Raising kids is such a crapshoot.
It really is.
The oft discussed latest cover of Time magazine, which shows a prominent blogger standing as she nurses her three year old son brings that into sharp focus for me today. The provocative "Are You Mom Enough?" headline, with the subtitle promising to discuss attachment parenting and Dr. Sears, tries, oh so hard, to fuel another Mommy War. The title underscores a belief that a mom who is "Mom Enough" follows the attachment parenting dogma to the letter - and anything else is just patently not enough.
What do I think when I see this cover? I don't see her as a super mom. I don't see her choices as being the "best" or the "correct". I want to ask her, as a mom who made *eerily* similar choices in her early child raising years - although without photographic proof, thanks all the same - What will your son say and what will he feel when he is 12? 16? 21? How will his friends feel about this? Will it matter at all, or will it be a hotly contested debate?
I don't regret those things. I really don't. I did the best I could do with the information that I had, and I did what I thought was best for my children at the time. My goal in nursing each of my kids was to let them wean when they were ready. I didn't make it on a few of them, but a couple nursed past two years. One of my daughters was *so* independent I struggled to make her nurse to a year, and one of my kids was forced to wean early because I was pregnant. A couple I weaned because I *was* pregnant again and the thought of nursing past about 6 months made me want to cut my boobs off.
I purposefully didn't name any names there. Because the very fact that my boobs were, once upon a time, "working girls", is enough to bring a blush and a stammer to even the most open, tolerant and discerning of my children.
I believe in extended nursing. I know that America sexualizes breastfeeding in a way that many other countries don't. I could have, at one point in my life, rattled off a series of countries where the age of weaning is 3 - or 4 or 7. For a long while I boycotted Nestle for their guerilla tactics when it comes to formula in third world countries, and literally *all* of my friends felt the same way.
I still believe that breast is better and will encourage my children and their spouses to nurse. If they don't, it's going to have to be ok. It won't be my life.
I made the choices I did because I was convinced that it was the right thing to do. That they were the best choices for me, for my child, and for my family. I did those things because I was certain they'd show long term wisdom, long term prudence and long term value. I still think that, right now, those choices are the ones I would make again. That is to say, if I had a baby right this minute, I'd breastfeed, co sleep, cloth diaper and sling all over again.
Despite all of this, I do not believe that following those practices - or not following those practices - determine more than maybe 1% of how my children have grown. I can't look at my one child, who I thought would nurse until age 14 - and see a clingy, crying child - or an overly confident, successful child. That child is who he is because of what he has lived and the choices he has made. My kids are the way that they are because I *love* them, not because of *how* I fed them when they were babies.
I've seen children whose mothers were the gold standard of attachment parenting end up in jail, on drugs, or dead. I've seen children who grow up in the most barren of homes, with little to no love, never mind the luxury of on demand nursing, who grow up to be some of the most wonderful adults I've ever had the honor to know. I've known adoptive mothers who are awarded children at older ages who are some of the best parents I've *ever* met - and there's no way there was a smidge of breastfeeding going on there.
Can you imagine if, when we met each other, one of the first questions asked was, How did your parents feed you? Did you cosleep? Did your parents carry you in a sling?
I see my kid for who he/she is, and virtually none of that has anything to do with how I raised him or her. It's a total crap shoot. Because, after all, your child is not you - and any of us who have been at this parenting gig for a little while know that we aren't consulted when it comes to our kids lives.
And, I firmly believe, with all my heart, that if we have the luxury to worry about natural birth vs drug, breast vs bottle, child led weaning vs parent led, co sleeping vs cry it out - then we have a privilege of parenting that many in the world do not. That privilege of parenting comes with the privilege of judgement - and we should be very careful of the double edged sword that judging wields.
After all, a double edged sword cuts you just as blindly as it does the one upon whom you wish to wreck havoc.