No rush…Nourish

Sometimes I’m inspired by listening to an interesting podcast. Sometimes Often, I’m inspired by something I witness in class or by a discussion with a parent.

This week my inspiration comes from a typo I made in a text message. 🤷 You never know!

So, in the text, I was trying to type “no rush”…I wasn’t anxious for an immediate response, which is what I kinda feel like text messages are implicitly requesting. But in my own haste, I typed norush which my phone helpfully translated into ‘nourish.’ Rather than being annoyed (well, honestly, in addition to being annoyed), I was struck by the idea that when we don’t rush, we are, in fact nourishing ourselves.

When first reading  Raising Good Humans , I was introduced to the idea that the mere act of hurrying is interpreted by our nervous systems as a threat. That immediately struck a chord with me…I started thinking about how I feel when I’m rushing…my heart rate is elevated, my breathing is more rapid, my body is tense. Actually, as I’m typing this I can feel my foot start to jiggle a little…just thinking about hurrying makes me feel tense!! And when we are tense and keyed up like that, a number of things happen.

We can translate that feeling of urgency and the energy of rushing to children, which will activate their nervous systems, maybe that leads to their behavior changing (and not for the better). Maybe we aren’t thinking as clearly or even really seeing and hearing things clearly, which leads to missed connections and misunderstandings. And it absolutely changes how we move our bodies, particularly our hands…how we touch children.

Hands and how we touch children are such an integral part of this Approach that Magda wove it into the design of the RIE logo. Take a look at both the original, and the updated versions:

Notice in each how the adult’s hand is gently extended, as an offering. The idea was to try to demonstrate the concept of waiting for the child’s response…the adult offers their hand, gently, and waits for the child’s response back…reaching.

A hurried caregiver reaches for the child when they, the adult, are ready…a peaceful caregiver makes their hands into an invitation and waits for the child to respond when they, the child, are ready.

Magda’s colleague and mentor,  Dr. Emmi Pikler  emphasizes this:

Hands constitute the infant’s first connection to the world (outside of nursing). Hands pick her up, lay her down, wash and dress and maybe even feed her. How different it can be, what a different picture of the world an infant receives when quiet, patient, careful yet secure and resolute hands take care of her – and how different the world seems when these hands are impatient, rough or hasty, unquiet and nervous. In the beginning hands are the everything for an infant. The hands are the person, the world. The way we touch a child, lift and dress him: that is us more precisely, more characteristically than even our words, or smile, or glance. In vain we try to hide our irritability, our impatience. No matter how friendly is our smile, no matter what we say, our hands betray us. For just one moment, during the bathing, the thought occurs to us, “I’m going to be late.” We hardly notice that our thoughts wandered. Usually, however, the child has already noticed it and gets upset, cross. One impatient motion and he already begins to cry.

Getting back to my typo…no rush…nourish…to nourish is to promote and provide for healthy growth and development. We nourish children by feeding them healthy foods and offering restful routines…and we nourish them by slowing ourselves down, staying present so that we can see them for who they are and what they can do.

In class this week, a child was on the hunt for sunglasses. It’s been a theme for her lately…seeking out the colorful child-sized sunglasses I have secreted away in one of the many closed containers I place around my playspace. She loves finding them, selecting a pair for her to wear and one for her mother…someday she may even consider placing a pair on her baby sister’s face. She even took a pair home for the week and very emphatically schooled her father on the correct way to wear sunglasses:

So, when she began her search earlier this week, I was excited for her to find them because I wanted to see what she would do with them! And I happened to be sitting right next to the container with the sunglasses!! I had to bite my lip to stop myself from saying: here they are! And I’m so glad I did…it was so beautiful to watch her search. I realized, she wasn’t anxious or worried: she was exploratory. She was enjoying the hunt. She would say, “maybe they’re in here,” as she worked on getting a container open…”oh, no, not in this one.” Then she might play for a few minutes with whatever was in that container. Then she’d remember her hunt, select another container, and then say, “let’s see if they are here,” as she leisurely opened it. “Nope, not this one.” I knew I was right to keep my mouth shut when she selected a container that she could very clearly see did not have sunglasses in it.

I am so glad I’d slowed myself down and resisted the temptation to simply tell her where the sunglasses were. I realized it would have been for my benefit, not really for hers. And it was such a gift to watch her play unfold. And, I hope, a gift to her as well…to realize that you don’t have to have answers right away…it can be fun to see what you learn as you go along on the journey. And it feels good not to rush to the solution.

Nourishing, even.

Would you rather be listening to this, rather than reading it? Good news! I’ve started recording my weekly RIE in Real Life newsletters and you can listen to this week’s, as well as my current audio archive here. (Just the last couple of months for now, but there will be more on the way…I’ll be providing audio versions of all upcoming newsletters as well as going back and adding audio for my favorites from the past, so check back regularly!)