Care is the first lesson of love.
Last week I wrote about the magic of the Educaring classes I teach…how the experience in class taps into the same vein of ancient human pleasure that we experience when we spend time in and observe nature, snuggle with children, and engage in communal meals. Maybe you paused when you got to communal meals, but I bet you didn’t. I would guess your mind took you back to communal meals you’ve spent with people you cared for deeply.
I can think of a lot of examples of gatherings of family and friends: one of the main ways we gather in society is around food. On our annual family reunions, we each take turns cooking for the entire family and no one ever misses a meal (well, aside from my Aunt ducking out to take a quick picture of the sunset ). And this tradition persisted even when my Mom needed to switch to gluten-free, and through the years my cousin switched to a vegan diet: we adapted our meals rather than singling them out…that’s care and love.
Another communal meal I think of? Class snack.
Snack. Ah, that magic word in RIE class. Children who don’t have a lot of words yet will go to the wagon and pull out my snack bag or snack mat. Children who do have language will very carefully enunciate, “Mel-a-ni, ba-na-na time”, maybe signing ‘banana’, maybe pulling a parent along for support…either way determined to make clear their desire for snack. And if I happen to announce snack when no one has asked…well, let’s just say I try to time my announcement because children drop everything to come to snack and I hate to interrupt them!
Just this week I had an older toddler who was having a really hard time adjusting to class (he’d been in classes with me for a while, but he and his Mom moved to a new group): he kept asking his Mom to take him home, he pulled on her to bring her around the room, and was getting increasingly upset…until I suggested we start snack. He immediately came to me and began the long process of preparing snack, happily and enthusiastically ate more bananas than I ever imagined one single person could eat, and then played contentedly for the rest of the class time and didn’t want to leave.
If you’ve been following my newsletters for any length of time, or if you’ve been in class with me for a while, then you know that I strongly believe that caregiving strengthens attachment. When you see a need and meet it (or even if you let the person know you’ve seen the need) that strengthens the bond between the two of you. And what is caregiving but meeting a need? Changing a soggy diaper, helping someone rest, and, of course, feeding someone who is hungry…these are all acts of care. And when you level that care up by slowing down and involving the other person in the process (which helps the other person feel relaxed and seen, helps you really see them, and helps you both get onto the same wavelength) …well, it’s no wonder that caregiving strengthens attachment.
The thing that got me thinking about this was a special poem that was shared with me this Valentine’s Day. A Mom from bookclub (and formerly from classes) shared the love poem that her oldest child’s class collectively wrote and I can’t stop thinking about it, even a month later. I think it speaks so much to the truth of love…care.
In this poem they talked about special moments like ‘pizza on a Friday night’ and ‘cookies made by family’…and also very routine moments like ‘giving hugs with mom at bedtime’ and ‘playing soccer with a cousin. Taking a walk with your brother. Laughing with Mommy.’ There were many references to food, but the last line got me: ‘Love, You give them things that they like a lot.’ And how can you give them what they like a lot, unless you are paying attention?
Children Humans experience love through care: Yes, you probably fell for your partner for a reason like their striking good looks or the way they made you laugh or think or feel…but think about what keeps you connected. Do they see your needs? Do they help you meet them? Can you think of moments of caregiving that deepen your mutual relationship? What about your friend relationships? How do your friends provide care for you?
And now think about your child, who you may also have fallen in love with when you first laid eyes on them, and who undoubtedly delights you in a dozen different ways…and think about a moment of care you shared when you felt that connection and love grow. What comes to mind? Care to share it?