During this Advent season, the beginning of the Liturgical year, in meditating on the meaning of patient preparation and the birth of the Savior, I have found it necessary to go back in my mind to the beginning of our discussion of attachment and our journey as parents toward maturity, and reformulate for myself the premise on which our entire discussion is based. I thought maybe it would be good to post at least that, maybe even at regular intervals throughout the year, as a reminder to all of us of our purpose.
To sum it up in one sentence:
Children, like all human beings, need to feel that they are unconditionally loved in order to develop optimally physically, emotionally and spiritually; and in order for parents to communicate unconditional love in a way that is unmistakably felt by their children, parents must be willing to embrace unconditional suffering--to suffer through generous giving, and to meekly and humbly suffer their own inadequacy, neediness and dependence when it seems they have nothing left to give.
Attachment theory proves at least the first part of this premise, and illustrates in great detail the nature of this unconditional love, all its forms and manners, delineating for us all its benefits and all the dreadful consequences of the lack of it. Catholic spirituality defines for us the nature of love of the Cross and offers us ample testimony of the ability of human beings to embrace suffering for the sake of God's will, and the efficacy and fruitfulness of this surrender.
Attachment theory, in promoting putting the relationship first demonstrates in the natural realm the veracity of St. Paul's maxim, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all else shall be added unto you," as well as the entire Gospel message, for that matter.
Attachment theory demonstrates the meaning of the Song, "Draw me, we shall run in the odor of your ointments," as St. Therese, for one, explains it--that when we allow ourselves, through love of the Cross, to be drawn by infinite (unconditional) love we will draw with us, "like a torrent in the ocean," all those whom we love. This is the same as Dr. Neufeld's statement that if parents have to become saints to collect, to court, to woo, to draw in their peer-oriented children, or to hold on to their vertically oriented children, then that's just what they'll have to do.
Attachment theory teaches us how to love our children's littleness, and allow them to love their littleness, in the same way St. Therese admonishes all of to love our own littleness. In teaching us how to achieve balance, attachment theory teaches us to accept and love our own littleness, and neediness and dependence and inadequacy, which forces us to lean on the All-Powerful for balance.
Attachment theory teaches us to trust ours and our children's God-given instincts, through which, when properly oriented, among other channels, the Holy Ghost directs and guides our footsteps.
In fostering the full integration of the physical, psychological and spiritual parts of the human person, attachment theory helps us and our children to become "perfect"--one, whole--"as Our Heavenly Father is perfect," as in having no parts but being one--whole--unified--fully integrated--at peace with oneself and with the world.
In the light of Catholic Spirituality, attachment theory teaches us a practical method of detachment along the same path as that outlined by St. John of the Cross, whose feast day is today.
In the light of Catholic Spirituality attachment theory demonstrates the transformative power of unconditional love and shows us precisely how we are to communicate that love to our children and to one another.
In the light of Catholic Spirituality, attachment theory teaches us how we are to become like our Blessed Mother, who loved God perfectly in the ordinary execution of her daily duties to her family, as is so beautifully illustrated for us in The Reed of God.
In exhorting us to give our children presence, attachment theory directs us toward Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence in the spirit of Matthew 6:24-34.
In exhorting us to be emotionally responsive to our children, attachment theory directs us toward meekness and humility in imitation of the heart of Jesus.
In exhorting us to use love and connection, rather than fear and isolation, to cultivate virtue in our children, attachment theory directs us toward the Cross.
When I first read HOTYK I felt the need to consult a dear priest friend of ours, a traditional priest whose seminary formation could never be in question. When I described to him all the things attachment parenting exacts of us, his astonished reply was, "But parents would have to be saints to do that!"
Apparently this is not the case for methods that force independence and exploit the fear of suffering to train up a child. That alone is endorsement enough for me.