“We later met all of the founders of La Leche League, who told us that if they hadn’t been so overwhelmed with focusing just on breastfeeding education and support, they would have loved to do what we were doing--focusing on parent education. It was obvious to them that their model of mother-to-mother support was needed by all parents, whether they were breastfeeding or not, as parenting is so demanding without mentors, peers and listening ears.”
Celebrate API's 20th Anniversary with these resources:
On June 6, Lysa and I [Barbara] celebrated the official 20th anniversary of Attachment Parenting International’s founding, but as we like to say: It took us 20 years of teaching and parenting experience to lead us to a decision to start the nonprofit parenting organization you know as API.
As many of you know, we were special education teachers before we became mothers, then La Leche League (LLL) Leaders, students of Attachment Theory and researchers of the childhoods of all kinds of famous and infamous people. It became obvious that SOMEONE needed to do something to help parents navigate the confusing messages we get from our culture: "If you pick them up, you’ll spoil them." "Spare the rod and spoil the child." "They’re only doing that to get attention." "Break the will of the strong-willed child." All of these cultural “truths” are in exact opposition to clear and overwhelming research and biographical data on the optimum care and treatment of children. Yet despite decades of studies, most parents and professionals are still very confused and misinformed! This is the result of the power of cultural myth, family dynamics and imprinting, and excellent marketing of products including books and magazines that have only profit--not child welfare--as their goal.
The journey to this remarkable milestone has been a long one but full of incredible memories and remarkable people. We had our first official "exhibit" for API at the La Leche League of Indiana conference in 1994. There, we met Edwina Froehlich, one of the LLL founders who was so incredibly kind and supportive. We later met all of the founders of LLL, who told us that if they hadn’t been so overwhelmed with focusing just on breastfeeding education and support, they would have loved to do what we were doing--focusing on parent education. It was obvious to them that their model of mother-to-mother support was needed by all parents, whether they were breastfeeding or not, as parenting is so
demanding without mentors, peers and listening ears.
In the early years, we leaned heavily on dear friends in our Nashville, Tennessee, USA, community to serve on our Board of Directors, staff our little office--which for seven years was in Barbara’s house--and volunteer for fundraising efforts. Many were LLL Leaders and friends, and others were like-minded professionals at local universities like Vanderbilt.
Lysahad a teacher friend in Alabama, USA, that was learning how to put up a website on the then-new Internet. She designed a very simple website for us, forcing us to get up to speed, create email addresses and come in to the 21st Century! Amazingly we heard from some moms in Seattle, Washington, USA, who wanted to be our first support group. We were off! Of course, our Board was instrumental in helping us define our Eight Principles of Parenting, mission and vision, and it’s an ongoing creative group that serves on our Board and other councils today, from all over the world!
There are too many people to thank here, but we want to mention Dr. Elliott Barker, the founder of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the journal, Empathic Parenting. He was an incredible mentor to us as we struggled with the idea of founding a nonprofit. He was instrumental in opening doors to other professionals, guiding us in our vision and mission, warning us of those who might oppose us and even helping us design stationary so we could look professional when we wrote letters! He was so thrilled that our organization had a simple model of parent-to-parent support, which was in his experience one of the most-needed components in society. His work with violent young offenders in the Canadian prison system confirmed what Dr. John Bowlby was seeing in England: These young people were all suffering from the lack of love and affection from a parental figure, and the only way to stem the tide of crime and violence is to support parents in their capacity to give love to their children.
As you can imagine, we are over the moon with excitement about the upcoming API-Notre Dame University collaboration! The Pathways to Child Flourishing Symposia, sponsored by the Center for Children and Families at Notre Dame University, is a dream come true--for us and for Attachment Parenting families and informed professionals around the world! Here is an opportunity for all of us to gather together, hear stellar researchers and speakers from many academic disciplines, and finally have a conversation about how to change the paradigm to one of respect and dignity for our babies and young children.
Writing this brings back a flood of memories, reinvigorating why we started API and the gratitude for all the loving people who have given so selflessly of their time and expertise to help families grow strong in love and connection. To all of you who continue to lend your support, we send our love and passionate thanks. And we hope to see you all at Notre Dame in September!
Peaceful parenting for a peaceful world,
& Lysa Parker
Co-founders of Attachment Parenting International & co-authors of Attached at the Heart