I’ve had a number of interesting conversations the last few weeks about parenting – and received a fair amount of criticism for my parenting from surprising sources. Although I am capable of matching those biased criticisms with a more balanced truth, it can be hard to feel confident at the end of a long week.
Let me just tell you the story…
First, I was criticized by an acquaintance – not once but on two occasions – after she saw me correct Tiny’s behavior. She told me that, although she applauded my patience she thought I was letting Tiny run the show. Because she had overheard me telling someone else about a recent argument between Hubbin and me, she actually had the audacity to tell me she thought that I was letting my child control my marriage, too.
What this person did not see, because Tiny responded to the first, gentle correction in both of those moments, is that I do escalate to firmer responses and consequences if the behavior problem persists. This person also did not care to recognize that we were in public with other children and that my little extrovert was significantly energized by those other kids and was not actually misbehaving. And, although no marriage is perfect, she has not seen how we all interact as a family and can’t possibly understand how the dynamic at home works. Even though I knew she was wrong, it really stung.
Second, in two separate instances I was strongly admonished that Tiny simply needs to learn to put herself to sleep. But this person does not participate in our nightly bedtime routine nor are they the ones to wake up in the middle of the night if Tiny’s have a rough time staying asleep.
Although we did co-sleep until about 8 month, we continue to welcome her in our bed as necessary. The truth is that Tiny had a hard time at night when I was in graduate school and taking night classes. She’s also a very sensitive kid; she gets frightened pretty easily at night. We’ve carefully cultivated a night time routine that helps her feel secure. We’ve slowly shifted from cuddling in her bed while she drifts off to simply holding her hand. And now she falls asleep while one of us simply sits next to her bed. She needs that reassuring presence at the end of a long day. This is not coddling. This is attentive, intentional parenting. We are conscientious of her needs and address them meaningfully.
Finally, the last week was been so hard. I’ve been repeatedly astonished that the ways in which Tiny has simply lost it. One little tipping incident and we just teeter on the brink of meltdown for hours. On Friday last week she melted down because she wanted a shirt she had outgrown six months ago – and then cried over every little thing for two solid hours after that. She had another similar meltdown on the playground after school. The looks I received I picked her up and took her home.
The truth is this: I knew that something else was going on with Tiny. She didn’t have the vocabulary to tell me what was going on but knew that it was safe to lose control with me. And, even though it appeared harsh when I snatched her up and exited the playground gate, I knew that the most important thing was to get home – to our base – and have some quality time connecting and cuddling and addressing her needs. That’s not to say I wasn’t drained (I did, after all, have three glasses of wine before Hubbin got home) but I remained focused on making sure that she felt secure enough to dialogue about how she was feeling.
Although I’ve never really considered myself an ‘attachment parent,’ I’ve also never criticized that school of thought. That’s because, at the basis of the theory, no matter how it is lived out, is that children are seeking attachment as they move toward their own sense of identity and separate self. They children can’t explore the world if they aren’t secure in the knowledge that they have someone who is absolutely for them. They need a safe, strong relationship to serve as home base.
After recharging a but over the weekend, I am rallying for preschool pickup by reminding myself that I am, in fact, that safe space. Tiny knows that she is valued and loved but she also knows that I am in charge – not just of discipline but also in caring for her. She is not responsible for our closeness- that is my job. And I’m darn good it. I choose every day to be a present and positive parent.
To support this feeling of empowerment, I’ve been diffusing Young Living’s Gratitude blend. It took me a whole to learn to like this particular fragrance, but once I got used to it I found I really liked the grounding fragrance. With Balsam, Frankincense, Vetiver, and Geranium, the earthy fragrances are balanced by some uplifting notes that I find particularly stimulating. It really is an excellent choice for days when I need a little emotional support while focus on embracing my blessings and endeavor to feel empowered to move forward.
I want Tiny to conquer the world, but she has to be secure at home first. And that means empowering myself to be her safe space and reminding myself that I am grateful, even on my most exhausting days, to get to be her mom.
Do you feel empowered enough to be you child’s safe space? Maybe some of these resources can help you.
You can find more information about Gratitude in the Essential Oils Pocket Reference by Life Science Publishing (I am currently using the fifth edition) and Healing Oils of the Bible by David Stewart Ph.D., as well as the The Young Living Website. I also really like this blog by Young Living about empowering others.
If you aren’t familiar with the different kinds of co-sleeping and bed-sharing, here is an easy read by Kelly Mom. And here are two easy-to-read articles, one by Psychology Today and the other by Huffington Post, about attachment parenting philosophy.
Aside from the Pragmatic Parent post mentioned above, here are two more posts about how parents can practice being the safe space for the safe space for their children. I found both of these to be particularly helpful.