Moving Backward to Go Forward

I think I’m going to have to reevaluate when I send my weekly newsletters out…the past few weeks I’ve managed to madly dash them out (not very “RIE” of me, hmm…?) on Friday evenings, but this week Friday got the better of me. For a good reason…I closed my laptop firmly at 5pm in order to spend time wandering among the fantastic lights at the Holiday Road showcase in Calabasas.

My days have gotten so much more complicated and full in the past few weeks because, as mentioned in an earlier newsletter, RIE asked me to come back to work for the organization. This weekend they made it a little more official and appointed me Interim Executive Director. It’s a big title for a big job, and I’m honored to be asked…and I’m figuring out how to make it all balance with a life of classes and bookclubs and newsletter writing.

I’m getting there…with support and appreciation and too many long hours as I try to remember old systems and craft new ones. But it’s okay because it actually ties very nicely into the theme that’s been resonating with me this week: sometimes you have to go backward to go forward.

It came to me during my mobile infant class this week, as I watched a child who had previously been getting off a box face-first learn to turn around and go backward off of it. This is a skill we want to teach children, but when we wait instead of teach, we have the opportunity to watch them learn to do it themselves. (We just have to keep them safe while they figure it out!)

And this is something ​babies do quite a lot​…going backwards as they continue in their development forward…babies who can walk, will often crawl for a long time before they start walking exclusively. Babies who drink from a sippy cup, still prefer a bottle as they transition. Toddlers who are potty-trained may need to go back to diapers for a little while. It’s okay! That’s all part of development. We think of it like it’s a straight line, but it’s messy. RIE values all the little messy steps because it’s all of that that actually prepares babies for their next stage of development.

But back to climbing down stairs…babies like to go face-first when they first go down stairs and off boxes. They can see where they’re going. They get to map out the distance visually and with objects or their hands and arms. They may (almost always do) fall sometimes. But eventually, they figure it out. And then, maybe by accident, maybe on purpose, they figure out that they can twist around and go down backward. They level it up…it’s actually a pretty sophisticated move to approach an edge and turn around to climb down carefully.

You know, I actually first learned this lesson from my mother, many years ago. She was driving North to visit her mother and there was a terrible accident and traffic backed up for miles. She clocked it: she drove one mile in one hour. Frustrated, she took the first exit she could find, which took her South. In the completely opposite direction she needed to go…but she was moving. She was thrilled. And when she stopped for coffee at a small gas station, she bought a map and the clerk very helpfully gave her backroads directions to get her back on the right track.

She went backward to go forward, and by doing so she learned something new and had a better time doing it.

Lastly, I want to wish a very heartfelt Happy Hanukkah to all of my families who celebrate. May your lights shine brightly. I had hoped to say this on Friday, but what a gift to have 8 days to get the message out!