Weird Parents

And you’ll know you’re definitely a weird parent if, like me, you look forward to the day when “weird” is the new “normal”. – Janet Lansbury

And suddenly, it’s September. Wow. This year is cruising by. At least today’s weather in Southern California is trying to pretend to be Fall-like with cool temperatures…but as those of us who’ve lived here for a while know…just because the calendar turns (and the retail shelves start filling up with pumpkins and flannel), Fall weather is actually far off. It took me several years of living here before I finally realized that I couldn’t pull out my sweater box in September, or even October… Yes, “Fall” in Southern CA is weird, but you get used to it. Speaking of weird…what do you think of the little snippet (above) I pulled from one of Janet Lansbury’s many wonderful ​articles​?

I’ve been steeped in RIE for so long that sometimes I forget that not everyone sees children the way we do. In fact, I really thought it very odd that respectful parenting influencers like ​Imperfect.Parent​ and ​Mr. Chazz​ were putting up videos explaining how it really isn’t funny to crack an egg on your child’s forehead when they were expecting you to involve them in an activity (click at your own risk), and instead showcasing videos of parents who involved their children. I was like…who needs this kind of explanation?? And then I saw a whole article about it in the ​Washington Post​. Oh my.

Yes, there’s a whole world of people out there that forget babies…children…are whole people. I wonder if it’s not even so much that people don’t see children’s humanity, but are actually compelled and captivated because children are often so much more open and unfiltered. Maybe they are just simply delighted to get a reaction so easily, or maybe it’s easier to tease than to connect. Either way, if you work your way through enough of those videos, you can see the shields children start to put up as they get older. That’s something we all start to do as we work our ways through the world, putting on our shields as we encounter strangers. (But it would be nice if you didn’t have to wear that shield at home?)

But the thing about weird, erm, RIE parents is that you can spot them ‘in the wild’ if you look. Recently, a couple of RIE parents who didn’t know each other beforehand found one another in Kindergarten orientation…a whole auditorium of parents, and yet, these two parents zeroed in on each other and connected. Another two parents lived in the same community and didn’t know they were both in (different) RIE classes with me, but still clicked. Two more Moms met while they were out walking in their neighborhood…because as much as you put on your “face the world” persona, the way you interact with children…and with other adults…shines through. The respect and care you offer; the allowing for feelings and looking behind the behavior; the pause before jumping in…and I can hear some of you now saying that you aren’t like that all the time! Me neither…but we are like that enough of the time, that it makes a difference. Even strangers can see it!

But being a RIE parent can be a lonely path. A lot of the world doesn’t parent like this, and a lot of that world may tease or look down on you when they notice you do. I remember a parent telling me that she lost friends because she ‘let her daughter play with trash instead of toys.’ Ouch. Another parent told me that someone laughed at her when she suggested that she try to talk to her 2-year-old ahead of her first flight. And a lot of the conversations I have in class are about how to apply this approach in parks, playgrounds, and playdates…in public with strangers or in private with family. And while I can give advice til I’m blue in the face, I think what is most helpful are the other parents in classes…the ones who’ve also been through it. They have their own stories and suggestions, feelings and reactions… and it feels validating to know that others are going through the same thing…and that others are also doing this weird parenting thing.

And that’s the beauty of these classes, and something that I heard echoed in each of my groups this week, and something that is a unique and valuable part of all of my classes: a community of RIE parents. Coming to class each week not only gives you the chance to let go of the stresses of life for a little while, not only gives you the chance to really watch the nuances of your child’s development and growth, but also gives you the opportunity to connect with other parents who are on this same path. The connections I have made over the years have profoundly changed me and helped me grow as a human and as a facilitator, but it is the connections I see developing between parents that make my heart happy. Because as those connections and community grows, we’ll get to a place where maybe, just maybe, we’re a little less weird.

But for now…

Stay weird my dears!