Just Wait…a RIE in Real Life example

What a difference a week makes. From triple digits last week to almost Fall-like weather this (with some rain thrown in between, just to mix things up!).

It’s funny…that’s very much an example of the theme that’s been coming up for me this week: is life tough right now? Give it a minute…slow down and see what happens. It will pass.

It happened to me, quite literally, yesterday…it was so cloudy and damp when I started class that I had to use my sun finder app just to see where the sun WOULD be IF it came out later. And then, 90 minutes later, all the gray had burned away to reveal the most gorgeous blue sky with the fluffiest white clouds…I wish I’d taken a picture, but I just couldn’t stop staring long enough to pull out my phone! (Picture above is of some other clouds that I couldn’t stop staring at, but DID grab my phone…)

But beyond this Mark Twainian weather phenomenon*, this is very much a RIE principle: slow down. Actually, Magda says it best (doesn’t she always?) in her film Seeing Infants with New Eyes:

I always feel sorry when a child shows me some discomfort…and rather than waiting and seeing what I can do, what the child can do…or waiting til it goes over, the child gets either tickled or a rattle moved in front of them…

She goes on to make the point that when we do that, we tell the child don’t dare to feel uncomfortable… but life is uncomfortable at times. It’s okay to feel that!

That’s an important and very valuable message, but back it up to the beginning of the statement…rather than waiting to see…

In this fast-paced world we are always so quick to leap to solve a problem or to solve a potential problem, we have a hard time slowing down and just letting a child experience a little discomfort, struggle with a problem, or follow their (safe) impulse. That’s what we practice in RIE classes: slowing down to see what the child can do, to see what the child thinks, and how they feel.

I had an unexpected example of this just this week…

We were trying out a new spot for class, and due to a herd of (toddler) soccer players, I couldn’t set up in my choice location. That is to say, I couldn’t set up out of sight of the very awesome play structure that’s also at this park. Ah well, I thought, this will be a good opportunity to practice limits and boundary-setting.

And it was: most of the children noticed the structure, and a couple went towards it, but we set the limits and they came back to my RIE circle. But one child was certain that his mother brought him to this playground…not to RIE class. And he was devastated that he couldn’t go to the playground. So, we paused, we empathized…and then we honored his impulse: his mother took him to the playground. If that surprises you, read on!

I checked in on them after a little while, gave some suggestions for language to use when she was ready to bring him back to class, and eventually, he DID come back to class. It wasn’t on my timeline. And while it wasn’t completely on his mother’s timeline either (she wanted to be at class with her RIE parenting friends), she knew he was under-resourced from not sleeping well the night before and that he’d missed his regular and routine morning playground time. This isn’t to say she’s always going to miss a portion of RIE class in favor of playground time, but in her pause while she empathized, she considered what she knew about him and his night…and she realized that she could, in that instance, let him follow his instinct.

You can’t always follow a child’s impulse, but you can…almost always…slow down…and just see what happens.

In the same class I had another toddler who really wanted to start snack early…pretty much from the moment he left his mother’s blanket (where, ahem, he had been snacking). He walked over to me, signed and said ‘banana’ and when that didn’t work, he walked over to my wagon and pointed at it, saying ‘snack’ while nodding his head encouragingly. When that didn’t work, he began to try to pull out the snack bag on his own. We told him several times that we needed to wait for everyone to arrive (or come back!), but he persisted in asking. And asking. And asking. My best advice there was to…you guessed it: wait. He had heard my answer; he had heard his mother’s answer. He knew the answer was ‘wait.’ He didn’t want that to be the answer, so he kept asking…but that doesn’t mean we had to keep the conversation going. So, in this case, I’m saying you can ‘wait’ after you’ve set the boundary. You don’t need to keep setting it over and over again, even if they are asking over and over again. You know what happened in this case? He eventually moved on and began to play (and yes, he zipped back over once it was time for snack!)

I wasn’t sure this is what I wanted to write about this week, but a text conversation helped me land on this theme for my RIE in Real Life this week.

This Summer has brought a lot of change to my life, some good and some very sad, and it’s still all unfolding…maddeningly slowly and completely unpredictably. I’m, well as Magda would say, I’m uncomfortable. And a parent, checking on me this week, reminded me that this time will pass. She didn’t say ‘it’s okay’ or offer any platitudes or false cheer. She’s just waiting with me until it does pass. It’s what I encourage her to do with her children, and it’s what I was forgetting to offer myself. Sometimes it takes a RIE Mom to teach a RIE teacher.

Thank you.

And yes, as some lyrics in a song I stumbled across this week reminds us…This world can get kind of cold, Summer comes and it goes, but pain turns into hope. That’s the way it goes. And RIE parents are some of the best at holding and waiting through both the Summer joys and the world’s pain.

Wishing you a weekend of comfort,


*What’s that Mark Twain saying? Don’t like the weather in New England? Wait a few minutes; it’ll change.