they say that the beginning
is marked by birth
never mind what you were doing for ten long months
tucked inside your mother’s core
they want to swaddle you, pass you, restrain you, decide for you
but it was you who decided something already
this morning you looked at a ray of sun
illuminating your own hand
there were no flashcards, no claps of approval
to choreograph this relationship with light
in a few months, a rattle will be used
you will be asked to smile, to coo, to say hello
“Good job, Henry!” “Good boy, Henry!” Good boy!”
is this when we begin to live life for others?
does it begin with a name? a certificate? a swaddle?
does it begin with the toy shoved in the palm of a hand
underneath the morning light? ~ Leyla Momeny
Leyla, who is a public school teacher in San Francisco, penned this poem while waiting at the airport for her flight home after completing the RIE Foundations Summer Intensive Course in Los Angeles. I’m thrilled to be able to share her thoughts with you. This is the first in what I hope will be a series of reflections from parents, care-givers, students and others who are putting Magda Gerber’s RIE philosophy into practice in “real life.” My hope is that by sharing the voices and experiences of a diverse group, we can illuminate ways in which respectful care-giving can benefit babies and adults, and strengthen families. What does respectful care look and sound like? What are the challenges, the questions, the joys, of caring for or parenting babies and toddlers in this way?
Leyla says, “I discovered RIE when my daughter was seventeen months old. It was a wonderful discovery and incredibly thought-provoking and trans-formative. I like to think that my girl has experienced the benefits of RIE, even at a “late” start. It is such a powerful framework for parenting and I can’t think of anything as beautiful and respectful as Magda Gerber’s notion of “wants nothing” time.”
“Be careful what you teach the child, you may interfere with what he is learning. Once, many years ago, I saw a child lying on the floor trying to catch something in a very dreamy, beautiful way. I did not see anything, but I knew that the child saw something. Only as I walked around did I realize that the dust in the air was creating a rainbow and that is what the child saw. That stayed with me as a symbolic reminder so that now when people do things, I want to say, ‘That child may just see that rainbow—don’t interrupt, Wait.’ ” ~ Magda Gerber
“Some days, the “RIEness” of my household is plainly evident: expressions of emotion are respected, play is not parent-directed, interactions are cooperative, autonomy is encouraged and respected, and boundaries are lovingly firm. This isn’t always the case, but it is what my husband and I strive for.
There are certainly challenges to parenting with this approach. People might think you’re a bit wacky. Other parents might wonder why you aren’t jumping up and down with earth-shattering delight and infectious enthusiasm when your child scales a challenging climbing structure or generously hands a coveted toy over to a new friend. It is difficult to communicate your belief in protecting and valuing a toddler’s intrinsic motivation, in thirty seconds or less, to another busy parent across the sandbox!