When we began Peapods 12 years ago, we were firm devotees of Attachment Parenting. William Sears sets out a list in The Baby Book: shared sleep—check. Breastfeeding—check. Responsive to baby—check. We signed up and drank the Kool-aid.
It was really, really hard and really, really good. Best intentions aside, none of our babies were easy. The fundamental lesson of Attachment Parenting for me was trust—trust in my children, trust in myself, trust in the world. Trust that the baby who was awake at 3:00 a.m., after already waking at 2:00 and 1:15, really does need something. Really does need me. That nursing 10 out of 24 hours is accomplishing something. That holding a cranky baby is always more important than weeding the garden.
And it worked! They walked, they talked, they started growing into fabulous small people. Of course the questions and the choices didn’t go away. Now we had to trust that they would wean before kindergarten. That someday they would be done with diapers. That provided with good food options, they would make good food choices. That the universe is unfolding as it should.
Fast forward a few years: Abby is 14. She’s taller than me. She’s smarter than me. Riley is 9 and wants to be a pitcher on his baseball team. Wasn’t he just playing T-Ball a few minutes ago? And Duncan is finishing up his last year of preschool. Suddenly, it seems, we are no longer parents of small children.
There is no checklist anymore. The question, as always, is what do our children need, now, to thrive, to grow deep and tall. And the answer, as always, both changes and stays the same.
The lesson of trusting hasn’t really changed as they’ve grown older. Nor is it a lot easier. My kids have taken their time learning to read. Not like “get out the flashcards” late, but “is it time to call the specialist” late. Now they read. Incessantly. “Put down the book and go outside!”
Today they’re tackling challenges like climbing really tall trees, using power tools, and traveling around the city on their own. Soon we’ll be looking at driver’s ed. These are all wonderful, important things I want my kids to learn. And they can seem so scary as a parent—those trees can be so high, the saw so sharp.
After all the hand wringing, the answer almost always comes back to trust. My kids are capable, strong, and generally not stupid. They need to be safe, but they also need to be righteous. I trust my kids enough to say yes most of the time. I also trust myself enough to say no when I need to. I try to listen to my kids, and in return, they usually listen to me.