Attachment parenting. I wondered what this was all about when I first heard the phrase a few weeks ago – for me, it conjures up an image of a parent being pulled down the pavement by number of scampering toddlers on retractable dog leads. After a little Googling, it turns out this is not strictly accurate, but for fear of digressing, I do think there is money to be made from this. After all, there are those who make a decent living from taking dogs for a walk on behalf of their owners who have better things to do with their time than go trudging round the neighbourhood in the pissing rain picking up shit as it drops from their dog’s arse – I am sure there are plenty of parents who would pay to have their offspring exercised in the same manner. You can sign me up, for a start.
Anyway, those who advocate attachment parenting are fans of, amongst other things, co-sleeping. I have one word to say about this, but I feel so strongly about it that I feel compelled to repeat it three times: No. No. No. I have the misfortune to experience co-sleeping – usually at about 5am when B starts his morning scream and subsequently wakes up E, who then sees it is light outside and refuses to believe it is not ‘up time’. So in a vain attempt to allow M and I to stay in bed for a while longer, both boys come into bed with us. I have no idea why we have done this more than once, it is horrendous. (Actually, I do know why. It is because we are so fucking knackered that the thought of staying in bed even when the chance of getting any more sleep is as remote as a lottery win, is worth the gamble).
B is generally not too disruptive once we have stopped him crying, but proper sleep is bloody impossible once there is a four month old baby lying beside you. I may close my eyes and pretend that I can fall into an untroubled sleep, but in my head the ‘baby-in-bed’ brain cell springs into action as soon as sleep draws near: it sends out an urgent message on a loop to every nerve ending in my body: don’t roll over, don’t roll over, don’t roll over. No one wants to wake up and discover they have created a baby pancake, so despite my long-term fatigue which means I can fall asleep at the drop of a duvet, a baby lying next to me is the best method known to man to keep sleep away. E is a more tricky proposition in terms of co-sleeping. Sorry, did I say tricky? I meant utterly, teeth grindingly annoying. Despite it being somewhere around 5am, he has usually decided that everyone should be as wide awake as him. He lies next to me, breathing in the oxygen by my face that should rightfully be mine. I move my head away from him a little. He moves his closer. Given that I am already teetering on the edge of the bed due to the fact that there are four bodies sharing a space designed for two, I resign myself to second-hand air. I close my eyes and feel the pull of sleep on me. Then I feel something else. E is tapping my eyelids with his fingers.
“Get off,” I whisper through gritted teeth. The tapping stops. I drift off again. A hand over my mouth brings me hurtling back.
“Get off now,” I try to whisper, but am somewhat impeded by a clammy palm still pressed to my lips. And so it goes on: a finger in my ear, a toe nail scraping down my calf, a knee in my stomach. I am just a sodding human activity centre, although activity centres don’t usually shout ‘if you don’t stop right now, there will be no CBeebies today’ at the top of their voice after a prolonged bout of prodding, pinching and poking.
Even if I wanted to parent my children in an attached kind of way, it is obvious I just do not have what it takes. Attachment parenting is meant to produce empathetic, secure and non-violent children, but it doesn’t seem to work like that in our house. The little foray into attachment parenting which I have encountered in a vain attempt to stay in bed after 5am has only succeeded in ensuring one of us stomps out of the bedroom in a sulk. Okay, so B, at four months old, is a little young to stomp. And M, being much more rational and calm than most, has yet to throw a wobbly. And E is being far too entertained to leave. So in fact, it is I who does the stomping. And thus, have invented a parenting style much more suited to my temperament: detachment parenting.