Your post is rich with ideas, even though it is annoying, and somewhat sad, to think that you offer them in your defense (in a way -- I am glad you sound levelheaded and clear here,rather than backed into a corner here, as I don't think you *sound* defensive.)
I am a big believer in Attachment Parenting and have tried to keep the ideas behind it in the forefront of my parenting ideal. One the other hand, my inner skeptic comes out around any zealous movement, which is to some degree, which I notice about the philosophy and even my closest AP friends. (I was able, in my opinion, to reap the benefits of AP tenets without actually finding myself obsessive about it by virtue of having two babies at once -- so I could never practice AP perfectly, so to speak.) And, as with any parenting "philosophy" I have seen the happiest moms/kids, and been the happiest myself, when I have had to find an acceptable place within the ideal, rather than at its perfection point.
I say all this because part of my attachment to AP is grounded in wanting that very close connection with Ann and Merry. Part of that comes from my fear about having twins and knowing I could never practice AP perfectly with two. Part of it comes from my "stuff" -- my mother put me in a crib on another floor of the house after I could move out of a crib in a room on their floor, after I was a few months old and was out of earshot and did not need a bottle every two hours so it was more conventient to her to move me farther away, and so forth...) It was what she was instructed to do at a time -- late 60s -- and I think I suffered for that. I read once that "a child's natural response to terror is sleep" and I believe any baby, crying long enough, will go to sleep. I have terrible memories from a very early age of screaming and crying and feeling scared, and those memories made the co-cleeping part of AP especially poignant and powerful sense to me. (Let me say that I am very clear that my mom a) had no idea other than the one she practiced, and has told me it was very painful for her to do that -- she has more than made up for that over the years and I consider her a terrific mother; and b) she needed to have that doctor's advice because she really did not know what to do with small children as she was raised by caregivers -- my grandmother was born in 1902 and grew up with nannies.)
Anyway, I say all that because I really was grabbed by your idea that your little one is suffering from an "attention deficit" of sorts in the sense that she gets bored or lonely -- I seem to remember that you said you were abroad, maybe in Italy/Mexico? -- you are occupied with your work as you must be sometimes, or with housework, or just with communications with Curezone or real live adults in your life -- and can't give her your 24/7. Hence the self-soothing via self-gratification, often to excess in your opinion, in short.
My experience has been very similar both around masturabtion with A+M -- they do it when I plunk them in front of the TV on my bed, actually -- sometimes TV with all its addictive properties is even too boring for them... -- and with their bad moods in general: When I haven't given them enough undivided attention for long enough, they "tell" by acting out or up. (Or playing with yourself, spanking the monkey, although that has really given way to getting into arguments, often involving pulling hair and the like.) The antidote is to stop what I am doing and really play with them (contrary to the conventional belief that twins amuse each other, they are still individuals who like to receive their mother's attention). Anyway -- I say all of this because in part I believe that staying at home and running a house and being the grown-up all day can often deprive me, who once thought that staying at home with my kids would make them into perfectly balanced happy-24/7 kids, of enough focus and sanity at times to do just that -- sit down and focus on them to get things better. That guilt is often very powerful. And the practical side of it is, I do wish I had put them in pre-school earlier -- i.e. after I stopped nursing them last summer -- because I think that a few hours a day of some other adult's closer attention, and the company of children, would have been stimulating and enjoyable for them in a way I can't be all the time despite my hopes and ideals. Stimulating and enjoyable, which is what they crave -- whether it's self-gratification or preschool.
I do have an understanding of Gilda's take on things, and an appreciation for it in a way -- I think she is wrong about the abuse part, but I know where she is coming from in a general sense. Some of the strongest voices in my life have been the ones whom I have fought the most, remaining in a delusion until I have been ready to hear them. I don't and won't believe that you're way off base about your daughter and her playing with yourself, spanking the monkey, but I will say that there have been some occasions in my parenting history, as well as other areas, where people have felt desperate to tell me the truth, where I have been angry and resisted to the hilt, and then where I have eventually conceded they are/were correct.
I've looked at how I have put people in that position -- where they have to get really strong, if not angry, to get their point across -- and have made amends for it later. One of my dearest friends and mentors got really angry with me a couple of years ago when she saw what I did not -- that there was a lot of unmanageability around my nursing A+M to sleep at naptime, how long that took, and that they were old enough to wake up and potentially hurt themselves falling out of bed, etc., and that I was so worn out -- I just did not see those things because I was fundamentally attached to the idea that to teach them to nap in their beds, which involved some misery fo all of us for a week and she had to come over and do "sleep training" -- but they were ten months old and it was time to do that, even though it was against my beliefs -- but the actuality of doing what I was doing was even worse, if that makes sense. I've had to go back to a pediatrican and apologize for refusing to take his suggestion about testing for A+M's weight (they are very thin), and to take the suggestion -- go to a pediatric GI specialist and get them checked out -- as well. So, I do think it is important to keep an open mind to ideas and suggestions even though my ideal tells me otherwise. My approach is to really keep an open mind around anyone's ideas, but to also make my own decision in the end -- I've told you some examples with a good doctor and a close and trusted friend: I am cautious about listening to too many people, though, and "answer-shopping" or trying to find the person whom I want to hear -- I hope all on this thread understand that Curezone may be a place where you come for shared experience, rather than final words!) I stopped listening to the pediatrician about weight after I took ath action of going to the specialist; we kept the girls in bed with us at night even thought the naps in cribs was a good thing overall. It seems to me after reading your more recent responses that youhave exhausted every reasonable option, and it makes sense to me that you have done what a normal good AP mom would do on those fronts -- to go further seems unnecessary, even extreme -- an obsessive idea.
Anyway, I think every child has to detach at some point and that it is always difficult. Whether it's around sleep, or nursing, or growing through, in our case, the close-bond stage with a full-time mother to learning, sometimes with pain, boredom, agitation, and so forth that a mother has to do things like cook and shop and have connections with people other than the children -- well, no kid is going to like that. My husband calls our daughters a Mommy Junkie, and I do think there is some truth there. I also know that from my end I do better when I can pay attention to them but also get the other day-to-day stuff done so that our environment is safe and clean, that they have food to eat that is nutritious rather than out of the box/microwave, and so forth. My answers of late have been to do some time out when they act in inappropriate ways, to try as best I can to get them around other children and parents so they can see how other kids do it, and to keep some structure around our days rather than to try and charge through the day with their not knowing what's next and when they will get that time.
My gut tells me at this point that those things are necessary and good -- indeed, while they will start that two-day-a week, three-hours-a-day preschool in the fall, I wish that I'd signed them up for more days, and I also wish I had put them in preschool earlier. Again, my misconceptions. We've had a babysitter come lately and she is so wonderful with them, and I get some things done and have a little down time, and we are all recharged and restored as they have someone who will devote full attention to them and I feel like I can do some things efficiently and then do something fun with them.
Maybe you should put your little girl in preschool more often so you get that restorative break from each other. I think it's valuable for children to be around other kids and to watch other kids receive and follow direction from adults, especially when they only know us as mothers who have been AP moms from the get-go. I'd look into more structure at your house, too (there is a good book called "The Mother's Rule" or something -- a woman who takes meditation breaks, etc. during the day with her 5 homeschooled kids -- along those lines, if I can pause in the day for ten minutes to get still and quiet and clear, the rest of the day seems to flow much better.) I'd focus on your relationship with your husband in a structured way, too, because I think a fallout of AP with moms and kids is that husbands come last, and I know Tom does better when we are able to spend some time alone, even a quick coffee down the street, together, and that we both feel very connected to each other when that happens. When we don't have that connection, I also see it in the girls -- when we bicker, they show it. And, not to sound extreme and invoke more thoughts, feelings, and opinions from the stadium here, you might look at your daughter's self-gratification as the canary in the coalmine in a way that is not a cry for help because of the Catholic janitor molesting her in the broom closet with the willing consent of those pedophiliac nuns, but in a more reasonable light -- she may be your strong voice here, saying that she needs you to take some breaks and give her more exposure, so that both of you can enjoy your time together more during this part of your journey together.
I have seen this thread go from being a) a mother who wanted some shared experience around a troubling issue (which is what, I think, many of us often need from Curezone) to a pillory that involves fear, anger, and shrill diatribe. My opinion has never changed -- I've considered what everyone has to say, listened more to the people who have shared it in a measured way, played Devil's Advocate and wondered, "Am I delusional around No_Biz's delusion????" -- but my firm belief at the outset has only been strengthened by the past few days.
Again, I'd advise, in general, that you look for the truth but to be quick to accept what I think you do: that your gut feeling around this stuff is reasonable and OK. And I'd also look for ways to maximize your time with your daughter but also to maximize ways to make that sane time for you. AP, for as much as I have learned from it, has often forced me into a state of mind and into decisions where the perfect (being the "ideal" stay-at-home mom, attachement parent) has been the enemy of the very good.