Editor’s Note: I deliver here Dr. Gregory Popcak’s response to the TIME cover that has caused such a stir today. Dr. Popcak is the Executive Director of Pastoral Solutions Institute and the author of many books, including Parenting With Grace, a groundbreaking exploration of attachment parenting through the lens of Catholicism. His book inspires our work here at CAPC.
As you know, Lisa and I are big attachment parenting advocates (Dr. Bill Sears wrote the foreword to the 2nd edition of our parenting book), but I think the cover for the TIME magazine article on AP really sets the wrong tone for the discussion.
It is true that the world average for nursing is 5 years. This is not the norm in the West, but in other cultures it is common enough. It is also true that children who nurse in some limited way even up to the full length of the world average do, indeed, stop nursing, grow up, claim their independence, and move on. In general, they tend to be more confident and independent than their peers.
So, there isn’t anything psychologically inappropriate about nursing this long as long as (a) it is actually a response to the child’s need for comfort and not being imposed on the child and (b) it is done privately and discretely so as to respect the intimacy communicated by this kind of relationship. The person is not a cup. Mom is not a cow. Nursing is not intended to be the equivalent of sipping from a water fountain. It’s a call to create a loving connection between mother and baby.
My problem with the cover is that it’s intentionally provocative and misrepresentative. This isn’t what AP is about. AP is about investing the time and energy you need to put into your relationship with your unique child so that you can give that child what he or she needs to grow to be a strong loving, healthy person. It’s about modeling radical self-donation so that you can teach the child to be radically self-donative in his or her own relationships in both childhood and adulthood.
Despite what people think, AP isn’t a list of techniques, a series of “Must do’s” and “Shame on you if you don’ts.” It’s a call to foster a uniquely loving, responsible, and intimate relationship with your kids so they see you as their mentor for learning how to lead a life filled with love, responsibility, and intimacy.
It’s true that fostering this kind of relationship takes more of an investment than most parents put into their relationship with their kids. It’s also true that such a relationship might be more difficult for some. I just wish people didn’t find it so offensive or shocking that a parent would want to pursue that kind of a relationship with their child, or would want that kind of relationship for the children of the world.
To be fair, I do think the cover shot pretty accurately represents many non-AP parents’ perception of AP. That is, “Mom as slave to a set of techniques that turns her into a mere dispenser of bodily fluid and maternal energy for the spoiled little vampire-child who is being enabled to suck the very life out of her.” It saddens me that people would feel this way, though. Our families deserve better. Our children deserve better. We deserve better.
Dr. Gregory K. Popcak