A Retreat Before Mother’s Day and My Musings on AP and the Culture of Family Dining

I hope you all had a Happy Mother’s Day. I did, complete with a surprise
breakfast in bed served by my sweet husband. He even scooped my baby
out of our family bed at 7:30 AM when baby woke up to go fix the
breakfast, and I was left to joyfully sleep in with no baby noises, the
only day so far of this baby’s life when I have been able to sleep in
past my baby’s wake time. So much happened in my life last week that I
am still processing it all. We had a marriage retreat, our first night
of leaving our oldest in charge overnight, then we went on a walking
tour of SLC with some friends, and then my firstborn went on his first
date to go ballroom dancing. Wow! Then it was Mother’s Day, with all of
the emotion that accompanies that day.

It occurred to me that I haven’t said much about AP (Attachment
Parenting) since I started my other blog, even though I mention it in the
banner (see celestiashumway.com). I guess that’s because after having seven babies, it comes very
naturally to me and it just seems like the default, de facto way of
life. Some would say it ties a mother down even more than normal
mothering does. I say it liberates a mom because it gives her peace of
mind in her parenting, knowing she is giving her baby the best start
possible. It also liberates a baby to rise up to her full potential
because it meets all of the baby’s needs in the most emotionally
intimate way possible.

I first heard about AP when I was pregnant with number one and was
working at the U of U med school. I stumbled across the book that first
laid out AP, The Baby Book, by
Dr. and Mrs. Bill Sears, at the U of U bookstore. I consider it
providential that it was first published the year I had my first baby in
1993. I bought the book and brought it home and announced to my husband
that I really liked this philosophy of parenting and wanted to do it.
He read about it and liked it and we have been baby bedding together,
babywearing, and baby bonding ever since. He even bought our first baby
sling. If you don’t know about AP, click here http://askdrsears.com/html/10/t130300.asp

Since then I have been able to hear Dr. Bill and Martha speak a few
times in person at LLLI conferences (see llli.org)
and have become enamored with them even more. Martha is even an LLL
Leader, like I am, so that just makes her feel like family to me. I even
got so close to Dr. Bill that I could have gone up to him and spoken to
him like a fawning groupie but suddenly my shyness took over and I just
didn’t want to. My shyness didn’t overtake me with Martha however on a
separate occasion and I asked her a question. She was so friendly, she
even gave me her phone number so I could call her and ask more
questions!

AP just seems so natural to me. It’s a no-brainer, the way babies and
parents are supposed to live harmoniously together, with the least
amount of tears, fear, and anxiety. My LDS faith (lds.org) with its belief in eternal families
gives me the “why” for attachment. We can’t have a fulfillment of
happiness, heaven, or even love, unless we are eternally sealed to our
husband and our children, as well as to the Eternal Father and His Son,
Jesus Christ. AP gives me the nuts-and-bolts, “how-to” of family
attachment in the real, everyday world. Physical attachment with my
babies facilitates and precedes emotional and eternal attachment as they
mature. At one of these LLL conferences I heard someone quote an old
Jewish proverb, “If you get up with your children when they are young,
they won’t be getting you up when they are old,” meaning, respond to
your babies’ cries when they are little, and chances are that they won’t
be causing you to get out of bed when they are teenagers. Of course,
free agency is always at work and I do know some families who practice
AP who still have wayward children but the risk of that happening goes
down. At least these parents have peace of mind knowing they did what
they could for their children when they were young by practicing AP.

Some people say that AP takes too much time and makes the baby spoiled. I
disagree. It is an investment in happy, mature, peaceful children. I
don’t have time to go into all the tangents that AP can get me off on,
like gentle discipline and no circumcision. But I found a great blog, drmomma.org, that pretty much sums up my
views. Yes, you can still have obedient children, a life outside of
children, a passionate marriage, and not go crazy if you practice AP.

Whenever I read about suggestions to leave your baby for a
marriage-building retreat, I cringe. You can just take your baby with
you! Last Thursday I got to have a quick overnight getaway with my
husband. We left everyone home but the baby. I don’t even like reading
that you have to leave your baby to go on evening dates with your
husband. I do remember a line from Sheila Kippley in her eco bfg book
that suggests you take the baby with you and that’s what I do. At one of
the first LLL meetings I went to I heard from a veteran mom (this was
when I only had two kids) that as long as you leave the big kids home,
it feels like a date, even if you bring the baby. I totally agree. Ever
since then I have been bringing the baby with me on dates and
overnighters. Once they start walking then I leave them home.

We used to leave our oldest home all the time when he was a baby to do
dates and business meetings and I regret that. It would have saved a lot
of stress on me to just stay home with him or bring him with us.
Despite all the separation I did maintain my breastfeeding relationship
with him until he was a year old, by pumping and leaving him a bottle.
When I see moms leaving their babies for overnighters or days at a time,
I feel sad. Forget about saving the earth, save the breastfeeding you
have going with your baby. I’ve since repented and now take my baby with
me or stay home.

Every year my husband gets two free nights of a hotel stay to go
participate in a conference for his work as a parental public defender
attorney. Out of something like seven years since he’s been doing this,
this was only my second time to go with him. It’s a great free
marriage-building retreat so I would love to do it every year. Last time
it was at the Homestead when I went (fiver years ago) and this year it
was at the Zermatt. Usually I am too busy with carpooling duty or
momschool teaching to go. But this year we figured out how to sandwich
my escape between chauffeuring my oldest child to his leadership
education econ class and his speech and debate class the next day.

We had such a delightful time away! We had some great conversation and
watched the movie Fireproof. Lately my baby has been crying a lot in his
car seat on car trips, which is so nervewracking for an AP mom. I got
the brilliant idea to stop and buy a teething biscuit after I dropped my
scholar son off in Bountiful and that was just the ticket to a blissful
baby car ride. (Blissful baby = sleeping baby = happy mommy who can
listen to de Tocqueville wax philosophical about liberty of the press in
Democracy in America as I
drive through Parley’s Canyon). So I got to Midway with no screaming. We
took a walk in this freezing cold Utah sprinter (spring + winter) to
the Homestead across the street. We went through the tunnel to this
hollow crater on the Homestead property that has a hot spring where
people can scuba dive. Then we went shopping to buy our dinner. On the
way back to the hotel I nursed baby with him still buckled in his car
seat.

He fell asleep on this ride home. Hooray! It was 8 PM. Now we could have
some time alone without tending to any children at all. He stayed
asleep the rest of the night. (He did wake up to nurse a few times in
the hotel bed but then went back to sleep so I still count that as
“sleeping through the night.” Yes, you can cosleep or bedshare and still
have a baby who sleeps for decent chunks of time and doesn’t “nurse all
night long.” More on that another time.) We had a lovely visit talking
about almost nothing that relates to our shared household, our children,
or homeschooling, as we dined. I didn’t even feel guilty that I was
missing the end of year meeting for the north Davis county commonwealth
school that my two scholar phasers attend. We did talk about who we
thought would be elected to next year’s board for the school. Then we
watched Fireproof, a movie on DVD starring Kirk Cameron, which we hadn’t
seen yet even though it’s ages old.

Yes, I pretty much live in a cave when it comes to movies. I just shun
most of what the Hollywood conveyor belt churns out, because it’s mostly
garbage. But Fireproof doesn’t come from the typical Hollywood studio.
It’s made by the people who did Facing the Giants. See
fireproofthemovie.com. If you haven’t ever watched Fireproof, do it for
your next date night. It is a fabulous movie and totally clean! Not only
that, it’s based in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthens
marriage by encouraging people to turn their marriages over to Christ.
Every married couple should watch it and discuss. (I thought the acting
was great but missed reliving the glory days of late 1980s primetime TV
with Kirk Cameron since my husband is a baby boomer and barely
remembers Happy Days. )

My husband told me a story that put a smile on my face. He left a lady
speechless with something he said. At the same his conference was going,
so was another. It was for some association of perinatal social
workers. So in the vendor display area there were booths and tables for
vendors selling things for babies and those who are social workers for
babies. One of the booths was for Abbott Labs, one of the main ABM
makers. (ABM = artificial baby milk, or SIN, synthetic infant
nutrition). My husband said, “You know, my wife is a La Leche League
Leader, so babies and nursing and breastmilk are very prominent in my
home.”

One of the vendors for Abbott Labs smiled and said, “Oh yes. We here at
Abbott Labs are very much in favor of breastmilk. We promote it all the
time.” (Yeah, right….as long as they have their foot in the door, or
their pricey can of ABM in your “free” hospital diaper bag, offering it
“just in case breastfeeding doesn’t work,” and then they get you
dependent on it.) To which my husband deftly replied, “Oh, well, my wife
would slash your adversting in a heartbeat because it violates the WHO
Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes.” The vendor opened her mouth
but nothing would come out, and her sales partner next to her patted her
arm and said, “He’s got you there. Don’t even bother going down that
path. ” My husband told me the story and it got me thinking about the
WHO Code. I have become less in favor of the UN and government
regulation in general lately since reading Richard Maybury. I am going
to have to ask my LLL Leader friend who is also a John Bircher how she
reconciles the two.

I could just picture myself angrily tearing down their posters and
throwing their cans in the garbage. Not! My dear husband sometimes
translates my zealous opinions into militant action. I’m generally not
that assertive. Just for the record, you can be an AP mom and use ABM,
even Dr. Sears says so, although it does take conscientiousness to be an
AP bottlefeeder. ABM does have its place, especially for babies who
simply have no access to a mom or a milk bank, like these poor babies
helped by perinatal social workers probably. But I agree with Dr. Jack
Newman, a medical doctor who specializes in breastfeeding (drjacknewman.com), that ABM should be
treated like a drug that requires a prescription. It has risks to both
baby’s and mother’s health and side-effects. Breastmilk from the mother
while nursing, then pumped milk from the mom, then pumped milk from
other moms, then ABM is the hierarchy I follow. Wouldn’t it have been
cool if there had been a booth at this perinatal conference for a milk
bank, LLL, or the people at asklenore.com
who help adoptive moms with breastfeeding?

The next morning I got to go to breakfast with my husband as part of his
conference. Lo and behold, who should we end up sitting with but Joyce
Kinmont, homeschooling mom guru and founder of ldshea.org. She volunteers her time helping
parents who are fighting DCFS and likes to go to conferences like this.
One of the guys who shares office space with my husband, Don Redd, was
also there. Don’s wife Karen was there at the breakfast table as well,
and she is one of my heroines. Here is a woman who has borne 16
children, yes 16!, and looks not only perfectly normal to be a mother to
so many and a grandma too, but she is also beautiful as well. She just
retired from singing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I look at her and
what she is doing in her later season of mothering now that her youngest
is 12 or so and it reminds me that there is a season for moms to
develop their talents with more focus than in interrupted blocks of
time.

The breakfast table discussion fascinated me. It was attorneys mostly
talking, along with Joyce and two of the wives. They were basically
saying that the state system that professes to protect families actually
breaks them up. So then the talk went to, well, it’s not just that the
system is messed up, it’s the culture of today with the broken
families. One attorney there said that families are going down the
tubes, especially since moms are no longer home all day. He said that
moms don’t even have to eat breakfast with their children, they can just
send them to school for free breakfast. Then they have free lunch, and I
thought to myself, a lot of kids don’t eat dinner with their family
either. They forage for their own dinner of cold cereal or microwave food
and eat in front of the TV. So it just reinforced my desire to share
the idea of eating with your children. If you want some inspiration,go to thefoodnanny.com.

This made me think of President Benson’s counsel long ago to mothers in Israel. He said to be at the crossroads. Be there when your children leave and when they come home. Giving our family mealtimes helps us to be there at the crossroads. The attorney who talked about being at the crossroads said that when his kids were growing up he conducted an experiment. He would ask his kids as soon as they came home what they learned at school. They would always remember and say something. If he waited more than a half hour or so to ask, they would say, “I don’t remember.”
So moms, don’t regularly outsource the feeding of your children and be there to discuss their plans for the day and what happened during their day when they come home. You are much more likely to be aware of any problems in their life if you do so.
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