How different things were at the sweet young age of 19, pregnant with my first born, scared shitless, never had I held a baby before or come to think of it I was pretty sure there was no maternal bones in my body, no idea what to expect, yet at the same time I was already writing my story, a story of how parenthood was going to be. My story was already carved deeply into my bones, the subconscious patterns we all carry from generation to generation, until we feel the pain deep enough to waken , to do the hard work to make the changes for ourselves, our children, and their children.
My first born was an ‘Old Soul’ I felt this from the moment he was born, a spirited, knowing, sensitive young man. I was given the chance to listen to him. I chose not to, not a conscious choice, it was the wrong choice, I didn’t know any better at the time. I was going to do things my way, my parents way, my grandparents way, the doctors way, my friends way, I had no idea and I was relying on the advice of my forerunners, they knew best I knew nothing.
One of my first memories is of our first night in the hospital, I didn’t even hold my baby boy upon his birth, and I waited until the staff had given him a bath. Looking back I was so disconnected I was too scared to breast feed, I remember trying secretly one time to no avail. The midwife advised me to put him in the hospital nursery to sleep as I wouldn’t be getting a full night’s sleep for a while, so I did as I was advised. Talk about starting our time together on this planet with complete separation. I naturally let my mother take the reins when we got home, and so this went on year in year out.
Old Soul turned out to be a high need baby, with severe colic and reflux, he would scream endlessly for hours. My parents struggled to deal with this and if their parenting expertise couldn’t help, then how could I, it scared the life out of me. And so this pattern kept on as he grew with him shouting, being incredibly needy, highly intelligent, persistent, regular meltdowns, me wondering why, what was his problem? Was it his absent father? Asperger syndrome? attachment disorder of some sort? Was he an indigo child? I spent many years looking for answers for what could be wrong, in all that time I never thought to look to myself.
It took 13 years…for me to learn, to learn to listen, to learn to play, to learn to trust, to give him his power, for me to lose all expectation of what, who and how I thought he ought to be. Upon those foundations we have built a solid and I hope I can say beautiful relationship, I have felt very much as though we struggled for years but the older he got the better we connected, the older I also got finding my feet in the world of parenting, learning to follow my heart and trust my instincts.
Attachment parenting for me especially with older children is very much about letting them go, letting them discover what works for them, allowing them to teach you and not trying to teach, simply being there always to hold them firmly when they wobble, but allowing them the freedom’s to experiment with finding their own way. Such a time of carving out identity, they will stumble and fall, but and I hope I was always be to there, not to chastise or condone but just to scaffold them, so they know there is always someone holding their foundations while they are confronted with many new experiences, from first heartbreaks, to the pressures of education, perhaps dabbling with alcohol and drugs. I hope to answer their questions as candidly and unbiasedly as I can and to let them go again.
I also feel as they grow and break away, it is important for them to not feel my neediness, that my life is fulfilled, that they are not my whole life.
I also feel very strongly about the way I react in public to minor misdemeanours by my children, this is one of my hardest learning curves with parenting older children, not to feel pressured by those around me to ‘tell my children off’ I have struggled with this so many times, even lost friendships over it. It becomes harder as they grow, people are far more accepting of what they classify as ‘bad behaviour’ with young ones. It certainly grows your confidence as a parent to have faith and trust in the path you’ve chosen, the children feel this, and respond positively, when I wobble, they wobble! I do have boundaries, a lot of the time the children will know what a ‘boo boo’ they have made immediately after an action, I see it in their faces, I don’t need to humiliate them in public or private. We do talk, hopefully with sensitivity. I want to know they are aware of the consequences of actions the good and not so good, how different people feel, and react, how they feel about others and themselves.
Attachment parenting older children to me is allowing your children to be wholly themselves, to go into the world with an open heart and mind, to be resilient, to accept failures as a learning process, and move forward.
For me it’s about really listening to each child, being aware how different they are and hopefully responding in a way that is sensitive to each of their needs. Also to simply hold space for them when they need it, for them to know I’m never too busy, or if I’m busy in that moment I will find the time later. I want to put in firm but healthy boundaries and for them to have a total understanding of why these are in place.
Nothing in our house ever ‘just is’ they always have the right to question. I am a huge believer in freedom of speech, so our house can at times feel chaotic, I allow the children many freedoms, I let the odd swear word go by the by, knowing more often than not it is simple experimenting with words. We are not always gentle, there can be rough play, but it’s knowing the line when it goes too far, this is often stumbled upon naturally when the tears come, then comes discussion. Maybe my style falls somewhere between attachment and unconditional, but then it’s just more labels.
I allow them to come to me, I have even had my 18 year old sleep in my bed, he wore his PJ’s, brought his own quilt, we were midst our family breakdown, he needed the security, to stay up late and talk it over and over, the next day, I had fed what he needed for now. I have no problem with this, to nurture always.
If and when they are grown and have struggles, when they maybe soul searching and need to call me out on my mistakes, I hope I can be vulnerable and open enough to the criticisms and stories in their lives they may hold, for their own journeys of growth and change.