I think it’s practically mandatory that I open this post with a reference to the 90s TV show Blossom. But I don’t have any, and for that I blame my mother. She didn’t think it was quality television, and so I was the only 7th grader at Goodrich Middle School who did not have anything to say about last night’s Blossom, nor could I sing the opening rap to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, a fact which continues to haunt me to this day in social situations.
So, I’ll have to take your word for it that Blossom was darling, but I love the grown-up Mayim Bialik’s blog on the Jewish parenting site Kveller. And while many reviews of her book, Beyond the Sling: the Real Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way, have come out, both positive and negative, there haven’t been any that have focused on one of her main claims – the fact that her children didn’t wear diapers.
Bialik devotes a chapter of her book to the practice of elimination communication, a parenting practice which honors a child’s instincts not to soil themselves and to help them use the potty instead of diapers. After all the hoopla in the media about Bialik’s extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping and the like, I was interested to know what she had to say about EC, especially because it’s something we do in our house too.
If you haven’t heard of Beyond the Sling, it’s a basic guidebook to attachment parenting, written by Bialik, who is no longer just an actress but has a PhD in neuroscience and two kids. She writes from her own perspective as a parent, along pointing to the relevant science that backs up attachment parenting. The book covers co-sleeping, breastfeeding, elimination communication, gentle discipline, not pressuring kids and taking care of yourself as a parent, as well as your relationship with your spouse.
If you’re looking for a how-to book on EC, this isn’t it. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are quite a few books out there already that talk about the nitty-gritty of EC and cover the numerous questions parents have. Instead, Bialik provides her own perspective with humor and honesty, something I found rather refreshing.
Bialik’s two boys were potty-trained at the age of 15 months. Pretty great, right? I mean, yes, the goal of EC is to communicate with your kid and respond to their needs. But also, being done with diapers sounds awesome. Reading her chapter on EC was encouragement to me that it does work, and it’s worth the work you put into it.
I think the part I enjoyed the most was Bialik’s tale of her own initial skepticism about EC and her husband’s reluctance to do it. I found both quite refreshing. Here’s an excerpt:
“EC is the one thing I proposed, though, that he found totally ridiculous, completely unnecessary and more than just a little bit insane. When I first told my husband about it, I began, “What would you think if I told you that everything we have been told about babies and diapers was actually all a sham?” He stared at me blankly. I continued. I was all fired up and ready to educate my ignorant husband about the pitfalls of not just disposable diapers but any diapers at all: “Babies are born knowing they need to go to the bathroom! They don’t want to go in their pants! It would save this country millions of dollars and we could decrease the landfills and we would bond with our baby in ways we never dreamed possible if we just help him use a potty instead of diapers! He will train us! We’ll have a diaper-free baby! ISN’T THIS EXCITING?” He stared blankly again. He was not excited. Not at all. Not even a little bit.”
That made me chuckle because it reminds me of my own bizarre rants whenever I discover something new and exciting about babies or children that I didn’t know before. The latest lecture series my husband has had to listen to was on baby-led weaning, but it was by no means the first. The poor man is very patient and usually very receptive, once I’m done prattling on.
EC is something that my husband wasn’t as on board with at first. For one, it seemed like a lot of work to him when a baby is already a lot of work. I couldn’t really argue with him on that one, except to say that I thought it was work that was worth it. Two, he had learned in nursing school that a baby can’t control his or her own bladder until at least the age of one. We had a lot of discussions about whether making a psss sound before Teddy went pee to tell him that he could go would have any impact or whether it would just confuse him. But the success we’ve had in getting Teddy to go in the potty, plus the benefit of less spraying of poop out of cloth diapers, has helped him come around.
Anyway, back to the book. What I really love about the entire book, including the chapter on EC, is that Bialik is not afraid to tell it like it is. Yes, she talks about how great it is to bond with your kid during EC and how connected it made her with both of her sons. But she also admits that it can be frustrating and that it’s a ton of work. She talks about the benefits of co-sleeping and breastfeeding, and how wonderful they are, but she doesn’t leave out her own exhaustion in the first years of her boys’ lives.
Maybe those points seem obvious, but there’s a weird trend among mothers, especially attachment parenting mothers, to downplay any of the hard parts. I’ve been shushed before by other moms when I dared to complain about how tough breastfeeding was or how Teddy’s clingy-ness was driving me up the wall that day. “Oh, but it’s all worth it,” they’d coo, with an edge of disdain for my weakness. Yes, I know it’s worth it, lady. That’s why I’m doing this. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard sometimes, and saying it outloud doesn’t negate it’s worthiness.
I would highly recommend Bialik’s book to anyone who’s interested in EC or other attachment parenting techniques and wants a good overview before they delve into one of Dr. Sears’ epic parenting manuals. And I’d recommend it to any mom who wants to hear real talk on parenting from a smart lady who’s got a lot of wisdom to share when it comes to parenting. Bialik’s book is informative and inspiring without being preachy, and best of all, it made me feel like a little bit less of a weirdo.
One more post tomorrow about EC – a review and giveaway of some EC gear from Ecaware baby. Then I promise I’ll stop talking about poop and go back to my normal rambling.
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