A Christian Look at AP
by Jessica WigleyOver the holiday season, my family and I spent more time than usual in shopping centers, malls, and other palaces of consumerism. I even went so far as to accompany my husband, who loves reading, writing, and all things literature, into a bookstore to browse. It isn't that I don't like books or bookstores, but he tends to spend entirely too much time in the sections of the bookstore that normal people avoid. So, while he perused the contents of the European history shelves, I ventured over to the "Children and Childcare" section. I don't usually allow myself to look at those books, as there are so many "experts" advocating such horrible treatment to children. This time, what I noticed more than the titles that promise to "fix" all of the typical "problems" that most parents face, was the sheer quantity of books. I'm no whiz at estimation, but there must have been well over one hundred titles that promised help to the parents of newborns and toddlers alone. I didn't round the corner to see how many different books might have been available to parents of preschoolers and older, but the variety obviously was not reduced as the age of the "problem" children advanced.
What struck me much later that day was the reaction that your average parent must have to the dozens and dozens of advice books out there. Any given mother or father must think to themselves, "Thank God that there are books, and so many of them, to explain everything to us, to make the incomprehensible clear, so that we know how and what to do as parents!" After all, we are taught in our schools just how little we know, and what (scientific) method we must follow to learn anything and everything. And so our "natural" reaction to such a wealth of parenting knowledge and advice as we can find in any bookstore would be gratitude and relief at the plethora of experts offering to help us in our ignorance.
But if you stop to think about it further, it's not like we are trying to learn how to repair an automobile or build ourselves a personal computer. Our children aren't automatons deserving of an owner's manual. And we parents aren't without help and guidance. The Lord invested in each of us the natural ability to be parents. Just as a newborn child can find its way from the birth canal to breast, we parents instinctively know how to care for our newborns. We don't need manuals on caring for our children nor do we need trouble-shooting guides for sleep. In a perfect world, we wouldn't even need Dr. Sears to remind us of that. But in this fallen world where parents feel they can do nothing correctly without the guidance of parenting experts, or worse still, mere celebrities, I do thank the Lord that Dr. Sears (and others like him) reminds us that nothing is more natural than our children's cues and our parental instincts.
In this age where we are taught how to behave in our own best interests, even what to eat and how to dress according to the tastes of the advertising that we watch, I am thankful that there are some parents who have the strength and wisdom, by God's grace, to trust themselves and their instincts, even when they run contrary to the mainstream. I am thankful that God placed in each parent the natural abilities and instincts that they need to care for their children. The timelessness of God's parenting programming is challenged by every word written by the likes of Ferber, Ezzo, and others who would tell parents that what they want to do for their children is wrong, and that they (the Ferbers and Ezzos of this world) are the only ones who know the right way. But hopefully, challenges to our natural instincts don't change a thing about what we know and how we know it. We know that our children need close physical contact with their parents, and that they don't need "planned time for the development of independence" or to be separated from their mothers (in most cases) immediately after birth. We instinctively know that an upset, isolated child's vomit is not a natural, normal reaction to "sleep training," regardless of the "wisdom" of Ferber. God has told each of us the truth in our deepest yearnings and instincts, and that truth is not distorted at all by the weight and volume of all the experts' parenting advice.
And so, that is why attachment parenting feels right to me as a Christian. God, with all His wisdom and grace, would not have given any of us the blessing of children if we were not equipped for the job. He has promised never to give us more than we can bear, and that promise surely includes the challenges of parenthood. While perhaps the natural reaction to the scores of experts on children and their writings is gratitude and perhaps a bit of intimidation, my personal response is thankfulness to God for His instilling in me the natural ability to be the mother than my daughter needs. In that sense, I also thank Him for the proponents of attachment parenting (like Dr. Sears) who serve to preach the word that parents aren't bound to fail without help, nor are they helplessly bound to the advice of experts when the experts' advice runs contrary to their instincts.
I'm convinced that Attachment Parenting is, at its core, God's Way of Parenting, regardless of the claims of the Ezzos to that distinction. The Bible is no 12-step manual of parenting, but it is guidance for living. Its wisdom, combined with our natural God-given tendencies as parents, is all the guidance we need to be successful. I pray that others can and will come to this conclusion, and I long for the day when the mainstream parent is an attachment parent, and there is no need for any experts, or their advice. May God bless you and your children all!
copyright by Jessica Wigley