Monday, October 31, 2011

Loving Them Just As They Are

I have spent my adult life trying to figure out why parents and society put themselves into a race -- what's the hurry? I keep trying to convey the pleasure every parent and teacher could feel while observing, appreciating and enjoying what the infant is doing. This attitude would change our educational climate from worry to joy. ~Magda Gerber

It seems to me that the greatest gift we can give to other people is to let them know we love them just as they are. That we've all heard this before in some version or other makes it no less profound and no less precious.

I think that's what we do when we simply let ourselves be with young children, without that sense of possession or protectiveness or responsibility that too often attends our interactions. It's in those moments of two humans simply being together that we convey this vital knowledge of unwavering love to even the youngest children, who themselves are then permitted to be, without the obligations that come with being possessed, protected, or a responsibility.

I've been educating myself lately about the ideas of Magda Gerber, with the help of such incredible blog-o-sphere guides as Janet Lansbury and Lisa Sunbury and it's this idea of sincerely and carefully observing (what I think I have previously understood incompletely as "waiting") that resonates the most with me. But this observation is an essentially academic act, I think, without our own appreciation and joy in what the infant is doing or what we are doing together. Not only do we ourselves come to a deeper understanding of the child, but it's only through this heartfelt appreciation and joy that we actually convey to children the unconditional love that is our gift.

It may seem strange, I suppose, for many of us to understand that we, at best, stand on the planet as equals with all the other people, including young children. We are each fully formed, fully valid, fully functional human beings no matter our age. Naturally, we have different lots in life, different blessings and challenges, and are on our way to different places, but we always remain, most of all, worthy of being loved for being exactly who we are.

Parents and teachers traditionally see our role as helpers, instructors or guides; agents for moving young children through the world from point A to point B along their developmental track, ticking off milestones in baby books or report cards like we might a shopping list, taking pride in each "accomplishment." We can't help but look ahead, to anticipating the next destination, worrying about the next bumpy patch, feeling guilty about our failings when we lose our way or fall behind schedule. It makes us impatient, lead-footed, prone to live outside the present moment as we move relentlessly toward a future. We forget to just be with our children as they are right now. That future child does not exist: this is the real child, the one before you right now, and she is perfect.

We are, in fact, at our best when we manage to successfully override those instincts to help, instruct, or otherwise guide a young person and instead give him the space and time to struggle, to practice, to come to his own conclusions. This, not our superior experience or intellect, is the great gift we have to give to children: to stop, to really see who they are right now, and be with them in appreciation and joy, loving them just as they are.

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Rachel said...

Thank you so much. I run parent & child groups, where I've resisted spelling out the educational benefits because I want parents to just be...this explains it so much better than I could. Please may I have permission to copy & distribute this particular entry? Rachel

dulce mareas said...

Thank you. I am taking a sabbatical to learn to do just that. Appreciate what is in children not what could be in the future. Your words are an awesome reminder of what we must value....

Mullin Avenue Workshop said...

This is such a thoughtful post. Thank you as well for providing the name of this person, I plan to look her up and read more.

Cathy said...

Great post and a great reminder to stop and appreciate the here and now.

katepickle said...

This is something I find quite hard to learn as a parent. I always seem to be wishing the days away, waiting for my kids to be better at this or get over that stage.... and I know I miss so much and do them a disservice by doing it. Thanks for the reminder.

Erin said...


Thank you.

From a parent and a fellow teacher. We do try to rush too much, too get through the curriculum, to get ready for the standardized test, to, to , to.... I'm better with my own kids than with my students. I don't care if my kids bomb the test (when they get there), but my boss cares.

I focus a lot on the future and on being a good teacher and parent but I try harder to be in the moment with my own kids. Natural I suppose. I find it easier to be in the moment with my students when I have a small class. Again, natural.

Love your post, as always

Amy Brown said...

I find the times when I can just be with my children as they are to be the most restful and enjoyable times as a parent. It can be almost meditative, especially if I am not doing something else at the same time; it requires mindfulness and an acceptance of the moment we are in. I think this is Zen or something, but I don't know enough about that to be sure.

In our society we spend so much time rushing and "being productive" that just be-ing with our kids can seem like a waste of time. It's not.

janetlansbury said...

Tom, Magda Gerber would have loved you! You have an innate understanding of the ideas that Magda was all about... Acceptance, the joy of just "being" with children was a BIG one.

I'm honored to be one of your blog-o-sphere guides and especially thrilled to be introducing you to Magda's work.

And I was struck by a thought reading your artful, as always, post... You know how we're supposed to need to love ourselves first, before we can truly love anyone else? I disagree. I believe that loving children for who they are from the moment they are born (if not before) helps lead us to loving ourselves. The work we do with children (ours or others) has the power to heal us. At least that's what I've found.

Firuzi said...

What a wonderful post! Thought-provoking and full of love.

Thank you!

Krys - Baby Massage said...

Thanks for the reminder!

CARRIE said...

With my oldest child, I was constantly in her face, actively playing with her, trying to make her brain "the best it could be." She always wanted me to play with her even as she got older. It is a 2-way street.

My middle son says to me, "Mommy, I want you to watch me play." And that is all he wants. Me on the floor, next to him, watching him. Maybe interact. Maybe not. But just be with him and not occupied with other things.

My youngest son is only 2 so I will be interested to see how he plays and whether he wants me to be actively involved, just watching or something else entirely.