It’s been a big week here at Kveller.
Tamara Reese announced her second pregnancy, and Amy Deutsch was outed about hers. Jordana’s family was felled by ear infections and coxsackie virus, and Sarah Tuttle-Singer ran out of her beloved eye drops, which are apparently unavailable in Israel. (Anyone who has spent any significant time travelling can attest to how traumatic this can be.) Perhaps best of all, I braved my way to the Big Apple and got to see our editor Debbie Kolben interview Mayim Bialik about her new book. (Haven’t you heard? She’s got a book out. Oh, and she has sex in the kitchen. Just ask Barbara Walters—she’ll tell you all about it.)
Ah yes, Mayim’s book. I read it on the train to NYC. (That’s right, ladies. I got to sit. Quietly. And read a book. For four hours. Be jealous. Be very jealous.) As you all know, the book explores Mayim’s thoughts on attachment parenting. I enjoyed it very much, but, let’s be honest, I’m not an attachment parent. We don’t co-sleep, I nursed both of my daughters for about 9 months each, and they’re both in daycare 32 hours each week. I wore my daughters in slings and baby carriers from time to time, but we also used strollers and bouncy chairs and other safe places for the baby to hang out when Mama needed a break from all the touching.
As I read Mayim’s book, I struggled with how I felt about her approach to parenting. On the one hand, there is no question that Mayim is an incredibly thoughtful, intelligent, committed parent (and I have to assume her husband is too). On the other hand, there is so much about attachment parenting that just doesn’t resonate with my knowledge and experience as a clinical social worker, and perhaps more importantly, as a parent. There’s nothing wrong with attachment parenting (and for the families who practice it, it seems to work well), but at least for me, that was a lot about it that wasn’t right. For example, we tried to bring both of our girls into our bed to sleep at various times; they both screamed until we put them back into the co-sleeper. (To this day, they just don’t relax in our bed, but they sleep 12-13 hours happily in their cribs.) I didn’t love nursing, and it didn’t come easily to me, but with the help of pumping, numerous supplements, and a lot of support from lactation consultants and friends, we made it well past my goal of 6 months. But I didn’t wean my daughters because I was tired of nursing; we made the decision together—they became less and less interested, and I was ok with that.
So, what can I take from Mayim’s book? I absolutely agree with her about the importance of early bonding and attachment; however, I think there are many ways for babies to bond with caregivers. I appreciate her commitment to following her children’s lead when possible; our 3.5 year old still sleeps in her crib, and I am not pushing her to try her big-girl bed. I am happy to let her stay there for as long as she feels safe and happy. Alternately, my 21 month old is already trying to climb out of her crib, so she may be in a bed before her sister! I also agree with Mayim’s approach to gentle discipline. There is absolutely no hitting in our house, and when I do snap at the girls, we talk about it afterwards, and there are often apologies all around. We do practice 1-2-3 Magic in our house; it has been incredibly useful for putting a stop to the endless negotiations my 3 year old will pursue. (However, her time-outs happen in the same room as us; I don’t believe in banishing children out of the room.)
Perhaps most importantly, however, I appreciate Mayim’s acknowledgment that parenting is HARD, that what works for her family might not work for everyone, and that we as parents already have all the skills and wisdom we need to take care of our children. Yes, we might benefit from the knowledge available from friends and family and our local Mommy list-serv, but ultimately we know what we need to do to keep our children safe and healthy. For some of us, that looks like attachment parenting; for others, it doesn’t. I would argue that the details don’t matter, what does matter is that we are thoughtful, committed and engaged with our children, in ways that feel authentic to us and responsive to their needs.
As we approach Shabbat, perhaps we can reflect on the wisdom of Rabbi Zusya, and what he might say to those of us who are struggling to find our path as parents: The Rabbi, who was a great Hasidic master of the late 18th century, used to say, “When I die and meet God, God willl not ask me: ‘Why weren’t you Moses?’. Rather, God will ask me, ‘Why weren’t you Zusya?’” Hopefully, we will all find our inner Zusya as we move through each day with our children. Shabbat shalom.