Back during my first time around at uni (I’m up to five times now – with mixed success rates – and still counting) I was enrolled in psychology. It was a requirement for my social work degree but also it was of huge interest to me and many other first time uni students, as evidenced by our 1500-man-strong lectures. I can’t speak for the 1499 others, but I certainly thought there would be fascinating insights into the weird and wonderful psyche of man; mysteries that would be explored and revealed and still more that I, in time, may be able to unravel.
I was the sort of student that was good at high school, but for whom the independent learning environment at university took a bit of getting used to (read: early on, I nearly failed several subjects and dropped out of several more). It didn’t help that for the first time I was living away from home, in the city, where there was lots of fun to be had. And since lecturers didn’t care whether or not I turned up, I didn’t mind either. However I made an effort to go to psych; not because I’d done the readings, had any remote understanding of Freud, or a blossoming interest in statistics (I’m still not clear why there were so many stats lectures required for this subject) – but because of the massive crush I had on a fellow student.
He was everything a late 90s dude should be. He had long lank hair which covered his face. He smoked heavily; those clove cigarettes that a certain kind of uni guy favoured. He wore grungy old clothes that always smelled slightly of pot and Dirty Guy Smell. He only smiled cynically and was interested in intellectual things and capital-c-Causes. I loved him THE MOST. It was, of course, completely unreciprocated. However the crush helped me pass psych 101 and a year of philosophy (of course he took philosophy), and kept me out of Manning Bar while classes were on, so I guess overall it was a good thing.
By rocking up tokenistically to lectures, I was exposed to a range of psych theories, some of which sunk in and some of which did not. I vaguely remember attachment theory and thinking at the time that it seemed reasonably obvious but of course at the time of its development was revolutionary. Pioneered by Bowlby and Ainsworth, it focuses on the bond between a child and its parent, and particularly looks at the caregiver’s ability to respond appropriately to the child’s needs as they develop. Predictability and consistency are important, as is the ability to support a child yet let them explore and grow themselves. My mother-in-law, an early childhood and family nurse, recently reminded me that to form a secure attachment, a caregiver needs to meet these requirements about 30% of the time. Of course, many caregivers can and usually do far more than this, but this is enough to develop the bonds needed for a secure and attached child.
Most of the time in this parenting gig I’m not sure what I’m doing, but this week has been a doozy. The girl is sick (nothing major but it’s her first time so that’s gotta suck), apparently going through a developmental leap, not really sleeping, and hoo boy it sucks. I’m not taking her to her activities, or other outings, to save other bubbas (well, their parents really) and as a result our days are long and hideous. I get sick of holding her; she gets bored of playing. I’m not completely well myself so don’t really want to go outside walking in the cold; she struggles to sleep in the afternoons if we don’t. Frankly, this week is a bit of a fail and I think we’re both considering our refund options.
I’m simplifying a small part of the theory colossally, of course, but this week in particular that 30% statistic has been a mental life saver. Regardless of how crap our week has been, I’m confident I’ve got it right at least 30% of the time. She has been fed, soothed when she cries, helped to sleep (eventually, and maybe not for long periods, but it’s happened) and had gentle remedies for her wee cold. She may also be bored and stir crazy, but 30%! She may be sick of tummy time and not being able to roll properly, but 30%! She may be grizzly and grumpy and over everything, but 30%! It may only be the bare minimum, but its good enough to form that bond and that’s what I remind myself with when I’m feeling like I’m letting Team Mamalaide down.
That 30% is totally achievable, even on the worst of days. I mean, I totally passed psych, and that was doing the bare minimum and ogling some guy whose name I’ve now forgotten. I wouldn’t dream of only getting a pass nowadays, but I’m a seasoned study veteran now. These are the early days of my parenting career, and I can totally pass this too. Especially if we drop the passing grade to that magic 30%.