment parenting often argue about "who's in control", and speaking from experience I can attest that focusing on honoring the child can indeed sometimes lead to situations where indeed one party feels dominated by the demands or needs of the other. It's no fun. And not just for the parent, either, which may come as a bit of a surprise. Any unbalance in the family affects everyone negatively. It took some stepping back for me to remind myself that the world does not need to be made of extremes. As with everything else, my ultimate goal is to strive for balance.

The difference? When I thought "child led", I had a tendency to think, "Do what they want/need at all costs." When I think "child aware", I consider their needs/abilities/desires/emotions, but ultimately make objective decisions based on not only their input but what is good/healthy/possible/desirable for all parties involved.

It wasn't the end of the world. I am learning how to set and enforce boundaries without guilt. They are learning how to take "no" for an answer gracefully. I am feeling far less overwhelmed and tense than I had in previous years. What a difference!! I'm still a relaxed parent compared to the standards of many I know...but I no longer feel as though I'm lax. We are all thriving.

(Insert sigh of relief here.)

2 comments:

  1. Hey, I read this the day you posted, but life kept getting in the way of me commenting.

    We're big into attachment parenting as well. But I think as with all things, you have to change and flux and accommodate your child/ren's and family's changing needs.

    I don't feel that we were ever truly enmeshed, though. The boys have very happily moved on to a phase where they are happy to have their own place to sleep at night, for example. They giggle and read and tell each other stories and secrets (I'm guessing) and make shadow puppets via the nightlight's glare.

    Whinnie is still deeply content to sleep there between us and it is as it should be for my spirit as well as hers.

    But all things must be as the whole family needs them to be for peace and growth.

    I'm glad you're finding the balance that works for you and your dear boys. :D

    peace,
    M

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  2. Well I am very happy to say that once both parties (kidlets and myself) let go of our death-grip of each other, ALL of us started to flourish. Not that we weren't before, but. For example, bedtime had become an ordeal. No one knew how to change it, and it was a struggle for all of us. Giving myself permission to set a boundary brought peace for ALL of us. We all adjusted much more quickly than our previous dynamic had led me to believe was possible. It was time.

    Finding balance in any area of life can be exceedingly difficult, especially if you are overly concerned with meeting expectations...whether they be yours or others', tangible or imagined. It does sometimes take courage to do things differently.

    Thanks so much for your comments, M. :)

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