(Beginning in mid-March 2020, when the world shut down, I began a bi-weekly conversation with the parents who had been in my RIE classes. Since not every family could make it to these conversations, but each conversation touched on important elements, I would often write up a summary of the conversation. What follows is one of those summaries.)
Another beautiful Saturday spent at my computer…though, to be honest, I’m practically outdoors at my desk…you only see what’s behind me when we zoom…my cozy living room, with its big chair and a half (that’s literally what it is called and I love it!), some of my RIE toys nestled next to a couple of bookshelves that I have recently moved my Child Development library to, and perhaps a glimpse of the stairs that lead up to the next level (you’ll probably only notice them when you see a cat slinking (or dashing) up or down them)…But my desk is in front of our big sliding glass door to the patio. I keep the vertical blinds partly open so I can see our lemon tree and my flourishing weed garden (ahem), and the slider all the way open to let in the fresh air and sunshine. Ahh…all of the benefits of being outside…with none of the bugs or sunburns…kind of like glamping!
Another pretty quiet day on zoom, which is A-OK as I always say…I hope that you are finding time to enjoy this beautiful early Summer weather and connecting with your children. More importantly, I hope you are finding time to care for yourselves. I feel like that theme has come up a lot in conversations recently, including today.
Magda’s Approach is designed to make parenting easier, but it’s not always easy…not by a long stretch! As parents and caregivers, it is our job to take care of children who are so dependent on our care…and RIE® shows us how to make it a pleasure (sometimes)…but in order to care for someone else, you have to care for yourself first. In Your Self-Confident Baby, Magda says “Take care of yourself and your needs, without guilt. Be kind to yourself and forgive yourself” (p. 64). You can’t give what you don’t have.
If you can’t step away and have a moment all to yourself, you can still take a breath. It’s amazing what your breath can do for you…when I was teaching Bootoga* regularly, I always started the class with a mantra…something to come back to during the workout to help focus on something besides how much your quads were killing you. And one of my personal favorites was “breath.” From our first inhalation to our last exhalation, our breath is with us. We hold it when we’re nervous, blow it out when we’re exasperated, use it to talk and sing; sometimes we don’t have enough of it and we have to concentrate to fill our lungs. But most of the time, it is just there, sustaining us and waiting for our attention, and the gift it can give us. A slow breath in through the nose, held for a few beats, then released through the mouth just as slowly…you will feel your shoulders come down, your jaw relax, some of the tension can slip away.
And even when your child is stressed and sad, finding some calmness and serenity in yourself isn’t stealing calm and serenity from him or her…instead it is a gift to them, too. It says, “I’m not afraid of your rioting emotions. This happens sometimes. It will pass. I am here.” And their mirror neurons will latch onto your facial expressions and the lack of tension in your body…and start to respond.
If your child isn’t stressed, but IS stressing you, it’s also okay to say “I need a minute. I need to finish my cup of coffee, do a few more stretches, finish this reply to a text or email, read another chapter…” etc. RIE is about relationship, and it takes two to tango. Just as you slow down and accommodate to their pace, it’s healthy and appropriate to set up some boundaries and take some time for your own needs. This is how your child will learn to cultivate space for their own selves and interests as they grow older and begin relationships of their own…become parents themselves, perhaps.
Remember that healthy attachment is time together and time apart. It’s important to have both. I know it can be harder to find that time apart these days, but it’s so important. It’s not something to feel guilty about: it’s self-care. So if that means your shower is a little longer than normal, or you find yourself playing video games in order to connect with friends, or your walks are a little longer…whatever it is that you need to do to fill yourself up, please do it. When you return to your children, your partners, with a full cup, everyone will feel better.
*Bootcamp, plus yoga, plus meditation…it’s a sneaky workout…you think you’re ‘just’ doing yoga, and then you’re sweating like crazy…but it ends with a meditation, so you leave thinking “oh that was nice!”
And if you don’t believe me, maybe this excerpt from The Parents’ Tao Te Ching will help sway you…
52. All Is Well
All beings belong to the Tao
when parents forget this.
Forgetting that you belong,
you cast about for security
and cannot find it.
You look to your children
to bring you meaning
and they cannot do it.
Seeing your pain,
they forget as well
and everyone is in darkness.
But if you can remember
that all is,
and will be
You will bring light to yourself
and your children.
My father always worried
about the future.
I learned his lesson well.
It has taken me years to unlearn,
and still I forget.
What will your children have to unlearn?
How can you begin now to help them?