Attachment Parenting: Letting Go

My husband and I have always practiced attachment parenting.  It is a concept that has always felt right to us. We co-slept with both of our kids until they were ready to move into their own bed in our room and then eventually into their own bedrooms.  I tandem nursed both kids until they were ready to wean at ages that would surprise many.  We have lived life together as a family watching TV together, grocery shopping together, playing together, and making decisions together.  Through attachment parenting we learned to listen to our hearts and to the hearts of our children for direction in parenting rather than the “experts”.  Through following our hearts, we have learned to trust our children.  We know them well and we feel a geniune trust in who they are and the decisions they make.  Most importantly though, our children have learned to trust who they are and in the decisions they make.

As attachment parents we have had to put aside fears and anxiety as our children have transitioned to teens.  Just as when they were infants/toddlers and had the need to nurse or the need to have me by their side as a seven year old playing with friends, we have had to listen to their needs as teens when they are ready to show some independence from mom and dad.  By holding them too close, we are not allowing them to be who they want/need to be. We are not trusting them to trust themselves.

One of the biggest concerns I have with the homeschooling community is a need to control children.  I see children who their entire lives have had their needs met when it came to sleeping in late, playing a little longer, choosing the outings for the day, and other decisions that affect the entire family.  However, when these children become teens, parents hold on tight.  They become fearful of stories they hear on the news or insecurities they hold themselves.  Teens must check in every hour they are away from home.  We must know every place they go.  We want to know what they talk about.  We make decisions for the teens without discussing these decisions with them.  I have even heard of some parents who read their teens text messages and emails in fear they are being mislead by friends or strangers. How does this foster independence and a feeling of trust?

Where do things go wrong?  Why are we not allowing our children to grow up making decisions for themselves?

I think one problem is that we have enjoyed being with our children for so many years that it is difficult to let them go.  We have allowed them to make decisions, but only within the context of things we can still control.  When they become teens and need to explore life alone, we don’t know what to do without them.  Perhaps we have become dependent on them. Hmmmm…..

Fear seems to be another biggie.  We listen to news stories of terrible things that happen to people on trains, in malls, and even at the homes of friends and we become fearful of the same things happening to our children if they are out of our sight.  What we don’t think about are how many people this doesn’t happen to.  How many teens explore life with absolutely no problems at all and have amazing experiences? 

My daughter will be taking off on Sunday for Not Back to School Camp.  I asked her the other day if she is afraid to fly alone.  She said, “No, why would I be?”   I could have filled her with a million reasons why she should be afraid, but really, why?   Her passion is to spend her adult life traveling.  I asked her how she felt about spending the night with a good friend of my mom’s that we have never met but who will be transporting her to camp.  She said it is a little weird but fine. I admire her courage and ability to go after the things in life she wants.  She doesn’t hold herself back with fears of the unknown.  She has strength and confidence in herself that she can handle whatever comes her way.  I like that about my daughter.   

Letting go is hard.  As attachment parents we have had the luxury of time to know our children in very intimidate ways.  We have had the pleasure of spending countless hours watching them grow and helping to meet their needs.  However, a time comes when our children are ready to take all that we have shared with them and move on without us.  Well, not really without us because we are always a part of them.  All of those years we spent together have allowed them to become wise in their decisions.  It has allowed them to be caring people that expect and demand good things for themselves.  Letting go is hard but at the same time very exciting.  I am filled with excitement for my daughter and the experiences she is going to have next week.  As I told the camp counselor, “I wish I could be a fly on the wall and see all the fun she is having, yet I know this is her experience.”  She will share what she wants to share and will keep the rest to herself.  Sounds pretty natural and healthy to me.

3 thoughts on “Attachment Parenting: Letting Go

  1. Great post Cathy, but I know parents who don't home school and do the same thing. They attend football games to 'watch,' their child while telling the child they trust them, they pretend to be their child on FB or other media trying to 'catch,'them. I love your way of letting them learn & grow!

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  2. Cathy–While not a homeschooler or attachment parent, we have held our children close and then trusted them when it was time for them to fly! While I so miss their baby days, I am loving this time in their lives. It's a little like watching them learn to walk again, just a scarier. Some bobbling steps, but off they go–and they are so excited about it. Yes–harder to keep them home than to let them go. But I have to sit on my hands! And pray (for me and for them), and trust.

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  3. Cathy,

    I have been attachment parenting since before it had a name. Unschooled my kid when the only information out there was John Holts little newsletter, and a manifesto about how to legally unschool.

    I remember my husband saying “if we don't do something, this kid will still be sleeping with us when he's six” – 4 years later, the kid and his two sisters were all in our big bed, and my husband loved it! We cuddled up each night for reading aloud until the “kid” was 16!

    My one guiding principal through all the years was this: if something they want to do is statistically safer than putting my kid in a car and driving to the grocery store – then I would give them my blessing! (not to say I didn't pause for a moment when my youngest told me she'd been rock climbing in Oregon yesterday!)

    My “kids” are now 37, 34 and 31 and still thank me for unschooling and raising them the way I did! They have grown up to be delightful, adventurous, generous and loving adults who bless my life.

    I commend you to follow your heart, if my kids are typical, you will be blessed ten fold!

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