(Beginning in mid-March 2020, when the world shut down, I began a bi-weekly conversation with the parents who had been in my RIE classes. Since not every family could make it to these conversations, but each conversation touched on important elements, I would often write up a summary of the conversation. What follows is one of those summaries.)
These gray days are hanging on, aren’t they? Today feels a bit more gray and chilly than Thursday’s gray day…I have lamps lighting my table in midafternoon, and the heat is actually kicking on sometimes, and when I went to check the mail, I noticed a neighbor must have a fire in their fireplace because I can smell woodsmoke. It’s cozy.
Another very small call today, in fact only one person joined: my student, Kumi, from Japan! I hope she’ll come back to chat another day, too…it’s really comforting to talk to someone who has been living like this for months (since December!!): she’s living with her parents in a small apartment, together with her two children under the age of 5, while her husband is still in Beijing working…and she hasn’t gone insane yet. See? There’s hope for all of us!! We likened what we’ve all be going through to that same transition you all felt when you first came home with your child…as you waited for your child’s arrival, you were in the image-making stage of parenthood…you came up with ideas about what it would be like, when and how your child would eat and sleep, and what your life would be like. Then your child arrived…and your image swapped to reality. It was an adjustment. For many, a HARD adjustment…but then, adjust you did and things got easier. This will get easier. It may never get to the point of being EASY, but it will get easier.
Actually, it’s truly been a gift to talk with Kumi on a weekly basis anyways…besides our talks about RIE and child development, we also have shared about how we are coping with this pandemic. We both agree that having something to put our mutual focus on has really helped…when we are reading about child development, we aren’t thinking about all of the worries in the world…and for her, she has the added bonus of having a real life RIE laboratory in her apartment, as you all do, too.
One thing she’s been reflecting on lately is asking herself why she’s doing something, or saying something…is it a reaction or a response? And that simple act of pausing to consider has changed her interactions with her children. It’s helping her slow down. She wrote to me about a recent walk she took with her children, keeping an open and slowed down mindset…she said it really let their minds wander to questions around nature and their surroundings, instead of just focusing on getting their daily exercise done. Beyond that, she said that when her children asked her questions about the clouds, weather, or colors of flowers, etc. …she didn’t answer them right away. Instead, she repeated their questions back to them, asking what they though…and it was such an opportunity to get to know them a little better and to hear their creativity!
I love that! Yes, a simple pause invites them to share their thoughts with you. Simply slowing down gives you the gift of seeing your child in a new and deeper way. It reminds me of this stanza from The Parents’ Tao Te Ching:
Go for a slow mindful walk.
Show them every little thing that catches your eye.
Notice every little thing that catches theirs.
Don’t look for lessons or seek to teach great things.
The lesson will teach itself.
Much of the rest of our conversation centered on the webinar we’d both watched recently, so I thought I might share my recap of that, too…it was the Pikler Webinar about Screen Time. As it is a bit of a lengthy recap, I’m going to go ahead and send that in a separate email for you to read later. I don’t want these recaps to be too long!
I’ll just add that at the end of our time chatting, Kumi’s young daughter woke up and came in. I met her when I visited Beijing last Summer, but I’ve really enjoyed getting to see her through the screen most weeks when Kumi and I chat (that’s our clear signal that we’ve run out of time…her children are waking up). Today, she came into the room and immediately looked for me on the screen! I’m loving that I’m getting to know her, thanks to technology. It makes me excited to think that when I see her again in real life, we’ll be that much more connected.
I’d love to schedule a video check in with your children as well, just let me know!
With peace and care,
Ah, and Saturday’s reading from The Parents’ Tao Te Ching…
51. Children Naturally Love Life
Your children naturally love life.
Their love of life is spontaneous
It delights in every nuance of light
It wonders at every shape
It dances in their bodies
They are not taught this love.
It cannot be taught,
If you live this love for your children
you will guide them,
but never demand a certain response.
You will welcome them,
but never smother them.
You will parent them*,
but never possess them.
You will nurture their dreams
and guard their self-respect.
They will honor you naturally,
not because of who you are,
but because of who they are.
Don’t worry about how your children treat you.
Concentrate on how you treat yourself.
If your children see in you
a sincere celebration of who you are,
they will return eventually
to their natural joy,
in themselves and in you.
*I edited this line to make it inclusive of parents who do not give birth.