The day I decided to have my son was the day I committed to a lifelong bond. One of caring and unconditional love, along with accepting I would be pushed beyond my limits, have every fiber of my core challenged, endure countless failures, wins, happiness and loss. Taking on a role of both Mom and Dad, along with being my son’s most tender supporter and harshest critic.
This exhilarating parenting challenge is a biological harmony. In fact, the child-parent bond is one few forces can break. As parents we’ve accepted being superman or wonder woman to our children and fight to raise them to be resilient, successful, independent adults. But first we are all children. Dependent, vulnerable, observing, and from day one working to become a separate independent human. The ability to be a resilient, successful independent adult starts with intimate bonds. Ones that start at a very young age and follow us from the cradle to the grave.
It seems being a parent invites advice on how to raise your child from the benign, to the absurd, annoying and downright malicious. “Don’t do it that way, do it this way.” “Use this brand of pacifier or your child’s teeth will rot.” Umm, ok I will decide that for myself. “
“Allowing them to cry it out, creates self-soothing tactics, and they are better for it.” Hmmm, not for me, I feel it creates insecurity.
“Hey, he might have A.D.D, it’s best to get him on ritalin.” Well, again this is a personal choice, and I decided against it. Finding massage, and energy therapies along with giving him attention worked. I’ve received all levels of parenting advice. Both to my face and passive aggressively behind my back.
For me, this was sometimes confusing, and infuriating, as each parenting situation is unique. Who are we to decide what another person feels? I would rather rely on biological responses and logic for my parenting decisions, than personal opinions, old wives’ tales, and overbearing advice. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller approach this perfectly and scientifically in their book Attached. The New Science of Adult Attachment, where they studied babies to adults to realize key attachment styles (secure, avoidant and anxious) their characteristics, and how they affect us as a child and beyond.
Science aside, love plays a big part in parenting. I tried to offer to my son what I didn’t have as a youth. Allowing for uniqueness, differentiation and being propelled to follow our own path. “I don’t care what you look like on the outside.” I would say. “Fly your freak flag, blue hair, tattoos, it doesn’t matter, but be a person of integrity on the inside. One who keeps your word.” This and other lessons are the types of things we hope our children hold close to their heart and give them courage at the core even in times of struggle. There are infinite lessons we hope to teach (while we are still learning ourselves) and unexpected results and lessons we receive in return.
Here’s the recap:
- Identify a child’s attachment style (secure, avoidant or anxious) and nurture and support that early on.
- Identify your own attachment style and how this connects with or repels communication or connection between parent-child. Adjust accordingly.
- Understand there is no one right way to raise a child, unless there is harm and abuse, unsolicited advice or interference with someone else’s child on the “best way” to parent the perfect child may not apply at all to another parent-child relationship outside of your own.
- Be consistent, be transparent, be open, and live your truth, a child retains and absorbs this. Want resilience? Live it. Value success? Show it. Looking for independence? Teach it.
- Provide your valuable time, and not just when it’s convenient to you, your work, or other responsibilities.
- Find the tools and resources to make your own rules and decisions. Sometimes our intuition (that visceral stomach feeling) lets us know the right choice from the beginning.
- You have free will to decide how to parent, don’t forget how powerful that it. I’m guessing if you’re here reading this, you have something to share. Let your freak flag fly.
These are core pieces of advice I value, and tried to provide for my son, along with holding myself to them. These may be totally wrong for you, and if well-intentioned and present in your child’s life, you are already doing some of the best parenting available.
We can only hope as parents when we are nearing our own grave, that our children are there. Maintaining those intimate bonds created long ago. Bred in the womb, lasting until we die. So, in our own childlike fashion we also look to our children for the same things we hope we provided for them. To make them proud, to be supported, and understood. To feel the reciprocation of unconditional love. To be held up when we too, fall.
Want to find out more on connection for yourself and your parent-child relationship? Get more details in Amir Levine and Rachel Heller’s book: Attached. The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help you Find and Keep Love
I also enjoy Foster Cline and Jim Fay’s book: Parenting with Love and Logic