Non-Attachment Parenting

This is my clever little play on words.  I Googled it, and no one seems to have thought of it yet.  Here’s the definition: Parenting through the use of Buddhist non-attachment techniques.  As far as attachment parenting goes, I’m all for it.  Its definition is something like: “allowing your baby to tell you what he/she needs and responding to those needs, rather than imposing structures or schedules on said baby.”  My thesis is that the two ideas have a strong connection and tension between them, even though the play on words is merely coincidental.

I am attempting both forms of parenting right now.  By being sensitive to the needs of each of my four children and trying to meet them where they are and help them build to the next place as I follow their leads, I am practicing attachment parenting.  I have practiced it, largely faithfully, since Jane was born six years ago.  Even after my last one was born into an already crowded family, I still tried to carry him, cuddle him, and be with him as he needed me to in early infancy, and I continue to use this approach to see him through to the ultimate goal I have for them all: happy independence.  It is a tenet of attachment parenting that we are creating a strong base from which our children will then be comfortable and self-confident branching out.

But none of them is happily independent yet, and that’s where non-attachment comes in.  When mired in the chaotic mess of the daily lives of these four people, it is all too easy to get caught up in the emotions of the hour — and there are so many over such a range that I sometimes long for a very powerful sedative for everyone.  The problem is that I have emotions about their emotions, and emotions about this whole crazy job in general, and emotions about my own life “journey” in big-picture terms.  I am dedicated (in theory, not practice, so far) to maintaining a “scream-free” household, but how can I if I actually attach to each and every emotion that runs through all of us each day?  For an attachment parent, though, my kids’ emotions are the meat and potatoes of my job. They are my clues about what needs to come next.

So what I have come up with is the sense that staying “present” with the needs of each child at each moment does not mean that I have to feel what they’re feeling, or have an emotional reaction at all.  In fact, the more my emotions enter into it, the less effective I am at negotiating theirs.  When I am at my worst, I take every small outburst or demand personally, as though the children are deliberately putting more of a burden on me and expecting too much of me.  On other days, when I have my game on, I dodge and parry everything they throw at me with all the expertise of a Buddhist master.  When I have it together like that, the flow here is breathtaking.  Needs are getting met, souls are being guided, and good habits of being are formed.  On those days, I am a non-attached parent who does not allow any of the emotions of my children stick to me and slow me down.  I greet the feelings, deal with them, and watch them fall away with the moment itself.  And when it works, the child and I are left only with the wisdom we cultivated in that moment together.