A recent London School of Economics study suggested a child’s emotional wellbeing is a significant indicator of satisfaction in adulthood. Jane Bostock looks at Attachment Parenting and how we all carry the past with us like a German shepherd in a baby sling, barking in our faces.
Certain portions of the media portray the phenomena of Attachment Parenting (AP) as the stuff of woolly, deluded earth mothers who chant incantations, surrounded by dream catchers, weaving a home from placenta, with a child, if not two, hanging precariously from each breast, sucking her life force, and one strapped to her back for good measure.
Katie Hopkins is usually not far away, gnarling in the background, being prodded like a bear on This Morning until she howls out something atrocious about locking children up until they’re 20 and only giving them gruel. A braying mantis, with no free will of her own, but you keep prodding don’t you Phil and Holly? Who really is the monster of the piece, hmm?
This is all well and good, except that it’s not, as it skews the message of why a child’s emotional wellbeing is so important.
Attachment theory focuses on the relationship – or lack of, as the case may be – between the infant and their primary care givers. Based on how that all goes, those experiences either helps us grow up to be well-adjusted or the opposite. Indeed, recent developments in neuroscience show that how we are cared for in out first three years is paramount to how we behave and respond as adults. Thus, we either turn out OK, or not OK.
Simply put – if we don’t get the right sort of care, our brain growth is distorted. We are not the complete person. Our ability to interact and socialise is directly linked with how we were interacted with as infants. Our brain’s wiring is shaped by these experiences. If we were shown no love, compassion, empathy, how could we possibly give it? Eh Katie?
Our formative, pre-memory years are a time of expansive brain growth when the brain has unbelievable plasticity. Neurons and connections are firing and connecting at a rate of knots, or indeed withering and severing, never to be repeated at such ease and speed again in your life! By the time we are 50, say, the plasticity is comparatively more that of a sun-dried walnut.
Disordered brain development can be flooded with negative drives, which instead of helping to regulate our emotions and responses, amplify negative emotions. Does the thought your hair straightners going missing en route to a Prague city break seem like a horror on a par with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? For example.
A securely attached person is more likely to be able to regulate their emotions under stressful situations -“Oh well, I’ll get some more, or go au natural.”
Because this happens so early on and we are pretty much unaware of the context of the distortion, it can be hard for us to understand why we may behave or react in a certain way.
We all, even Ms Hopkins, act out in learned ways, which may or may not be helpful to us. Nothing is finite, life experiences/traumas along the way may alter our deeply-programmed factory setting. But, because it happens when we are so young and unaware, we sometimes blindly charge on in a predestined manner towards prosperity and happiness or Ghostbusters 2 (such a fucking disappointment.)
I am not saying go forth and buy a kaftan and go 100% organic. The media seems to have hijacked the term Attachment Parenting for its own sputtering agenda of middle class twatishness. But I claim it back, God damn it. It’s too important to be attack fodder for gurning rent-a-gobs.
So, if you are a parent, think love, big love. Children that small don’t need tough love, just unconditional love, support and empathy. You don’t have to be perfect, we all have breaking points, anyone who has spent time with a toddler must know this, but there is a term “good enough”, which allows for lapses in zen like love bombing. Usually for me when R2D2 has been aimed squarely at my head.
And, if you’re an adult struggling with relationships/life/hair-straighteners, give yourself some love. (No, not in that way. Well, I guess it doesn’t harm.) If something feels insurmountable, good therapy can really help the old rewire. Even the hardest walnut can be cracked with the right help.
If you want to learn more on attachment theory, the Internet is your oyster. Why love Matters is a good book – http://www.routledgementalhealth.com/books/details/9780415870535/
Lots of love. Jane.
A human, like you.