After my playdate from hell, I've been thinking a lot about different parenting styles. It's seems almost a paradox, how people parent. Here's what I've noticed:
Most people in America (I'll just call them the mainstreamers) tend to ignore their children when they are babies and then overparent them when they are children. Mainstreamers tend to give birth medicated, not hold their babies very much, sleep apart from them, put them in strollers, formula feed, carry them in carseats, set them down for naps, and maybe even let them cry it out. They're ignoring their little baby's needs when they need it most. But then, when baby grows up a little, this is when the mainstreamers start to overparent. They start to hover. They turn into helicopter parents (click here for a good article on the growing backlash against helicopter parenting). They start to do everything for their child because they don't trust that their child can do it for themselves.
Now, there is another subset of American parents that does things a little differently. I'll call them instinctual parents. Instinctual parents give birth naturally, breastfeed, co-sleep, wear their babies, and comfort their babies when they cry. Just things that come naturally, you know? Then, when their babies grow a little older, instinctual parents tend to back off a bit. They let their children explore the world. They let their children work out their differences on their own. They let their children play and figure out things on their own.
Both of these parenting styles are paradoxical, the latter just feels a more comfortable for me and not at all ironic in its paradox.
Instinctual parenting is like putting money in the bank. Sure, it might seem like more work in the beginning, but babies who are parented this way become much more independent and secure as children (thus, the natural inclination to let them do things on their own). They know that you WILL be there to meet their needs when and if they need you. They have faith in you. I remember my mother-in-law telling us how her kids' kindergarten teacher would say, "You must have held your children a lot when they were babies because they are less needy than the other kids now." The teacher could tell the difference, apparently.
There is a lot of value to instinctual parenting. Let's listen to those instincts a little bit more instead of just doing what everybody else seems to be doing.