Tabitha writes, “I wanted to share an experience from my family’s first vacation. I just returned form a two-week stay in Mexico with my husband and 15 month old daughter. The first week was shared with my entire extended family as we celebrated the wedding of my younger sister. I was extremely excited to introduce my daughter to the beach and the swimming pool. I grew up in the water and my daughter loves the bath so I looked forward to her excitement in playing in such vast bodies of water.

We have been taking RIE classes since my little one was 7 months old, but it was as if everything got thrown out the window at the beginning of vacation. After arrival, we immediately went down to the pool to meet my family so everyone could see my daughter’s first pool experience. In my excitement, I did not see that it had become about everyone else’s experience, not my daughter’s. My husband and I got in, but my daughter was hesitant.

I still can’t believe it, but I picked her up and brought her in with me! She started crying and I looked around at my family members (strangers to her at this point) trying to “make” her happy by making crazy faces at her and I was snapped back to reality. What was I doing? We got out, I apologized to her for bringing her in when she was clearly not ready, and we explored the grounds by her lead.

Gracie on the beach, 2002

Later that day, I walked with her down to the beach, just me and my daughter. I explained where we were going but I had no expectations, no agenda. We walked to where the sand meets the water and I sat down and my daughter stood between my legs. Our faces were next to each other as we looked out to the ocean. She stood there for five minutes, mouth half open in awe. Five quiet minutes of awe. She will never see the ocean again for the first time, and I was fully present, and honored to share the moment. It was so beautifully overwhelming, I shed tears.

After five minutes, she pushed off me and walked right into the water! On her terms. It was hard keeping her out of the water for the rest of vacation (even the pool, after allowing her to enter on her terms). Reflecting that night, I realized the pool experience was really all about me, masked as me giving her an experience. I wanted to force a beautiful moment like what happened on the beach, yet, what happened on the beach unfolded organically. I didn’t know we were going to have that moment, I was just present to receive the gift. Funny, cameras documented everything at the pool and we have none of the beach moment yet that five-minute memory is seared into my soul.

I love RIE, love this community, and love the continued inspiration to grow as a mother.

I appreciate Tabitha allowing me to share this beautiful story, which I feels illustrates the profound connection and joy available to both parents and young children when we can slow down just a little to be present with, and allow for what naturally unfolds, leaving our agenda behind, and trusting our children to be active participants in their own experience, recognizing that they have a point of view too.  If you’d like to learn more, the community Tabitha is referring to can be found here, and the basic premises of RIE can be found here.

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