Why RIE?

(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.)

Happy Thursday to you all,

Short and sweet today…I watched/listened to several videos last night while knitting and waiting for people to hop on the zoom. (Fun side note, I may be the last person on earth to discover this, but just in case I’m not…you can bump up the replay to 2x the speed and still hear everything, but in half the time! Though, to be honest, it is pretty odd to hear people speaking so rapidly about RIE!!!)

I wanted to point you toward a couple of videos that spoke to me (at 2x normal speed). The first was a TEDx talk that wound its way, powerfully, to the importance of parenting in the moment. Encouraging parents to let go of the judgement they feel, the worry about their children’s futures…the illusion we have that specific things we do will lead to specific ways children will grow into adulthood. She reminds us that we have influence, but we don’t have control (which I think is the message that parenthood delivers on a daily basis, no?)…pointing out that we all experience life through our own unique lenses…what is peaceful to me might be depressing to someone else. That’s the same for children. Any of you with more than one child are acutely aware that you have to parent each child individually: what is soothing for one can be irritating for another!

Ultimately, she says parenting is akin to the flap of a butterfly’s wings on a hurricane…it influences the hurricane, but you can’t predict how. All you can do is appreciate the moments you have now. Be here with your child now.

That’s a funny thing for someone like me to say, after all, I teach a specific way of parenting and I know a lot of grown RIE children that I feel do have some specific qualities. But I really believe that this speaker and I were saying similar things. RIE asks us to key into the idea that we are raising individuals, separate from ourselves, and to observe who children are, instead of who we think they are, or what we’d like them to be. Be present with them, help them feel safe and seen…that’s what they will take with them as they grow up.

I want to pause and go back to that thought about judgement. This speaker cited a study that says that 90% of mothers and 85% of fathers feel judged, almost as much as 50% of the time. Another video I watched last night makes me wonder if that number might be higher during covid-days…a family therapist talked about some of the reasons postpartum depression is so prevalent. Some of the same reasons she cited, I think, may be the reason many parents are struggling today.

She talked about the distress new mothers may feel when their children cry and they don’t know how to help…and how that can be especially challenging for parents who are successful in work and life; who are used to doing things “well.” Compounding that, home used to be a sanctuary…and now it is an office space, a classroom, a restaurant…and parents are suddenly ‘on’ all the time, 24/7. And on all the time with “no evaluations, no one to tell you if you’re doing something right or wrong…or how to fix it…” And you’re left with just yourself and no real concrete goals, lots of interruptions…and lots of time to be alone with your thoughts. Did you know we have 60,000-90,000 thoughts a day? When you’re spending less time conversing with others, there’s more time for negative thoughts to slip in. And I like what she said about that…you’re left, maybe not feeling depressed, but not feeling like yourself.

Anyone else feel not quite themselves?

I so appreciated her final message: when dealing with her crying newborn, her focus needed to be on herself, what was going on in her own body first. To breathe. To move her own body. To feed herself and her child nutritious food. And to remember the value of touch. I want to encourage you to focus on that GIFT (Go/Move, Inhale/Exhale, Feed, Touch) for yourselves as we move through life in these strange times. Caring for yourself prepares you to care for your children. Allows you to stay in the moment with them. Models for them the value and importance of self-care.

The last video I watched was the most bittersweet for me. It was an excerpt from the 21st Annual RIE® Conference…the first one held at the Skirball Cultural Center, which is something I helped to coordinate and host, a major achievement for RIE and for me. This short segment features two RIE Parents who talked about what RIE has done for them. Nina Hachigian spoke of the ways that RIE alleviates anxiety and loneliness, helps parents be humans, and helps babies (and parents!) have lifelong friends. Antonio Rangel spoke with heart and humor as he outlined how he came to understand RIE, not with blind faith, but with the mind of a scientist. Both speakers made me deeply miss my weekly classes…for the community and connections, the peace and joy, and yes for the challenges! The deep thinking that RIE parents engage in on the regular…the debates we could get into over semantics and gestures…the way we flap our butterfly wings at these hurricanes of humans.

As always, thank you for continuing to be part of my community.