Please wait…a RIE in Real Life story


Yes, wait. That’s the theme of my RIE in Real Life this week…it was one of Magda Gerber’s core messages (slow down, and then slow down a little more). It’s actually kind of the secret to RIE, but it can be SO. HARD. TO. DO. Life moves so quickly and pushes us along. But, as Magda would say “what’s the rush?”

I’m kind of in love with part of my commute for my Friday RIE in the Wild class. You see, it’s deep in the heart of Griffith Park which has a strictly enforced speed limit of 25mph. (Or so they say, I haven’t ever seen anyone getting a ticket…) Being the good rule-follower that I am, I take my lead foot off the gas and set the cruise control for the long stretches between the Autry Museum and our little spot under the trees. I can feel the car’s engine roaring, restrained by technology, begging me to give it a little more gas. I can see the line of cars that starts to pile up behind me, encouraging me to move it along. I feel the urge inside of me to be a little more zippy (especially if I’m running late for class). And yet, I mosey on down the road. And when I choose to pay attention, I’m rewarded. We live in a paved-over world* here in Los Angeles. Parks are the city’s gift to our nature-starved souls. The trees, grass (watered with recycled water!), and open spaces are such a panacea. The slow pace also lets me start to sink in a little…to, as one parent put it to me this week, allow my body to get ready to just be present. And on the way out of the park, it helps me hold onto that feeling a little longer.

Not to worry, though, my commute isn’t my RIE in Real Life anecdote this week (though, can you imagine? Is there a more LA anecdote than one about driving?!). No, I think I just noticed my commute today because that word (wait) was on my mind. It’s so often the advice I give parents when they are worried or stressed…just wait a little, whatever’s going on is almost certainly temporary, it will pass. And when we’re watching children struggle, please (please) wait a little before you jump in. For example, just yesterday a parent and I practiced waiting together as her child tried to extricate himself from a tricky situation…

So, let me start by saying that I decided that I didn’t have enough to put on my wagon recently and decided to start bringing big balls to class.

Ahem. And yes, it is a tremendous pain when it tips over.

Children LOVE balls…they love to toss them, to kick them to carry them, to lay on them to sit on them, to put them in things and take them out again. Love ‘em. I discovered that I could fill up a collapsible laundry bag with balls and easily bring about 10 grocery store balls (seriously: Ralph’s sells great and inexpensive balls in the Spring and Summer!) to class. Silly me thought that I would just collapse said laundry bag and only use it to transport materials. Yeah, no…once toddlers discovered this spectacular creation known only to me as a utilitarian object, they played and played and played and played with it…opening it and closing it, filling and emptying it, and (best of all) putting it over their heads and walking around with it (one 3-year-old called it his portapotty!). It was loved so well that it got holes in it (but was still loved by one child who loved sticking his fingers through the hole, ET style). Finally, though, the wiring came out…time to be retired. But I had a light-bulb moment as I went to order a replacement…I got four bags, so more than one child could play and explore with the bag. Genius!


The ones I ordered came with a smaller aperture at the top than the one that broke. The OG basket, simply had 4 sides. The new guys have a smaller opening at the top…which makes it a little trickier to get into…and out of.

Note the small aperture at the top.

And that’s where our story picks up.

A toddler crawled into one of the baskets and actually got all the way in one and managed to turn around and sit (hunched over) for a moment. He looked a little unsure, but his Mom smiled reassuringly and he smiled back, feeling more at ease. He played for a few minutes and then got his feet under him and was ready to get out.

Except…he didn’t know how.

His Mom was ready to come across the playspace and rescue him. Wait, I told her. I moved closer, letting Mom hang back. He was a little uncomfortable…I get it…it can feel confining in a small space, even if you can see out easily. He pushed at the sides a little. I said it looks like you’re ready to come out. He agreed. I said that I was there for him while he worked on it. He pushed a little again and the basket started to lift up a little, yay! Oh, but he stepped through the handle and it was now pulling up his leg…the bag wouldn’t go high enough. He was frustrated and maybe a little scared and he started to cry and walk toward his Mom.

Wait, I said to her again. He calmed down once he was close to her, and we helped him untangle his foot from the strap. But still, I asked Mom to wait. He tried again to lift it up and got further, but the bag still didn’t come off. He started to cry a little more. She started to lift the bag off.

Wait, I said…on a scale of one to five, what do his tears sound like to you? Four, she replied. Okay, I responded, I feel like maybe we’re at a 3…not quite up to 4 yet…and look how his crying has cycled up and cycled down during this whole experience…He’s been struggling, not suffering. (Okay, I didn’t have the wit about me to say that then, but I’m saying it now!). It’s okay. He’s working on it. Just then, his upset really did ratchet up, though, and he kind of collapsed into her lap, laundry bag and all. As he did so, the bag slipped up and almost came completely off. Wait, I still cautioned…worried that Mom would simply take it off. But she didn’t reach for it, and then…he got an arm out, then his head and it was OFF. Phew!

He did it. He got the bag off by himself. He was stressed, but he persisted.

She did it. She let him get it off by himself. She was stressed, but she persisted.

That’s what it’s all about.

Do you have a story about a payoff you experienced by waiting? Please tell me about it!

In the meantime, have a beautiful weekend…visit a park if you can, you won’t be sorry.

*lemme tell ya: I know why the Valley is hot, y’all. I’ve been house hunting for about a month now and I swear, a good 80% of houses I look at have completely paved over backyards…concrete, brick, asphalt…for the entire thing! I don’t know the motivations, but I feel hot just looking at the pictures! It’s maddening. I mean, I know I’ll likely have to do some renovations to the outdoor space whenever I find a home, but digging out a concrete backyard was not something I’d anticipated!