My decision to raise my children differently than I was raised was one I made at a very young age. It was a very simple and not well thought out plan - do the exact opposite of what my father did. Sounds simple right? Unfortunately, 15 year old me had absolutely no idea about parenting and what doing something different really meant.
So I guess at this point you're wondering what my childhood was like that I was so determined at age 15 to do something different. Well, my childhood wasn't bad, but it wasn't greate. My parents were fairly "traditional" by today's standards, but I guess in the late 80s they were somewhat progressive. They subscribed to Dr. Spock, sleep trained (Ferber method), vaccinated, and formula fed. My father's family was very achievement based, everything needed to have educational value. The unfortunately flip slide of that was that a person's value was directly related to their academic achievement. Love was conditional. "Children are to be seen and not heard" was a common expression in my family, and play was undervalued in addition to being behind closed doors. Discipline was corporal, until I could fight back. My father worked 80+ hours a week, and my mother was a stay at home mom. I'm telling you all of this about my dad's family for a reason, I'll get there in a minute. Neither of my parents were particularly healthy during my formative years, and my mother passed away when I was 12. At this point, my father became the primary parent to a kid he barely knew. My father, while I love him, has the emotional depth of a teaspoon and definitely did not know how to show that he liked me. Disappointment and anger were about the best he could muster, We did not see eye to eye at all, and it wasn't until I was well into my 20s. Another important component in my childhood leading to my decision to parent differently was that my mother passed away when I was 12. My father remarried to my ex-stepmother. I have little to say about her that isn't bashing, so I will keep my comments to a minimum, however I will say that she was not a well woman afflicted by major mental illness. She made my life hell, and my father did little to respect me and valued his marriage more than his child.
Fast forward to more recent times. When it came down to deciding how I wanted to parent, I knew that "attachment parenting" was what I wanted. I knew this from my education as a psychologist and that (read this part in a overly inflated academic voice) "fostering a secure attachment was vital to healthy development." Well, what the hell does that mean in reality. It means a lot of tongue biting. It means learning to use my words with my children and not my emotions, which isn't easy. It means rethinking and learning new discipline. It means babywearing, cosleeping, skin-to-skin, and basically all that "hippie crap" which was foreign to my upbringing. I thought that this was going to be the most difficult thing in the world.
Well, it isn't. It's the easiest. . . sort of. Ok, I yell sometimes and I get frustrated, but I'm human too. All of the fears of doing something different melted away when my son was born (you can read about his birth story in my next post). The parenting wasn't the hard part at all. . .the hard part was establishing boundaries with my family, and learning to say, "This is how we choose to parent. These are the decisions we have made for our family and this is what works for our family. Just because I am parenting differently than you, that is not a reflection on your parenting style." It is really hard to do something different, but it is harder to get those around to respect that doing something different is ok.
I'm Matt a.k.a. The Attached Abba (Abba = Hebrew for Dad). This blog is detailing my journey in parenthood, and will hopefully provide a space for other dads to find support and insight.