One of the facets to having a child at the same time as your sister is having the opportunity to learn about different parenting styles and exchanging about your philosophies in child-rearing. Vee is an AP parent (though she is not a gung ho advocate of the style, she takes from it what fits her and her partner’s lifestyle). Vee is also trained in psychology and versed in different early childhood theories whereas I am clearly NOT, though I come with my own life experiences, knowledge and opinions.
For the past 6 months I’ve been pretty much raising ZZ a lot based on my own life experiences, intuition and a lot of research. Up until a few weeks ago, I had no idea that my developing parenting style actually had a name.
RIE parenting is based on the notion that babies need the space to develop their cognitive capabilities, creativity and learning through self-initiated and uninterrupted play; to develop a strong sense of self by allowing them to feel their emotions rather than attempt to pacify and distract them and, as a parent, learning about your child by being observant and attentive; involving them in their care routines by speaking to them and inviting them to participate; and by defining limits and expectations early on through structure and routine in order to develop discipline.
From the age of 5 weeks, ZZ has slept in her own bed, in her own room. She has had a “routine” based on the observation of her own patterns and needs, and has since slept through her nights, and has had structured nap-times and down-times.
I also believe that Maria Montessori had a great point of view on how to set up an environment to facilitate child-initiated independent play (and kind of wish I had learned about the idea of baby mattresses being placed on the floor in order to promote mobility and discovery before my mother-in-law so generously bought a beautiful crib for ZZ), the idea of body acknowledgement through the use of mirrors is amazing (although we only have one mirror in my entire house and it’s in the bathroom above the sink, every day we play “let’s see who’s in the mirror today! and it cracks her up) and tactile toys and games to stimulate the senses.
All this is great, but where I tend to deviate from RIE and Montessori schools of thought is how I integrate technology into ZZ’s life. My sister and I were lucky enough to have a geek for a father when we were little, so we’ve spent our entire lives, from very early on in the 80’s, surrounded by computers, televisions, cameras and gaming consoles. Our parents knew that computers would be part of our lives growing up so we were encouraged to interact with them – but with limitations. I’m a believer in the exponential growth of technology, so I fully expect my daughter to live in a world where technology will be a part of her daily life even more than it is now. So it goes to say that I want to ensure she knows how to use them to her benefit, all the while encouraging her to live with nature, appreciate the outdoors and crave fresh air and physical activity (as well as cerebral activities).
In regards to Attachment Parenting, I’ve always been an affectionate person and, when pregnant, I so looked forward to cuddling and nuzzling my baby, but I didn’t want to raise a clingy child, one that always needed to be in my arms or constantly needed my attention. My hopes from the very beginning was that as a parent I would educate and motivate my daughter to be a curious, strong, creative and independent girl. I knew that through breastfeeding and one-on-one time (like dancing wildly in our living room to different styles of music) would allow us to create a tight bond. I knew that through meeting her needs and always being there for her she would develop trust in me, even if I wasn’t in the same room for a couple of minutes or hours. But I don’t believe that this is done by having a baby strapped to you* or in your arms for the majority of their early life or sleeping in our bed or a shared bed.
Like I mentioned in the first line of this post, sharing the parenting experience simultaneously with your sister is amazing. We got to share points of view, opinions and techniques, but still respect one another’s different parenting theories. My sister and her daughter have a beautiful relationship, and attachment parenting works for them. And that’s all that matters because my sister is a great Mom.
*Editor’s Note: Baby-carrying was totally awesome for those early weeks when she was really colicky or when I had household chores to do. We quickly got over it, though, at around 3 months. It was too warm for her hot-blooded self.