There is nothing I appreciate hearing about more than a personal revelation – one of those magic moments of clarity we have at least once or twice, maybe even several times in our lives. And I’m especially intrigued when these moments involve a subject I’m passionate about — respectful, “whole person” infant care, a vision of infants as able participants in life, creative beings and competent self-learners. This is Magda Gerber’s RIE Approach. One young woman (whose letter I shared here a year ago) described her discovery of Magda’s theories this way: “…suddenly, everything stopped spinning, the noise fell away, and the edges became crisp and clear.”
I recently read an inspiring account of a mom’s “small but powerful moment” of realization while her toddler daughter was crying. It was written by parent educator, infant/toddler playgroup facilitator and family advocate Christine Rupp, and she graciously allowed me to share it here …
Sitting in my college psychology class, I remember hearing the phrase “to hold another’s thought” as a therapeutic tool; the simple act of really hearing someone’s story, emotions, beliefs. It’s not about our response, and certainly not about us giving advice or making it better. It’s simply about allowing the feelings to be expressed and held by another human being, and therefore validated.
I loved that concept then and was recently reminded of it in regard to our children’s emotions. As the sweet, easy-going babies I met last spring when we opened have grown into toddlers, I’ve marveled with their parents about the emergence of emotions, opinions, desires and self-will. It’s the natural progression of development, but it can take us by surprise and certainly makes parenting more complex.
I’ve recently taken to the work of infant specialist Magda Gerber and her approach to infants and young children that fully respects their developmental skills and emotions, being conscious about embracing where children are at and not hurrying them into the next skill or past a negative emotion. In her book, Your Self Confident Baby, Gerber writes about how uncomfortable adults seem to be with a crying child. We shake a toy, tell them they are OK, distract them from their emotion in an attempt to end the sadness. Not that we shouldn’t comfort our children, but maybe we can rethink these everyday experiences to allow our children the space and peace to feel their feelings.
After Laurellai spent last Saturday with Daddy, I arrived home from work in the evening so that Doug could quickly scoot out for errands. As Laurellai watched Daddy’s car pull away she was sobbing, “I miss Daddy . . . I want Daddy”. Usually I would pick her up, bring her to her toys, pull her into play and ask her about her day, but this time “holding another’s thought” surfaced. I stayed where I was and let her cry at the door.
After a minute she walked over to me in tears. I picked her up and said, “you’re sad Daddy left” as I hugged her. I didn’t try to distract her or make her feel better by explaining that he’d be back soon. I just let her cry.
For those two minutes I had this unfamiliar sense of just being totally in the moment with her. It was probably the most genuine moment we have ever shared. Soon enough she asked me to read a book and the moment had passed.
I was reading a post today by Janet Lansbury about the agonizing process of ditching the pacifier. She recommends a quick, simple experience involving your child, like gathering them into a bag and disposing of them. She states: “This will be far easier than you think, but she may well have tears and ‘grieving’ of some kind. Allow her to. In fact, encourage it! Don’t distract her out of her feelings. She needs to express them.”
Interesting thought, crying when you’re sad is OK, even good for the soul and let’s be at peace with it.
Christine Rupp, MS, CCLS, is the founder of Harmony Natural Learning Center in Newbury, MA, an educational center for children and their parents. Harmony’s mission: “Amidst a fast-paced, highly wired, more-is-more culture, we seek to protect the innate wonder and curiosity of childhood by offering children the time, space and inspiration to engage in natural play.”