TBR List Declutter, Issue 43

Tangent: Attachment Parenting

My daughter is considering residential camps for this summer. She’s done day camps since she was five years old, but sleep-away camp is uncharted territory for us, and we’re all kind of feeling our way around with this one.

When we were expectant parents, my spouse and I made a conscious decision to embrace attachment parenting. There are a lot of different ideas attached to attachment parenting, but for us it meant ensuring that our daughter had a primary attachment figure in her life (I tacitly accepted the unspoken nomination to the position). Her father and I would both do our best to anticipate our daughter’s needs and either meet those needs or be there to support her if we couldn’t (or chose not to) meet them (i.e., it’s not our job to stop her from crying, but it is our job to be there with her while she does). As best we could, we viewed our family as a unit, an integrated whole greater than the sum of its disparate but complementary parts. The goal was and is balance, respect, and a base of support from which our daughter—and later our son, as well—can feel confident moving into adult life.

The data aren’t all in yet, but so far it seems to be working as advertised. When they were little-little kids, they would toddle away from me and do their own thing for a bit, but they always looked back to make sure I was there, always came back for that physical reassurance of my presence before venturing out again. As they’ve grown, it seems like our relationship has continued to be a variation on this theme. They test out their confidence, and I stay attentive to determine when they need a nudge, when they need reassurance, when they need a hug, and when they just need me to stay our of their way. I’m there to listen to their questions and sometimes to answer but mostly to ask questions back. And when they don’t need me, I’m still there, off-stage, but always ready.

Sleep-away camp feels like part of this progression, but it also seems different, more like a leap than a step. In my discomfort, I’m finding it necessary to be careful what I say. It’s important to me that I help my daughter identify her fears and find the answers she needs to feel comfortable—or comfortable enough—without projecting my own fears onto her. It’s important that I reflect back her feelings, not tell her my own. My experiences with sleeping away from home, whether positive or negative, are irrelevant to her experience. Moreover, my experience of her going to sleep-away camp for the first time is for me to work through, not something in which I should involve her. I am the one who supports; she is the one supported, and even then only to the degree that she needs/wants to be.

And there’s the dance: knowing when to step in and when to wait in the wings and watch her live out her experience. I hope I’m up to the challenge. I expect there’s much more of this sort of thing to come.

Visual Interest:

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Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.


Titles 571-590:

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 39

Tangent: Physical Education

None of us had any clue what field handball was, and my children had never taken a P.E. class before, yet here we were on a sunny San Diego winter afternoon on a field in the bottom of a bowl made of hills all around.

We approached a woman holding a clipboard, clearly the person in charge. She greeted us marked the boxes on her sign-in form next to my children’s names.

“You’ll be in this group,” she said to my son. He looked up at me for assurance. I smiled and gave him a little nod. He turned and walked over to the group she’d indicated with a sweep of her hand.

The woman-in-charge looked at my daughter and hesitated. “The older kids are over there,” and she pointed at a group of teenage boys warming up across the field. “But if you feel more comfortable over here with the younger—”

“I’ll go over with the bigger kids,” my daughter said closing the gap between us and the group of boys before the facilitator could finish her sentence.

I set myself down at a nearby picnic table, took a deep breath, and tried not to think about the P.E. classes of my childhood: the time I complained, shaking with fear and indignation, to the principal about the gym teacher’s blatant sexism; always being chosen last for teams (it was always me and Anthony Wong, the two shortest kids in class); a classmate growling in my face until I dropped the basketball that had somehow found its way into my hands; the time two of the biggest boys ganged up during circle soccer and kicked the ball into the solar plexus of each of the smallest students, leaving us sucking air on the periphery while the student teacher leading the class looked on, oblivious. Or at least I choose to believe she was oblivious.

Now I looked on as my long-limbed nearly-thirteen-year-old jumped into the group of boys. She ran hard, chasing after the ball, and when she got it, ran harder still, evading the boys on her way to the goal. She wasn’t particularly skilled, but she was enthusiastic, fearless in a way I never expected from the girl who had hung back during soccer games, watching the other players in the scrum.

It reminded me of how she cowed the boys in physics class, asking and answering questions faster than any of them.

It reminded me of the disorientation I felt while holding her when she was a baby and watching her move her hand and for the first time recognizing that she was a being separate from me, moving through the world with my comfort and support but with her own will.

At the end of class she and her brother ran to me, red-cheeked and breathless, talking over one another while reaching for their water bottles. “I wish the class would never end!” my son exclaimed while my daughter proclaimed that it was the “best class ever!”

We walked to the car, my children strategizing for next week’s class, and me smiling at their joy and their strength and their headstrong individualism.

P.E. was a success.

Visual Interest:


Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.


Titles 491-510:

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