I remember when Jason was oh, about 7 1/2 months. He had just learned how to crawl. We were visiting my friend Stephanie and her adorable newborn D. We were talking about (what else) our babies. All of a sudden Stephanie mentioned a book she was reading by Magda Gerber. About letting babies be by themselves and letting them cry. I was still totally into Attachment Parenting, so that was what I heard. I’m sure she actually worded it differently. But I could only think of how cruel it sounded.
Fast forward to toddlerhood. Jason had turned one, started walking, and all of a sudden I was trying to deal with a toddler. A kid with opinions. A child that whined. I was running circles in my head trying to figure out how to deal with this new stage in Jason’s life. Luckily I go to an amazing mommy group. Most of the women had homebirths with the same midwife. The midwife started the group, because she had a bunch of mommies with babies the same age. And we all know how you need support and someone to talk to when you are a new mommy. My friend Jeannette, who also had her boy with Margo the midwife, brought me along to the group. And all these crunchy moms gracefully included me into their circle. Even with my epidural, episiotomy hospital birth.
At Jason’s first birthday party I had invited my mommy group friends. And Stephanie, who also had used Margo for her homebirth, but obviously had a much younger son. This is where I first heard, and I mean HEARD, about RIE. Stephanie and some other moms were looking into taking a RIE-class. Not something I can afford. So I started researching the web. And stumbled upon Janet Lansbury’s blog. I read post after post and talked some more to my friends. We were all sold by now. Margo even invited Ruth Anne, a RIE-guru, to come speak at the mommy group.
That’s when I really started to relax about this whole parenting gig. I had about a dozen aha-moments. How much sense it all made ! For 12 months I had felt guilty every time I let Jason play by himself. When I didn’t entertain him. Or teach him new things. He never really cried as a baby. Only when he was hungry, did he start whimpering. But now. This toddler. Whining. Crying. More guilt. More stress.
Now I could relax. Breathe. Trust. Trust in my child that he will reach the next milestone in his own time. Forget about the hidden competition between moms to have your kid be the first. Instead bask in the knowledge that I was doing exactly the right thing by letting him figure it out.
The biggest aha-moment occurred when I read about the RIE-tenet of allowing your child to cry. Letting him know that all his emotions, the good and negative, were allowed and acknowledged. The moment I relaxed about crying and put the RIE-philosphy into action, it became so much better. Our relationship changed from tensely, anxiously awaiting the next outburst, to closeness and understanding.
And I learned something major about myself. I don’t cry. Or hardly ever. I didn’t even cry at my own father’s funeral when I was 14, because I was embarrassed. You know why? Because, as loving as my parents were, I somehow learned that big kids don’t cry. They are tough. Babies and weaklings cry. Even now, seeing an adult cry, makes me very uncomfortable.
This is what I want to avoid with Jason. I am sure that down the road, without RIE, we would have ended up there. It was the only thing I knew. So RIE did not only save my sanity. It saved my son’s acceptance of his own emotions. And it retrieved a big part of me. Though, as with everything, it is still a work in progress.