Wednesday, November 16, 2011

God is an Attachment Parent

OK, so let me say off the bat: this is not a post about judging parents who choose to formula-feed their babies, who work outside the home, or who love Gary Ezzo. (Although, as an aside, I could write a 5000 word essay about how much I hate Gary Ezzo.) It's (shockingly!) not meant to be snarky; it's just some thoughts I have had recently on my parenting journey.

Last week, my sweet sister-in-law invited me to go along with her to New York City next month. I have not been to NYC since I was a little girl, and I have been longing to get away to check it out as an adult. I thought about it for a while before I decided that it would be wiser to sit it out this year. You see, Ruby won't take a bottle of breastmilk, and NYC in mid-December would likely be cold and no fun for an itty-bitty. And even if Ruby would take a bottle of breastmilk, 12+ hours away from my baby would be excruciating painful, unless I wanted to carry my Pump-in-Style over my shoulder and pump on the steps of Madison Square Garden every 3 hours. So, yeah... disappointingly, a no-go.

But this week offered me a fun surprise! Chris was touring for a few days with Jake Shimabukuro, and would be in NYC all day Monday and Tuesday-- but he didn't have a show on Monday, so he'd be free to hang out and play. I lined up someone to watch the big girls, bought a train ticket (pathetically, my first time ever on a train!), popped Ruby in the sling and headed out to the big city. Ruby was a doll; she alternately checked out the Wall Street Occupiers and dozed against my chest through FAO Schwartz and Central Park.

But I am not going to lie. There were a few times where I thought, "Man, this would be way easier without an infant." Any parent out there would attest to the fact that infants require a lot of face time. For the first several months, a breastfed baby cannot be away from their mama for more than two or three hours. I began to think, "Wow... that doesn't always make it easy for the mama." In fact, I was kind of starting to feel like "poor-me-I'm-a-martyr-to-my-children-who-are-sucking-the-very-lifeblood-out-of-me-every-two-hours-around-the-clock!!"

And then I had, as Oprah would so obnoxiously say, an "aha!" moment. Breastfed infants can't be away from their mamas for more than a couple of hours because God designed them to never be far from their mamas. It's such an embarrassingly simple truth that I feel self-conscious even typing it out. It's not accidental that human babies are born as the most helpless of mammals. Calves can walk within a few moments of birth, and kittens begin weaning from their mothers at just 4 weeks of age. Human babies are purposely and compassionately designed by God to need us for everything.

How have we as parents gotten so far away from this truth? We read up on how to schedule our baby's feedings, naps, bowel movements! because it simplifies our lives--when our babies intrinsically know what they need, when they need it. We fill our home with "baby entertainers" like swings and bouncy seats and play-yards that mimic the motion and noise of a parent-- and our babies just want to feel our warm bodies beside them. Most land mammals go to sleep with their young tucked in snugly beside them, while we relegate our babies to a lonely crib down the hall.

I'm ill-qualified to judge other parents; after all, I routinely bribe my kids with treats and let them watch copious numbers of library movies. And I firmly believe that different methods work for different parents. But I, for one, am painfully aware of the fleeting brevity of this sweet infant stage. And as such, I will store up these moments of night wakings and unpredictable napping and frequent nursings and the feeling of being housebound-- I will store them up as precious jewels from Jesus... for it is from Him that I have been fed when hungry, held when tired, comforted when scared. It is Him who stored up my "tears in a bottle" instead of letting me cry it out in a quest for my independence.

My heavenly Father... the ultimate attached parent.