The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

May 13, 2012

Whoever said it, it's still true

By Kelly Kazek
kelly@athensnews-courier.com

— You could never say Shannon doesn’t know her mom. As one of my Mother’s Day treats, she bought me the perfect gift: An emergency bar of chocolate, complete with a little medical red cross on the white wrapper.

The only problem is, I seem to have an emergency need for chocolate every day and I’m concerned the bar is quite vulnerable there on my desk. I’m thinking of having it encased in glass and keeping a tiny red ax nearby, just in case.

This Mother’s Day, now that Shannon is almost 19 and a sophomore at Auburn University, I can look at her with a satisfied nod and think, “My kid is gonna make a pretty good adult.”

It’s a great feeling to have a daughter who holds a job, keeps her grades up, manages her own money and still takes time for fun with friends in a healthy balance. After she sat on the sofa during high school and watched two seasons of “The Jersey Shore,” I wasn’t so sure.

I like to think Shannon was, as we Southerners say, “raised right,” but the truth is, outside factors played a part. I think being an only child made her more responsible and independent and I think she’s just downright feisty. Not sure where she gets that.

Also, her sense of the entitlement that reality show “stars” seem to own in abundance was vastly limited by our income. Like me as a child, she was spoiled in the sense that she got whatever her mom could give her, but it wasn’t always everything she wanted.

I worry about the next generation.

Will they think they aren’t worthy of love if they don’t have the perfect shade of spray-tanned skin?

Will they suffer depression if they their body mass index surpasses 6 percent?

Will they think having your sister give you a bikini wax on a television show is the ultimate in family bonding?

I also worry this trend of “attachment parenting” could lead even ordinary, non-reality children down the entitlement path.

Y’all know I don’t like to judge, especially in matters of parenting. But after seeing the recent cringe-worthy Time magazine cover of a child nursing, even though he is old enough to be out of diapers and stand up while doing so, I decided to check out this theory of constant connection. According to dozens of sources on the Internet, attachment theory, proposed by some guy named John Bowlby, “states the infant has a tendency to seek closeness to another person and feels secure when that person is present.”

Wow. Someone dude actually needed to do research to come up with what mothers have known since the beginning of time: Babies and parents share a bond.

That theory is likely to turn civilization on its ear.

It’s the way parents using this method are taught to encourage a near-complete attachment that leaves me scratching my head. Firstly, one of the parents must be with the child 24 hours a day, this is mainly so he or she can interpret baby signals and cues — I’m picturing scrunched nose, bright red faces and clenched ab muscles — by use of intuition to know when the kid needs to “eliminate” so the parent can hold the child over a handy receptacle, preferably a toilet. That’s right, these folks don’t believe in diapers.

Probably, the theory is based on the fact that lion cubs don’t wear diapers, or something like that.

Yes, and human babies don’t play in the Serengeti and have the ability to pounce on and shred food not long after birth.

When I say “one of the parents,” I might as well say “Mom,” because attachment parenting also includes breast feeding as a source of nutrition and comfort as long as the child feels the need to continue. I’m thinking that’s one job Dad can’t do. Look, I know it’s natural and I have no problem with public breast feeding but I’m pretty sure school officials will draw the line at some mom whipping it out for her kid in the kindergarten room.

As a single mom, I’ve had no choice but to hold a job since Shannon’s dad died when she was 2. I’m sure if I told my publishers I needed to haul my child around on my hip all day so I could “interpret” when she needed to “eliminate” before it occurred in the middle of the newsroom, they would have readily agreed. With my termination.

But I think if I had a choice, I would still do work of some kind. I write for a living, yes, but I also write because it’s what I love. Besides, Shannon was grateful I didn’t spend all day at her school or hover over her all the time. I think she would have been driven to wield a tiny red ax against me if I had.

I think, as in all things, there is a healthy balance to parenting. None of us knows the perfect ratio but I do know there was a reason Shakespeare wrote: “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

Oh, that wasn’t Willie?

Well, whoever. It’s still true.

So all you moms out there feel free to stop by the office next week. We’ll take turns breaking off pieces of my chocolate bar and toast to happy mamas — and the invention of diapers.