I became pregnant for the first time at the age of 23; it was both an unexpected pregnancy and an unexpected extra baby. I was working at a university daycare but I really didn’t know anything about being a mother or taking care of my own children and because I was having twins I was becoming a stay at home mother sooner than I had anticipated.
During those early months of pregnancy one of my co-workers gifted me a book by Dr. William Sears called, The Baby Book. It was from this book that I began to learn about attachment and parenting. It was really quite brilliant of God, because I essentially parented based on my gut instincts and direction from that book.
This ideal of attachment parenting hasn’t ended as the kids have gotten older. I have found the thread of attachment in books like Gottmans’ Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, Farrell’s, The Boy Crisis, and Neufeld’s Hold Onto Your Kids. Fundamentally, all of these experts are demonstrating that the most important part about parenting is the relationship between parent and child. It isn’t about the next disciplinary technique or utilizing positive or negative enforcement of rules.
Attachment is built in many different ways. Physical touch is one of the ways we attach with our babies early and so is being dependable, meeting the needs our babies have for their necessities such as food, comfort, eye to eye contact and play. As kids get older it can seem less important to intentionally attach to our children but it is still necessary no matter their age.
Intentional attachment is even more essential for those parenting MKs. MKs have a high risk of developing identity issues and mental illnesses because of the transition and trauma within the cross-cultural world they grow up in (see Michele Pheonix’s blog). Parents need to be in-tune with how their children are doing emotionally, spiritually and physically. This can only happen when we KNOW our kids.
Strong attachments with our kids can help mitigate the struggle of balancing family and ministry. Not because it will fix any problem but because it will allow our kids to be assured that they are cared for and it will give us wisdom in the decisions we will inevitably face.
I’d like to believe that this can be done while both parents get to invest themselves fully into the work of ministry but I, personally, haven’t found it to be possible. I have learned to accept that when it comes to building and growing attachments, it is always the parents’ responsibility to take the lead. We are the ones who need to engage them in conversations, we need to seek them out during the day and reconnect. We need to see the emotional struggles that they are having so we can guide them through the processes in a healthy way.
I am an MK and my kids are MK/PKs. I have been the child and I’ve also been the parent. I am not trying to make light of the decisions we make as parents in ministry. When the needs outside the home seem to be much greater and more important, our attention to our own children can seem unnecessary or unimportant in comparison. Our kids could even be thriving or appear to be thriving which makes our intentional outreach seem even less significant.
Our attentiveness to our kids, however, is essential for them to develop a healthy sense of self with a strong sense of identity, self regulation and boundaries. This is OUR responsibility as parents. Our children do not always have a choice in where they move, what language they learn, what schools they attend and what they are exposed to. They are also not responsible to seek out attention from their parents, or responsible to ask for help, or know how to sort through experiences we, as adults, can often barely understand.
Our kids are precious and God loves them dearly. So, as we think about going out into the world to shine Christ’s light, let’s also shine that light at home, through play, through laughter, through tears, talks, hugs and listening. I like to think these activities bring a smile to God’s face while he watches us. They are divine moments, holy moments and God delights in it.
How are your kids? How does attachment work in your home? How can you intentionally improve your relationships with your kids?