An Attachment Parenting Rant: Beckham Style

by Camille on August 16, 2015

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Earlier this month, international hottie soccer star David Beckham found himself the target of on-line parenting “experts” scolding him for allowing his four-year-old to use a pacifier.  Oh. the. horror. They launched into a vitriolic tirade of concern regarding the blessed child’s dental health, speech acquisition, psychological well-being, and overall chances of survival. Because….a pacifier.

First, why is this news?

But second, kudos to Beckham for calling out the haters. He responded,

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Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts ?? Everybody who has children knows that when they aren’t feeling well or have a fever you do what comforts them best and most of the time it’s a pacifier so those who criticize think twice about what you say about other people’s children because actually you have no right to criticize me as a parent …

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Exactly. Maybe Harper was sick. Maybe she was just having a moody day and two minutes of pacifier time helps her regulate. Maybe she was play-acting and mimicking a baby. Maybe….it’s not our business.

So many people are always in judgment mode, but seldom do they possess the facts.

Consider these scenarios: 


 

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A five-year-old begins to throw an Exorcist-style tantrum in the middle of the mall. His mom responds by handing him a pair of headphones and allows him to use her skirt to hide his head.

A seven-year-old refuses to shower or bathe regularly. Even though he quite often smells, his parents choose not to make an issue of his hygiene.

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A family with half a dozen children of all ages allows snacking between meals. Children are never told to “wait until dinner is ready” but are allowed to choose between various fruits, granola bars, or other snacks when they are hungry.

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A couple sleeps each night with their eight-year-old nestled between them. Every night, he wants to be rocked like an infant. Sometimes, he wants to be spoon-fed, and they oblige.

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A 16-year-old is allowed to sit in the lobby and read a book or play on her phone during church services. She’s not required to attend her little brother’s soccer games or her sister’s piano recital.


 

If you’re completely honest, how many of these situations would invite judgment?

Tantrums?! That child is obviously spoiled or she’s a poor disciplinarian. The unwashed kid? His parents must be neglectful. Allowing between-meal snacking is too permissive and promotes poor eating habits. And on and on and ON. 

But here’s the thing: we don’t know the facts. We don’t see the sensory processing disorder that can turn mall crowds and loud music into elements of torture. We don’t see the years where there was no food and feel the panic even a moment of hunger can bring raging to the surface. We don’t understand that the older child may need to re-live missed moments of childhood to form healthy bonds. We don’t know how a religious service or a seemingly innocuous school event could trigger a visceral response to past trauma. We don’t see, and so we make snap judgments.

Many of the decisions Charlie and I make as parents invite critique from others. We don’t spank. Mouthing-off is often met with a chance to re-do or a silly game to redirect an attitude. We allow one of our older kids to smoke. We don’t pick fights over tattoos or body piercings. We don’t force our younger kids to hug or kiss Aunt So-and-So, and it’s okay if they’re not in the mood to be constantly adorable.

And oh boy, do we get the judgment sometimes.

Recently, one of the most frequent criticisms from someone was that Micah is spoiled and too attached. And of course, this provides a little chuckle, because if you know anything about the adoption world, you know there is no such thing as too attached. So thanks for the compliment! Also, in case you’re not aware, research reflects that securely attached children experience a host of benefits including protection from toxic stress, greater intelligence, and earlier independence.

So again, in case you missed it, attachment is not an insult.

Many parents, especially adoptive ones, read endless books, go to conferences, and buy ridiculously expensive baby carriers–all in the name of fostering healthy attachment. Parents determinedly forfeit sleep for months, tucking newly adopted (tossing, turning, bed-wetting) toddlers between them. Mamas learn to do laundry, cook, and continue parenting other children while a 40-pound child clings to a hip. With adopted infants, we are fully aware that tiny babies can also experience tremendous loss and grief, and we nestle their perfect, fragile bodies on our bear skin, sharing our warmth and smell and heartbeat….whispering our message that they are safe and the world can be trusted.

Micah is definitely experiencing some clingy moments lately. Often, if I’m anywhere in the room, she screams like a mandrake (Google it if you’re not cool enough to be a Harry Potter fan) should anyone else try to hold her except me. Other times, at playgrounds, the children’s museum and other loud, crowded places where one would expect a child to be overwhelmed, she runs full-speed away from me, cackling maniacally. She has spent entire days at Kids’ Day Out without a hiccup, and other days, she can’t make it through an hour in the church nursery without a massive breakdown.

And I suspect all these inconsistencies in behavior are a direct reflection of the fact…..she’s ONE. Her mood fluctuates rapidly and dramatically depending on a million factors as she tries to figure out the world. Did she miss her nap? Stay in the pool too long? Has it been 30 whole minutes since she ate something? Because all these things will result in a completely different kid.

Which according to the experts, is perfectly age-appropriate. The U.S. National Library of Medicine says the following:

From 8 to 14 months, children often become frightened when they meet new people or visit new places. They recognize their parents as familiar and safe. When separated from their parents, particularly when away from home, they feel threatened and unsafe.

Separation anxiety is a normal developmental stage. It helped keep our ancestors alive and helps children learn how to master their environment.

It usually ends when the child is around 2 years old. At this age, toddlers begin to understand that parents may be out of sight now, but will return later. There is also a normal desire to test their independence.

So there, haters. Of course she seeks me out when confronted with new faces and strange places. Of course she wants mama when she’s tired, hungry, uncomfortable, or uncertain. Completely. age. appropriate. And in NO way in need of your judgment.

Admittedly, it’s beyond fabulous to have a break, (if you’ve heard her scream, you are nodding your head in sympathy for my ear drums about now) and if she’ll go to someone else, awesome. We provide lots of opportunities for her to practice independence and learn that grown-ups come back. However, if I’m in the room with her, and she wants me, I’m not forcing her to go to you if I can help it. That’s just not how we roll.

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So if you want to call her spoiled because she likes her mama, be my guest. If we’re talking about love and attention as currency, then I pray for the strength and resources to spoil each of my children better each day.

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