Breathing for Calmness

I’m never sure what I’m going to write about on Wednesdays. Normally, this would give me anxiety…just like, as a new RIE teacher, it would give me anxiety to walk into a classroom with no agenda. Inevitably, though, I don’t need an agenda in class…in fact, an agenda would be counterproductive to a RIE class…because I would be telling parents what *I* think is important, instead of listening and responding to what *they* are struggling with or wondering.

And that’s what I hope these weekly emails are for you…an echo of what I’m hearing, collectively, and hopefully a helpful response.

To be honest, I think this is all getting all too real for all of us. I’m staying far away from the news, but I know the highlights. And I know the safer at home order has gotten stricter, and we’re all to wear masks* when we do go out. I know that many workplaces are getting into the rhythm of distance working and schools into distance learning…which means there are more demands on your time…just as your children have started to reach the point where they are really chafing at losing their trips to the playground, music and RIE classes, to the library, etc.

I just read an article online that I think really gets to the root of the problem… We both felt guilty for the work we were not doing — and aching for the way our son was struggling and needed us to be present and calm. But that’s exactly what our current schedule prohibits, as we run back and forth between work calls, requests, and parenting….

I highlighted the part that stuck out to me. Most of you have been in classes long enough for me to tell the story of how the children in my primary group in childcare one year were just the WORST at staying seated. My big bad ego (RIE student, Child Development degree, Master Lead Teacher) was stinging…especially when I realized it was my fault…I was constantly forgetting their sippy cups, or to pull something out of the microwave, or the washcloths…or I’d jump up to answer the phone or throw something away. In short, as many times as I ASKED children to stay at the table, if I wasn’t doing it myself, neither were they. As soon as I got my act together and was able to stay present PHYSICALLY and mentally at the table, children were much more able to stay seated.

Now, this is not at all a finger wag of “get your act together.” Not at all…but if you are experiencing what the author of this article is (The texts and social media posts bouncing around my circle all echo each other. We feel like we’re failing at both. Our kids don’t just need us — they need more of us. Our kids are acting out, abandoning the routines they already had, dropping naps, sleeping less, doing less… )…I just want to say…you’re not doing anything wrong at all.

These are challenging times. The schedules and routines you had before are gone or vastly different, and you are still figuring it all out…your children feel that and are reacting to that. This is simply a reaction to the changes and uncertainty…and it’s totally a catch-22…your routine is upside down, so your children start behaving differently, so you try to adjust to them, which is also weird…and the circle goes on and on.

Let me offer a place to get off the merry-go-round:

Last week, I watched a video (only available on Facebook, unfortunately) from Pikler USA (Emmi Pikler was Magda’s collaborator, mentor, and friend) which had some profound messages of clarity and wisdom. One that resonated with me, and I’m going to paraphrase here, was the idea of a pause…a pause with a breath.

Put your hand on your sternum, take a deep breath in and let it out. And then again, but as you let it out the second time, let out a small sigh at the same time. What happens to your sternum? What happens to your shoulders? Are your teeth clenched?

In short…what is your body doing? How is it not only demonstrating your stress, but perhaps also contributing to it? Just like when you ‘name it to tame it,’ your frontal lobe kicks in and you can start to calm down…when you bring awareness, even briefly, to your breath and body, your ‘lower brain’ can kick in and bring calmness.

Of course, calmness is not “the answer.” As that article goes on to lament, there isn’t likely a real answer…the merry-go-round keeps going…but I really appreciate the question posed a little later on in that Pikler webinar…In that moment of stillness, of calmness, Ask yourself…what can I learn? Can I find meaning? What do we as a family want to learn when we are this close together? What do we want to put our focus on?

The merry-go-round will continue to circle, but you can choose what you look at, whether you laugh or cry, and who you ride with.

Wishing you a peaceful ride,


*Remember, the CDC does not recommend masks for children under 2 because of breathing concerns. Instead, it is recommended that you carry them in a chest facing sling, keep them in a carseat or stroller with the covers on, or just not go out with them.