“How I Came to Practice Attachment Parenting”
by Monterey Bay Parenting Founder, Tina McRorie
Having always considered myself a Feminist, I had always wanted to have a daughter so that I could give her the nurturing and encouragement that my Feminist mom gave me. When I found out that my first child was going to be a boy, I performed my first parental reframe. I thought, “My husband and I could easily raise a girl to be a basically decent human being. But, in this society that, in so many ways, encourages boys to be self-centered and insensitive, it takes something extra to raise a son to be a person who will be a positive force in the world.” My husband and I decided that we were up to that challenge.
I had studied psychology through the Masters level and had learned about John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory. I had learned about the child’s primary caregiver providing a “secure base” by being emotionally attuned to the child and providing protection, warmth and attention. I had learned what goes wrong with human development when a child is not able to securely attach to this kind of figure, and what goes right when they do.
Then I worked as a social worker in the foster care system. When we trained new foster parents, we would tell them what an important gift they could give to the children in their care if they forged that kind of bond with them. But there was little concrete training in how to do it.
The behaviors, general and specific, that help children bond to their caregivers had been well studied by researchers in many fields related to child development, but the information was not trickling down to the general public.
When my son was born in 2000, I was thrilled to find that there was someone who was bridging that gap. Dr. William Sears, along with his wife, Martha Sears, R.N., took the body of research informed by Attachment Theory, as well as their own clinical and personal experiences, coined the term “Attachment Parenting,” and started writing in concrete language about how parents can bond with their babies.
Of course, the Searses weren’t the only ones writing about parenting in ways that promote attachment. I found many other authors bringing information from many researchers to the public, some using the term “Attachment Parenting” and some not.
I also found a local support group for parents raising their kids with attachment in mind. The group was affiliated with the non-profit Attachment Parenting International. Through attending meetings, playgroups and potlucks, my family got to know other families who practiced Attachment Parenting. This was enormously helpful in getting me out of the isolation that I felt as a new mother, and it was good for my husband and kids as well. As the group grew, we found ways to support each other, like setting up a childcare co-op, a lending library of parenting books, and meal trains for families with brand new babies, not to mention a million playdates, phone calls, and birthday parties.
So, I went on, my parenting informed by my experiences, my education, the books of the Searses and others, and the support of my peer group, but mostly by my instincts. It felt right to hold and comfort my baby when he cried. It felt right to nurse him when he was hungry. It felt right to listen to his insistence that he be allowed to sleep nestled up against me. (Fortunately, we had a doctor whose calm confidence that we could safely bed-share, convinced me and my husband to do our own research on that topic and come to a decision that worked for our family.)
In short, I didn’t treat Attachment Parenting as a checklist, but I did, and do, try to treat my children the way I would like to be treated: with empathy, respect and trust. Now, more than a dozen years later, the family bed, the nursing bras and my ring sling have long since been retired. Attachment Parenting for us now is more about respectfully guiding them through Positive Discipline and keeping our schedules open enough to include generous time together as a family.
I’m happy to talk about Attachment Parenting all day, but I don’t like to use the term “attachment parent.” That makes it sound like there is a test. You don’t have to breastfeed, bed-share or be a full-time homemaker to parent in a way that promotes healthy attachment relationships with your children. AP is not a checklist; it is a set of tools. Parents who are “attachment minded” make healthy family relationships a priority and look at Attachment Parenting principles as tools, using the ones that match their values and work for their family, and leaving the rest.
As I watch my two sons, now teenagers, I see confident, joyful young people who treat others with remarkable levels of empathy, respect and trust. I see people who make things better for those around them and think about how their actions affect people, animals, and the environment. I am happy for their future partners and children.
And I’m proud to say they still hug me, even in front of their friends.
Tina McRorie, with her husband, Jeff, has been parenting their two wonderful boys since the turn of the century. Before that, she earned a B.A. in Psychology from UCSC and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from New College of California. As a counselor and social worker, she worked with battered women, adult survivors of child abuse, at-risk teens and foster families.
Since she became a parent, Tina has been involved with API, as a support group participant and API leader. She is certified to teach API’s parenting curriculum, The Attached at the Heart Parenting Program, and she volunteers with API to organize trainings to certify new Attached at the Heart parenting educators.
In addition to volunteering with API and Monterey Bay Parenting, Tina teaches API’s Attached at the Heart Parenting Program and has a private parenting coaching practice. You can learn more about these services at www.TinaMcRorie.com