Give Yourself the Gift of Observation

To families who celebrate, Merry Christmas Eve! Oh, and a Happy belated Solstice, too…the days are getting longer and brighter again.

Whatever you celebrate, I hope you are enjoying a period of slowing down, of rest, of togetherness with family and friends. I hope you’re letting yourself take life in the way you take in a RIE class…by simply observing how it unfolds without judgement or expectation.

In this season of giving, I was reminded of the gift of observing this week. I spent an unknown amount of time watching an 11-month-old child explore my playspace all by herself. She didn’t need any other children, and while she needed to check in with her Mom visually and physically from time to time, she didn’t need any entertainment.

And when I offered her snack, I was thrilled to be able to focus just on her…watching for her subtle cues of readiness and hesitation… in a full class, I might see her orbiting the perimeter of snack, watching, but never nearing. I might have thought she was disinterested. But with the luxury of observing only her, I could see her keen interest. I could see her carefully weighing her desire for sweet banana against her hesitancy to engage with me. With that luxury of time, I was able to really wait and watch her make her choice for a washcloth…and notice the moment she shifted to allow me to wash her hands. I didn’t need to watch closely to see her clearly and decidedly decline to let me put on the bib she chose…and she got to observe, to learn, that I won’t force her or rush her. I’m excited for the day she is ready to come to the table and engage in of all of snack…but I’m also excited to watch her process unfold.

I got another gift from snack in another class this week. Being a holiday week, a big brother came to his little sister’s class. It was his second time attending with his sister and it was such a treat to see how my simple toys engage even kindergartners. His presence during snack that gave me two ah-has…one was in watching how he coached his sister as she tried to screw in a table leg. I usually say “other way” or put my hand on the leg to physically change the direction…he tried that, and then he said “No Sister, turn it to the RIGHT” and when he saw that didn’t work, he tried something different: “turn it away from the window. Turn it toward me!” Whoa!! Yes! What a great descriptor; I’m totally going to start saying that.

A little later, as the children took turns peeling the banana, I realized (on the 3rd banana) that this big brother was actually peeling very slowly and carefully…but I was rushing the process by pulling the banana away. He didn’t say anything or even look particularly disappointed, but when I finally noticed his intent and careful motions, I made a point of stilling my hand, I realized how much gentler and more intentional the peeling felt. For the last banana, I made sure to still my hand for each child which allowed me to feel each of their unique styles. Who knew, but yes, there is an authentic expression of banana peeling!!

And those are just a few examples of the gifts we’re given when we allow ourselves to slow down, be present, and observe. And the best part is, those gifts are available anytime, anywhere.