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Archive for the ‘Respectful parenting’ Category

With the exception of my year of paid maternity leave with my first son I have never actually been not working and/or studying since I’ve had kids and yet most people see me as just a housewife**.  And you can call me overly sensitive or insecure or whatever you want, but I know it affects the way people – even people who care about me – interact with me.

Because I’m a girl I’m better at shopping than math.

There’s a room in our home (where I’m typing right now) that is set up as an office.  It’s a generalized office, not really ‘belonging’ to either of us specifically.  But, I run my Doula business from home (from this room, in fact) and I’ve been a part-time student for the last year so I do homework at home.  Whenever visitors to our home have reason to reference this room, guess what they call it?  “Mr. Fair’s office.”  Why?  Oh, you know, because he leaves the house every day to earn money and I’m just a housewife, so he must be the only one with important things to do in that room, not me.

We have a special holiday tradition in our family too.  It’s called “Who’s going to hang up the phone on us this time?”  Here’s how it goes: my Mother-in-law asks everyone when they are available to get together for the holiday.  Everyone replies with their work schedules.  My work schedule always comes in the form of “My client’s baby is estimated for X date.  If it’s born then I can make the 2-hour drive out of town, if not I can’t because that’s my job.”  A date is picked to meet everyone else’s work needs – in fact usually the date revolved around my (former) sister-in-law’s cashier job because she’s not a housewife, so her job mattered.  The holiday approaches and we repeat the caveat that I can’t come if I’m working and each and every holiday someone in Mr. Fair’s family slams the phone down on us.  Why?  Oh, you know, because my job doesn’t take me out of the house, so it’s not a real job.  I’m really just a housewife with a hobby.

For me, these things are irritating, but they’re not a substantial hardship in my life.  I’m well educated and confident in my abilities and intellect.  I have a partner who fell in love with me in part because of how smart I am.  I had a decent repertoire of smart, confident role models and I’ve always been surrounded by smart and accomplished female peers.  In fact, I’m the only one from my group of undergrad roommates who doesn’t go by the title “Dr.”

But gender stereotypes shape people’s lives.  My mother’s rural highschool offered girls a 4-year secretarial track or a 5-year nursing track.  My mom grew up with the understanding that university was an option for her brothers (one they both exercised) but not for her.  It’s entirely possible that such a limitation was not in fact in place but whether de jure, de facto or imaginary her perception of that barrier determined what she aspired to and how she progressed through her education.  And she has lived with the consequences of that barrier ever since.

We know from countless studies in countless fields that people, by and large, live up to (or down to) their role models.  It’s in part why poverty and domestic violence are cyclical.  And we know that it specifically applies to girls’ performance and confidence in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects.

When girls see opportunities for themselves in science, technology, engineering and math, they’re more likely to take higher math in high school and more likely to pursue those careers

So if you don’t think that the Children’s Place T-shirt matters, ask yourself this: what kind of role models is a girl seeing if she lives in a house where the parents think that such a message is funny or appropriate to plaster on her?  Do you think the girl whose parents put that T-shirt on her is going to see opportunities for herself in STEM careers?  Will she end up like me or like my mom?

I have a daughter and a son and it’s hard not to raise them with restrictive gender stereotypes.  But giving her options in her life is important and speaking out about these things is the only way to open new opportunities for our daughters.  All of our daughters.

Unfortunately, as Annie from PhD in Parenting has discovered more than once, people don’t seem to want new opportunities for their daughters.  In fact they think it’s so important that no one tries to change things for their daughters that they tell people who do to get lost.

How about you get off twitter and do some algebra?  And if you’re no good at algebra then ask yourself if you think that’s because of your inferior gender.

**N.B. There’s nothing wrong with being a SAHM, I’m using the term ‘just a housewife’ to convey how little value society puts on the role of women in the home, not how much value I put on it.  I think SAHM’s rock 🙂

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The other day Mr. Fair and I had the following hilarious conversation.  Little Man was away at his grandparents’ house and we were discussing what to do with an evening with only one small(ish) child in the house.  Can you guess where this is going?

Mr. Fair: “We should watch a movie tonight.  And, drink some wine too.”

Me: “Yup.  And hey, we could even DO IT!”

Mr. Fair: “Ya, while we’re drinking wine!”

Me: “And here’s a crazy idea: we can do it in our bed!!”

(NB. The current sleeping situation consists of DH and Little Man in the ‘Master Bedroom’ and me and Lady Fair in the ‘kids’ bedroom.’  So Little Man’s absence frees up what is ostensibly the grown up bed)

MR. Fair: **Gives me a slightly quizzical look.** “Ya, I guess we could… Wait… Aren’t we talking about folding laundry?”

Fuck.

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So last week, I attended my first birth as a doula.  An incredible, difficult, tiring, miraculous, and wonderful birth that took a total of 32 hours, 22 of which I was there for.  This week, I’m back on call for my next client and next month – over the holidays, as a matter of fact – there will be yet another.

I left my house at 1 am last Wednesday morning, and didn’t get home until 11 pm, meaning I didn’t see my son from the time he went to bed Tuesday night until he woke up Thursday morning.  My daughter, meanwhile, had a dream feed about an hour before I left, and another right after I crawled back into bed with her.  The hours in between were spent having (more or less) the first bottled meals of her 7 month long life.

I was nervous, obviously, about how all of this would go down for her, but it worked well and I can sum up the reason why in just two simple words: Attachment Parenting.

Thanks to the attachment practice of cosleeping, I didn’t unnecessarily lengthen our separation.  As I said, I didn’t set eyes on my son for 36 hours, but he’s two and a half and not only sleeps in his own room (with Dad joining him as needed), he’s already spent several happy weekends with his grandparents.  But Lady Fair is only 7 months old.  Frankly, even 22 hours felt too long to be away.  Thirty-six hours is just inconceivable.  If we didn’t share sleep, it could have been 36 and the additional hours would have been completely unnecessary.  If we didn’t share sleep because we were trying to follow a book-prescribed sleep program, then an already difficult situation would have been rendered more difficult by a person who has never met me or my child, and who has no actual knowledge of our situation or needs.

Thanks to attachment parenting, I was able to leave at a moment’s notice without worrying that a messed up ‘routine’ would throw the kids into some kind of coping tailspin.  You see, aside from the major time markers of breakfast, lunch and dinner, our daily routine is this: child has need, child expresses need, caregiver meets need to best of caregiver’s ability.  That’s a pretty easy one to follow, and it depends only on a loving caregiver.  Mr Fair, as co-parent, certainly fits the description of loving caregiver and, when armed with a freezer full of booby juice, has every tool he needs to parent solo without trauma for anyone.  The kids obviously felt my absence, but not to the same degree as if a missed snack of 1/4 cup rice gruel at 10:17 am led them to a missed nap at 10:36 am which then made them too tired to focus on their Baby Einstein flashcards from 11:46:30 to 11:59:59.  Their day remained exactly the same as normal, just with a hairier chest to snuggle on.

As an extension to the above, taking an attachment-based approach with my kids meant it was much easier to come home again.  I’m not under the illusion that a human being will have the exact same needs at the exact same time of day, every single day, so when Lady Fair expressed a need to reconnect after my absence, it was no big deal.  She spent the next two days almost constantly in-arms (yay ring sling!), sleeping only at the breast.  And that was lucky for me because, guess what?  I was exhausted!  I couldn’t have spent the day trying to stay awake to reestablish a schedule even if I wanted to.  Instead, I just enjoyed the snuggles without worrying that it was the oft-feared ‘bad habit’, a harbinger of chronic dependence that is sure to persist into adulthood.  And of course, it wasn’t a habit at all, just a need.  One that passed away once it had been filled (she’s upstairs asleep in bed as I type this), and one which I was able to fill thanks to attachment parenting.

It’s not easy transitioning back to work when you have little ones.  The logistics and emotions can be complex and unpredictable.  But for the good of our family as a whole, and my mental health specifically, reestablishing a career is something I have to do.  I’m just grateful that we have so many tools on our parenting workbench that I can do it with few side-effects.

How does attachment parenting help you cope with life’s challenges?

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You’ve heard about why.  And you’ve heard about how.  Now do you wanna see what it looks like??  Well feast your eyes.

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Dropping the F-bomb

BLW Part I: The Whys

BLW Part II: The Hows

 

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This is part two of a 3-part series on baby-led solids/weaning (BLW) in honour of Lady Fair’s half-year birthday and consequent move away from exclusive breastfeeding.  In part 1 we talked about some of the great reasons to do it, and now we’ll go over some practical tips.  The thing about BLW is that it really doesn’t require instructions beyond “give food to the baby”, but people who are used to pureeing usually want some more details, so here they are.

Size & Shape

The main thing about BLW is that the kids are putting the food in their mouths themselves, and they’re starting well before they work out that little pincer grip.  In other words, dicing is no-dice.  It’s all about the long-skinny so that they can wrap their whole adorable little fist around it and still have an end poking out to get in their mouths.

My favourites for novice eaters are bananas halved lengthwise, avocados cut into longitudinal wedges and broccoli trees.  Once they get older and more coordinated, brussels sprouts and scrambled egg yolks are pretty grabable.

Meat always seems to present a difficulty.  Some people cut it into really narrow long strips, but my kiddo couldn’t figure out how to flop it into his mouth.  He also had front teeth very early, so he’d bite a chunk off and then not be able to chew it and problems would ensue.  So I went Alicia Silverstone on it and pre-chewed, then propped it up in a little pile on his plate.  Gross, but effective.

Grip

As scary and weird as it seems, try to leave peels and rinds on when possible.  Bananas are a perfect example.  If you take the peel off, that nanner will fly out of baby’s hand like the escargot out of Julia Roberts’ in Pretty Woman.  Apples with a skinless landing strip around the equator and peel at each pole are easy to hold onto and run your gums over.  If you’re into grains you can also try dusting food with some sort of cereal crumb.

Out & About

First off, BLW makes travelling way easier, and being lazy, that makes me very happy.  But what you need to plan/bring changes more rapidly than with pureed food.

If baby is only a few days/weeks onto solids then the biggest question is really whether or not baby actually needs to eat (other than nursing, obviously) while you’re out.  Remember the rule of thumb “before 1 it’s just for fun.”  Kids really don’t need to be having three squares a day.  In fact, in the first couple of weeks they’re unlikely to swallow enough to make the endeavor calorically worthwhile anyway.  So there’s the nothing option.

But if your wee one is firmly into the eating world, avocados, bananas and brussels sprouts all travel well and make relatively little mess.  For more adventurous babies, order the soup and bread and share dipped bread with them.  Alternatively, bits from a garden salad or side baked potato do wonders.  And my all-time food court favourite? Sushi rolls.  They’re mouthful sized, nutritious and TIDY.

IKEA Antilop Highchair

Bibs = useless. Think ‘full coverage’.

Clean-up

And speaking of tidiness… you know all of those little wee bibbies you were given?  Forget them.  Truly.  So useless.  If you must use a cover, then the IKEA full-body smock is the only rational option, but I prefer to strip baby bare.  Much easier to swab a baby than wash and fold a stack of smocks.  And while we’re at it, the more elaborate your high-chair, the more crevices there are to stick food in.  IKEA comes in handy here again with their smooth plastic, single piece, TWENTY DOLLAR high chair.  Can’t be beat.

Safety

These really should go for all early experiments with food, no matter how you introduce it.  The first item on the safety list, is to know the difference between gagging and choking.  Both look horrible and can make you panic.  One – gagging – tends to be noisy, while the other – choking – is silent.  So don’t ever turn your back on baby and assume you’ll hear her choking because you won’t.  Ultimately, the qualifier is air.  If baby is gagging, he can still breathe in between gags, which makes noise.  If baby is making noise (and thus breathing) you should NOT go smacking her on the back because that could make the offending bit of food block the currently unobstructed airway and cause choking.

Item number two is to leave baby UNBUCKLED while feeding.  This probably seems a bit counter-intuitive, especially since highchairs these days come with enough snaps and harnesses to rival a carseat, but the reality is that if baby does happen to start choking, you can’t help without removing her from the chair.  The harder it is to get her out of the chair, the longer it will take to help her.  Here is where we loop back to the previous paragraph and remind you not to turn your back while baby is eating, lest she somersault over the tray.

The final item on the list is to master ye old finger swipe and it is a bit more BLW specific.  If a bad gagging fit does hit, or even if you foresee trouble clearing an item from the mouth, the easiest way to help is to reach into the mouth and clear it with your finger.  Don’t be alarmed if this actually triggers gagging – you would too if someone reached into your mouth.  Also don’t freak out if all of this gagging triggers puking.  That’s the body’s way of making sure stuck objects get pushed up and out.
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So there you have it.  Baby-led weaning in a nutshell.  What tricks did you use to make it even easier?

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Dropping the F-bomb

BLW Part I: The Whys

BLW Part III: The Cuteness

 

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I had a moment of weakness today.  I typically try to avoid things I know will get me worked up, but today I lapsed and, having come across a link to this Tizzie Hall “Baby Whisperer” person, I clicked it.  And sure enough, it ticked me off.  Enough to write about it.

Her book is called “Save our Sleep” but it should also have the subhead “by Endangering our Babies”.

I had a browse through her website and pretty much the first line is this: “Do you have to rock your baby to sleep every night?”  Oh, the horror.  Imagine, having to rock your precious, sweet baby to sleep day after day.  I knew I was in for it then.

"Love you Forever" by Robert Munsch

Another bestselling book… about a woman who understands that rocking your sleeping baby is a gift so precious that it’s worth driving across town to do.

I persevered a little further into her information and three things became immediately clear: 1) some of her advice is just plain bad parenting 2) whether her advice is good or bad, she has no right to be offering much of it 3) she cares more about selling you stuff than she does about your (or your child’s) well-being.

1) When you take parenting advice from a teenage babysitter, don’t expect it to always be good.

It turns out that Tizzie started giving parenting advice at the ripe old age of 9.  She tells us all about the thousands of families worldwide who have sought her parenting advice, and that’s great for her.  She also tells us that her credentials – her only credentials – are babysitting.  That is not a recipe for excellent parenting advice.

Let’s start with her take on why you shouldn’t assist your baby to go to sleep, ever.

Let’s say you find rocking your new baby to sleep an easy option. What happens when your baby gets too heavy for you to rock?… What happens if you have a second baby before your first starts to self-settle?… At some point you will have to stop the rocking. But at what age will your new baby understand why you have stopped rocking her to sleep?

So if you follow the babysitter’s logic, you also shouldn’t breastfeed because at some point you’ll stop.  You shouldn’t permit your child to take dance lessons this year because next year or the year after you may not be able to afford them.  At some point you undoubtedly will lose your patience and yell at your kids, so it’s important to start yelling routinely now to make sure they aren’t surprised by it later.

Tizzie isn’t unique in this view, of course.  This kind of “you might not always be able to do things well so it’s best to just to do them badly in the first place” mentality is common throughout baby programming literature.  It’s also fear-mongering.  Did you notice how the last sentence of that paragraph tugged on your heartstrings?  No one wants to hurt their new baby’s feelings.  But that sentence misses the point completely: your baby is a new baby today, not 2 or 12 or 20 months from now.  If withholding comfort will upset her after she has those 2 or 12 or 20 months of life experience (and trust in you) under her belt, how on earth do you think it will make her feel today when she actually is your new baby?  If something that works today doesn’t work next month, then you can change it next month.  Parenting is not a prison.

Another bit of bad parenting advice that we get from Save our Sleep is to give food as a reward for behaviour that pleases you:

I get a lot of clients contacting me when their baby is sleeping until 6am. I always tell them don’t make your baby wait until 7am for the feed. They have done so well over night, and should be rewarded with their feed.

This actually goes beyond bad parenting to bad humanity.  Food is a basic human right.  Prisoners get fed even though they are literally living in the government’s naughty corner.  Babies should get fed because they’re human and they deserve it, not because they’ve performed their parent-pleasing circus act correctly.

2) Opinion-sellers have no business giving medical advice.

As we mentioned above, Tizzie’s credentials are as follows: babysitting, recently parenting 2 children and almost 2 decades of selling her opinion.  It does not appear, or at least she doesn’t mention, that she has ever sought any sort of training or education to back up the opinions she sells.  No intro psych class, no ECE certificate and certainly no medical degree of any sort.  That should, by any moral or ethical standard prevent her from giving medical advice.  But it doesn’t.

I recommend that breastfed babies should go no longer than three hours in the day and five hours at night without a feed.

That right up there ^^, that’s medical advice.  And what’s more, it’s bad (read: dangerous) medical advice.  The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Canadian Paediatric Society, the CDC, Health Canada and just about every other group of people who are actually qualified to give infant feeding advice recommend a minimum of 8-12 feedings per day, on demand, with no more than a 4 hour interval.

Restricting the frequency and duration of feeds (which she also recommends) is not how you feed a baby, it’s how you wean a baby.  If you take that initial bad medical advice, you’ll put your baby at risk for hypoglycemia and poor weight gain and yourself at risk for low milk supply (not surprising, since that’s kind of the point of weaning).  If that last one happens then you may also end up having to follow her next piece of bad medical advice: starting solids prematurely.

Not only does she recommend starting solids at 4 months, she recommends you make that decision based on your baby’s sleep pattern rather than developmental cues that actually have to do with feeding.  (In other words, she’s once again telling you to use food as a way to manipulate your baby into an approved behaviour.)  But it gets better – she says that the World Health Organization agrees with the 4 month recommendation.  That’s a flat out lie.  Since 2001, the WHO has recommended exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months.  They recommend it so strongly that they even recommend it for HIV positive mothers.

3) Make no mistake, she wants to sell to you, not save you

Point number three may sound harsh*, but a 5-minute browse of her website makes it undeniable.  But let’s first talk about the fact that she makes her living selling books, just like thousands of other authors.  Fine.  She has a right to make her living in any lawful way she chooses and I won’t criticize her for that, but most of her website has nothing to do with sleep advice, including many aspects of her own advice.

In addition to selling you sleep advice, she also sells instruction for (diagnosing and treating) allergies and eczema, GERD, pool safety, plagiocephaly, Down Syndrome, dermatology and decorating.  All of this with only the previously discussed babysitting background, remember.  And she also endorses/recommends/sells you everything else from toys to test strips for checking the alcohol level in your breastmilk.**  But again, I’ll admit that marketing associated products is not totally out of the ordinary.

What is out of the ordinary is inviting your clients to share their information with you, and then charging them for the privilege of doing so. If that does not strike even the most obtuse observer as unethical, I don’t know what will.  No, that’s not true, I do know: that fact that she recommends you let your baby sleep with a blanket over his face, even though it might kill him.  Oh ya, and she’ll happily sell you the blanket.

Can you say suffocation risk?

What she does not recommend are soothers, even though they are recognized to reduce the risk of SIDS, because they rouse the baby from sleep (incidentally that’s precisely why they prevent SIDS) and that undermines what she’s trying to sell you.  She’s very aware, by the way, of the SIDS-soother relationship, but here’s her take on it:

Dummy use appears to reduce the risk of SIDS, however I feel when you look at the side effects of using a dummy the reasons to not use a dummy outweigh this fact.

The side effect she goes on to list is ear infections.  Now let’s see, ear infection… dead baby.  Ear infection… Yup, as a parent, I’d probably opt out of the dead baby.  But of course, then her program might not work so well, so she won’t make as much money.  Maybe that’s the side-effect she’s actually concerned with.

If all of this doesn’t break your heart enough, I suggest you check the book’s reviews on Amazon.  Obviously, there are good reviews – any method will work for some babies.  But even the positive reviews frequently said that the sleeping came at the price of being completely stressed out by the rigid routines, or that success was only achieved after modifying the routines.  Other reviews talk about needing to wean in order to make it work, increased crying along with the increased sleep, and worst of all, failure to thrive.

There is literally nothing else I can say, except that I’m so glad that there are other books out there that advocate loving your babies and treating them with dignity.  Even books that advocate driving across town in the middle of the night to rock your fully grown baby back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  Because those are books I can get behind.

 

For some thoughts on finding your way through the long nights with thoughtfulness and respect, check out my long overdue follow-up post here.

 

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*I had a really hard time not naming this section “Her brother died of SIDS, now she wants to sell your baby the same fate.”  But I was trying to be a tad less jerky than that

**In the interest of fairness I’m going to point out that I did NOT find any actual bottles, nipples or formula advertized for sale on her website.  However, the WHO Code was violated by recommending spoons for babies under 6 months.

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Since all of this hullaballoo about the TIME cover started I’ve been thinking to myself that if only we could show the whole picture of attachment parenting, people would get it.  If we could give people not just a snapshot, not just these tidbits about never putting our kids down and never sleeping by ourselves again, but a full day in the life of attachment parenting – or better yet, several days – then they’d realize we’re not totally out to lunch.

Just as I was thinking this, I happened to open my iTunes movie list and there they were: Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg – the original attachment dads. 

Huh?

3 Men and a Baby, aside from being hilarious (25 years later and that peeing on the couch scene still cracks me up) is also pretty much a how-to manual of attachment parenting.

Let’s have a look at how many of the API’s 8 principles show up in the movie:

When a baby shows up on their doorstep out of the blue, our poor accidental dads are quite beside themselves to comfort her.  They don’t know what to do.  But they keep trying until they figure out what she likes.  They never leave her alone to cry until she passes out.  And when they try to give her to the drug dealers (admittedly not the best parenting choice no matter what your style is), they send her with the instruction that “she likes to be rocked to sleep”.  They don’t care whether that’s a socially acceptable way to go to sleep.  They don’t express fear that she’ll never go to sleep without being rocked.  They just respond sensitively to her need to be comforted.

There’s no sleep training going on here

Once they finally get her to go to sleep, the attachment parenting just keeps on rolling.  You may be wondering why you don’t remember seeing a giant family bed on the floor in the movie.  Well guess what?  You don’t have to bedshare to be an attachment parent.  You just have to recognize that babies still have needs in the night and that those needs are no less valid because they occur in the night.  So when Mary wakes up, she doesn’t get Ferberized, she gets a capella.  Talk about creating a physically and emotionally safe sleep environment!

But for the record, in the movie Tom Selleck does bedshare and Ted Danson cosleeps (the baby’s bassinet is in his room, that’s cosleeping).

Clearly, there’s no breastfeeding happening in this movie as none of the 3 Men are in possession of breasts, but they still feed with love and respect.  We never see the bottle propped up, one of the dads is always holding Mary while they feed her.  In the scene where Jack (Ted Danson) is left home alone with Mary for the first time, he offers her a  bottle but when she turns her head away, he respects her fullness cue and puts the bottle down.  That’s the crux of how attachment parents feed their kids, no matter what food delivery system they use.

There are also a couple of really good examples of nurturing touch in this movie.  The dad and baby shower scene is a classic.  Bath time is a great way to bond and attachment parents know the importance of skin to skin contact, so why not get in the bath or shower together?

But of course the media portrayals of attachment parenting always focus in on one kind of nurturing touch: babywearing.  They describe it almost as a shackling, holding mom hostage by strapping a baby to her.  AP parents know that’s categorically not true.  As Ted Danson shows us, babywearing allows us to cuddle our little ones while we get on with our regular daily tasks.  Of course, most of us don’t spend our days foiling drug lords, but the point is we could thanks to babywearing!

Admittedly, our dads are a little a lot overwhelmed by the task at hand when they set out on their parenting journey.  But hey, what parent wouldn’t be?  Especially when you have about 0.001 seconds to prepare!  But they find their groove and soon manage to find balance in their personal and family life.  They each find ways to fulfill their work commitments while providing consistent and loving care for Mary: Peter gets her a pink hard hat, Michael lets her hang out on his desk (and spill his ink… ah the joys of parenting!) and Jack wears her on his back at rehearsal.  They still go out on dates.  The fact that they exploit Mary’s cuteness for the purposes of procuring those dates… well nobody’s perfect!

So if this is attachment parenting, then what’s the big deal?  That’s just it: there shouldn’t be one.  Attachment parenting is, at its core, just about reminding us that it’s OK to follow our innate instinct to respond to our babies. It’s OK to make adjustments and compromises in our life in order to include the needs of the new person in that life.  That’s it.

And what was the result of all of this here attachin’?  The result is that three party-loving, serial-dating bachelors without an iota of childcare experience become caring, competent and confident parents within a few short weeks by following their baby’s cues and finding ways to meet her needs.  Were they extreme?  Didn’t seem so.  Did they martyr themselves? Definitely not.  Did they leave some of their free-wheeling ways behind them?  Yes.  Did they seem to regret that choice?  Not even for an instant.  They are, after all, very attached dads.

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