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It’s my birthday! Happy 37 years Earthside to me :). Birthdays are pretty special. I remember the excitement of being a child and knowing a birthday was drawing near.
My parents always made us feel wonderful and spoilt on our birthdays. I loved watching the number tick over, making me a year older. I loved being able to choose my birthday dinner (it was always Mum’s homemade macaroni cheese) and of course, there were the gifts.
You know that feeling you get when you are on a theme park ride that suddenly drops? Your stomach leaps out of your body and you have to catch your breath. You get the same feeling when your car drives over a crest at speed. It feels like an ampule of adrenaline has been injected into your bloodstream as you take a moment to settle yourself.
Now imagine that you are brand new to this huge, open world; all you have known previously is a confined cavity. You have been unable to travel through air, as your surroundings came everywhere with you. You have felt cushioned bumps, jumps and ups and downs but it has all been experienced within the surety of the womb in which you have been enclosed.
And now you are out. Now your senses are bombarded with bright lights, loud noises and motion through space. It takes a while for your still-focusing eyes to adjust to all the stimuli you see and your vestibular system, the one that helps you find balance, is still trying to make sense of all the movement you are now experiencing. Life has suddenly gotten a whole lot faster and it can be stressful trying to keep up.
Before I learned of Magda Gerber’s respectful parenting approach I would have never thought to associate caregiving time (feeding, diapering, bathing etc) with quality time. Quality time, in my view, was time spent playing games with the children, having fun, going for icecream, running around with them at the park etc. It’s true, that these things can be quality time if done mindfully but I now know that the type of quality time Magda spoke about, Wants Something Quality Time, far surpasses these other types of quality times spent with children for many reasons.
I stared at the dimmed screen of my phone, looking over my baby’s tiny body. The red notification bubbles drew me in and I set to work accessing them all whilst she completed her job of breastfeeding. In the beginning, I was glued to my feeding chair for an hour at a time, many times a day. It seemed like the ideal time to catch up on my emails, messages, and Facebook notifications. Often, my baby’s eyes were closed so I read whilst she fed – perfect!
Only, over time, I began realising that there was so much I was missing out on; so much SHE was missing out on. Although we had an intimately physical connection in those moments, mentally, we were out of sync. I was not supporting her as her caregiver. I was merely providing the food and inviting her to help herself. Continue reading
She sobbed heaving sobs into my chest as I wrapped my arms around her. Her strong emotions spilled out as her tears soaked my shirt. I held her for the longest time; saying nothing, just listening and holding space for her to communicate to me her inner-most thoughts through her upset.
A thought flashed through my mind in that moment about how much I love it when my children have a meltdown. I didn’t always but I have learned over the years that so much good can come from them if I am accepting of the feelings that surface and hear the messages in their screams.
I was recently in a discussion with a mother who wanted to help her husband understand and adopt a respectful approach to parenting as she had done. His parenting style and hers were in conflict and it was causing some tension in their relationship and confusion for the children. It’s not the first time I’ve had this conversation with a parent and from reading through respectful parenting forums, I have seen that struggling with different parenting styles is an extremely common issue.
It got me thinking about how my husband and I work through our parenting differences whilst still ensuring our children are raised with respect. The move towards respectful parenting following Magda Gerber’s Educaring approach wasn’t an easy or smooth transition for either of us but we have definitely come a long way since bumbling through our early days of parenting.
When I was first introduced to RIE parenting a little over four years ago, I was grateful to have specific advice for raising my then 18mo and 5mo with respect. I read as much as I could, copied out scripts to use in speaking with my children in certain situations and followed what I saw as “the rules” in order to give my children the wonderful, supportive childhood that most of us could only dream of.
It recently occurred to me that with the number of posts I write about the rivalry between my children, it might be easy to conclude that the respectful parenting methods I have adopted to help manage their rivalry over the years have been completely ineffective, otherwise, why would they still rival?