Who here has had something happen in their life that they don’t expect?
Yeah, pretty much all of us. All of the time. Life is always changing! Some of these changes are welcome with open arms and are exciting, but even the changes we love and embrace require adjustment to ourselves and our families. What about when the change that happens is unwelcome and brings great burden or sadness to your family? Then, the changes that we are thrust into the midst of, are even harder to endure, and harder for us to take that next step of moving forward.
The best way to get through any change in life, positive or negative, is with the support of a community around you, and at least for me, an integral part of that support is my local API community. The thing about the unexpected is that it happens when you don’t expect it — so that means, ultimately, you need to surround yourself with a supportive community ALL THE TIME!
My journey as a parent has a certain irony in thinking about this, because before I got married and had children, I was a very young and independent woman who was determined to do everything by myself! Absolutely, I did not need anyone’s help. Absolutely, I did it on my own! Even when I was pregnant with my son, sick as hell with hyperemesis gravidarum, in and out of the hospital for IVs, I still continually told my husband that I could handle it. I’d do it on my own. I’m OKAY. If I said it enough times, I could totally convince myself I was okay. But was I really? Is anybody really ever okay when faced with that kind of unexpected experience? But, my motto continued and I told my husband all of the time that I absolutely would not join any moms groups. I literally feared the drama from moms that I didn’t even know, that I refused to reach out for help when I needed it most. I did go to two different support group type meetings while I was pregnant at the literal shove of my husband, and one I had a very negative experience at and the other I felt judged for one of my parenting choices. So those experiences for me, pretty much solidified in my mind that I “didn’t need that in my life.” Now I know, drama does happen and it genuinely hurts, but it’s how I respond that matters and I may as well have support from my community when I need them.
Over time, I realized that the support you can receive from surrounding yourself by other families that parent similarly to you is absolutely invaluable. You can just sit and listen quietly if you want and add to your mental library of parenting tools for the future. You can come and cry and ask for help when you are desperate and at the end of your rope. You can look back and say, hey, I have so been there, and I so understand how hard it is, and offer support in return. You can also sit there and listen and say, I’m sorry, I have no idea what the solution is, but what can I do for you? That’s the great thing about support groups, you come initially looking for support and down the road you get to give support. And then later again, you may need support yourself. The beauty of it is, when you surround yourself with a group like a local API chapter, you are always giving and taking. Even when you think you don’t need that group anymore, the unexpected happens and suddenly you do. I have literally been in every position I described above and it was through experience and the unexpected that made me realize how important the support of a local group is.
My personal experience recently is that I fell and tore a ligament in my knee shortly after moving. My entire house was literally in boxes, I was home with two kids alone, and I could literally not even pee by myself. I can say, I honestly do not know how I would have survived that time without the support of mamas who came and cooked my kids lunch, or came with dinner, or came and did my dishes, or searched through boxes looking for dishes, or just provided my kids entertainment. Seven months later, I still struggle with this knee injury and intermittently rely on the support of my friends to make it through. I have struggled with a rare neurological condition that effects my vision for about 3 years now, that has had it’s ups and downs, and again, when I’m literally half blind and can barely stand up, my community surrounds me and helps me stand. The rest of the time, I try to serve my community the best I can, by paying it forward, with meals for moms who have just had babies, or by being at an API meeting and offering the best support and answers to questions that I am capable of. Of course we all give and receive support in many aspects of our lives with many people, not just through API, but attending a local API support group meeting regularly is just one way that giving and receiving support has been very real for me in my life and can be to yours, too.
When I was thinking about this topic of support, it all related back to attachment in another way that I didn’t expect. By doing what we do as attached parents, cosleeping, babywearing, nursing, whatever it is that works best for our family to keep our children close to our hearts, we are in fact, teaching our kids that you can rely on each other in all times. When my son needs to cry, he can cry. When my son needs to celebrate, he can celebrate. When he needs to be a good friend, he offers kindness to a friend. He is free to be independent as he wants to be, and come back to me to fill his love cup when he needs support. This is unlike the attitude that is prevalent among many today, that you must push your child to be independent from a very young age or they will cling to you forever.
The best example we can provide to our children is by doing this ourselves. We are all wonderful independent parents with differences and so much greatness. When we show our children that we can come together and support each other at all times, both when we are seeking the support and when we are just there as a potential listening ear, we show our children that we fill up our love cup just like they do with us. It’s really the same, on a greater scale. So if your support cup is empty, reach out. If your support cup is full, come and share. Either way, you are wanted.
by Jenni Ascher, co-leader of Attachment Parenting of Jacksonville <3
This post is part of the Attachment Parenting Month blog event, hosted by Attachment Parenting International.
Learn more by visiting API Speaks, the blog of Attachment Parenting International.