Friday, May 11, 2012

Detached Parenting

The recent TIME magazine cover and article got me thinking about my childhood and how vastly different it was from the ones that were written about. The article described the trend of "attachment parenting." Meaning- the child is literally connected/touching/attached to the parent for-in my opinion- far too long. Some children were breast fed until the age of 7. Yikes. This method is supposed to build a strong bond between parent and child. I'm sure the article talked about several other benefits, but I got hung up on that one, mainly because my rearing was so incredibly polar, yet yielded similar, perhaps better, results. (Note: I'm completely biased here. Mom, dad- feel free to shower me with presents after I publicly applaud your parenting style.)

Very fashion forward

Growing up, my parents encouraged independence and exploration. I'm going to say that the reason for this was not because we weren't perfect angels, but rather, they wanted us to cultivate self-confidence by allowing us to learn from our mistakes and experiences. For instance, when I was 4, my family took a most epic road trip from Pennsylvania to Montana. We spent a majority of the time hiking and exploring in some of the most beautiful landscapes our country has to offer. Our parents didn’t have us on leashes, in strange marsupial looking pouches or anything of that nature. No- we were encouraged to hike up ahead. (Maybe they thought if a bear came along, we would serve as a nice appetizer before it got to them…) When our vacation drew to an end, my sisters and I had become quite good at the business of hiking, camping and avoiding dangerous wilderness shenanigans. Soon after the trip concluded it became quite apparent that we all wanted to continue exploring. We started rafting-sans parents, orienteering, hiking and camping on a regular basis. And when we couldn’t go somewhere new to camp- we just set up the tent in the backyard. A little away time from the parental units was never a bad thing, though I can’t help but think they missed us dearly and hated the peace and quite that soon took over the house upon our departure.

Our enthusiasm for exploration and consequently, independence, continued on far past our youth and has become something that is part of our character. My sisters and I have all moved away from our parents’ home in Maryland to different parts of the country. Yet, despite the physical distance it didn’t foster a sense of emotional distance. Just because we weren’t attached at the hip (or other body parts..) of our mom, we didn’t develop a rift or separation among one another. Our “detached” upbringing was something of a blessing. We grew to appreciate our time together, but didn’t feel lost when we were off on our own. Today when we visit each one another its comforting to know that a 40 mile backpacking trip is likely to be on the agenda- where I’m sure we will recount the time when I was 4 and totally smoked everyone on that hike in Glacier. We can look back on our pictures of our youth and fondly rehash our own accounts of what happened, the struggles of the particular hike, and our outfit choices (unfortunately, my parents let us pick our own clothing out). We have successfully mastered the art of doing things together, yet separately.

The point is-if there is one- that during my reading of the article, I realized that sometimes being detached or separated from the ones you love can get you to appreciate the time you spend together. I’m sure this isn’t always the case and somehow my family just managed to turn out freakishly perfect despite the odds being against us.  But, had it turned out any other way- I can at the very least be thankful we can look back on these pictures and captured moments in time with kind eyes, because I can’t say I’d do the same about some of the photos in the TIME article.

Also- Mom: can this count as a Mother's Day present? 


  1. Theresa,

    Couldn't agree with you more. Obviously, there is a balance between extremes, as you noted. But I think more parents need to understand that if they want their kids to eventually be independent, they have to give their kids the tools to do it with. Which don't always come from inside the house.

    Also...hope you're doing well!