Slowing Down When You Want to Hurry Up

I want to first stop and acknowledge the atrocities that are happening in Israel right now. My heart goes out to all of the Jewish and Israeli and Muslim families in my community and in this world. I’m lighting a candle for peace tonight, and if you need to talk: I’m here. I’ve ​written before​ about how to talk to your children when the news is scary, a ​couple​ of ​times​ actually. And my heart is breaking that I need to link to those pieces again this week. I don’t often go dark here, but the world can be a dark place. That said, when you meet the darkness with honesty and clarity, you and your child ​find the light​. And maybe even ​grow​.

When people ask me what RIE stands for (Resources for Infant Educarers), I almost always add that I used to think it stood for “Respect Infants Everywhere”…or that it should because respect is at the heart of RIE, but what does respect mean?

What does it mean to you?

I’ll give you a moment.

For me, the idea of respect encompasses a lot…from seeing someone else’s point of view, to trusting them, to believing in them, to making space for them…of course, thinking highly of them…but one of the prime ways RIE asks us to show respect is by giving time for the other person to respond. It sounds so simple, but it’s not an easy thing to do in this world. From traffic lights to self-checkout lanes, everything wants you to hurry up.

But RIE asks you to slow down. To make sure your child heard you. To make sure you have time to see them.

To make sure the two of you are actually connecting.

Slowing down helps us get into the present moment, tuning into our own mental states and becoming aware of theirs.

RIE asks us to slow down in caregiving moments, in moments of children’s distress, as we watch them develop and reach for milestones. Our slower pace allows us to draw children into caregiving, rather than have something done to them…slowing our response to a child’s upset tells them we aren’t afraid of their big feelings (and they needn’t be either) …and relaxing around milestones lets us focus on all of the valuable discoveries they make as they grow.

Each class I hold gives me another opportunity to watch parents slow down and what their children do with that space. I could give 100 examples…1,000…from diaper changes to snack to dressing to sunscreen applications to getting stuck while climbing to getting frustrated with a toy, and on and on…but the examples of slowing down that stuck with me this week were all around leaving class.

Leaving class (school, a playdate, the park, the grocery store, someone’s house…) is a big shift. It’s a shift for the child in that they are shifting gears from one activity to another, usually with some sort of ‘ask’ involved (come to me, put on your shoes, don’t run off, hold still while I buckle your carseat). And it’s a shift for the parent, who often has 16 things on their mind…all of the things that have to happen in the next 20-30-60 minutes, and it all starts with… leaving class (school, a playdate, the park, the grocery store, someone’s house…).

And for that reason, transitions can be rough.

But when you slow them down, they get soooo much better.

This week a parent waited for minutes on end, getting herself completely ready, while her 13-month-old stalked my snack mat, hoping for more banana or water. I’d seen him crawl to her at the end of class before, so that’s what we were both waiting for (and allowing him the opportunity to do), but he was more focused on ferreting out another piece of banana. So, after calmly calling to him a few times, she slowly came over to him and gently lifted him up to take him home. Even though she had a list as long as her arm, she still moved slowly. I’m sure it felt lovely for both of them.

In another class, an 18-month-old was not about to give up the small jar he’d just found at the end of class. He cheerfully picked up many other toys, placing them in my toy bag, but he clung to that jar until it was the last toy. I gently put my hand on the other side of the jar and let him know it was time to let go. He cried and held on, pulling the toy away from me. I held on, letting my hand and arm follow his movements, until he finally opened his hand and (sadly) let me take the container. I could have pulled it out of his grasp, but that wouldn’t have felt good for either of us.

And perhaps one of my favorite examples of slowing down in the face of a transition…

I once watched a 3-year-old who needed to change clothes before they left…happily, his Mom had swim trunks with her because they were heading to a swim class directly after. In moments flat, this child divested himself of all of his clothes, tossing his shirt into the air. He threw his head back and watched it spin and then arc its way down to earth again. Perhaps inspired by the way it spun, he laughed and spun around, too…away from his waiting mother and swim trunks. His mom called to him, inviting him to come over and put on his trunks, but he laughed and kept spinning for a moment.

She waited.

He spun and laughed.

She waited.

After a few moments, he walked over to her, put a hand on her shoulder and stepped into his trunks. Done.

But what struck me was this Mom’s lack of urgency. Yes, he needed to get into some clothes (lovely as it is to wander around naked outside…I guess??). And yes, she was waiting on him. She had a task…this was, as Magda termed it “wants something time.” But she waited, letting him enjoy a few moments of silliness outside in the fresh air before he made his way back to her. So often, when adults ask for ‘cooperation’ in a task, it means “come to do this right now.” But no one likes to feel rushed or ordered around…by slowing down, she embodied this sense of seeking cooperation, not obedience.

The relaxed and unhurried pace of a RIE class takes away the sense of urgency that tends to be the baseline for so many of us, and it’s something I hope you can carry with you throughout the week.

And speaking of that, I’m excited to announce the first of my Open RIE Classes, starting this Sunday, 3-5. Open RIE requires advance registration (just email or text me before Sunday at 10AM), but it is open to all ages and all caregivers. This class is for families who are new to RIE and want to learn more. It’s also for “RIE graduates” who would like to come back and reconnect with other RIE families (and me!). It’s a class for partners of RIE parents who don’t regularly come to class. It’s open to all ages of children (but again, you need to pre-register so I can set the environment up accordingly!).

And yes, there will be bananas.