A Pocketful Of RIENaomi Odes
Several months ago I wrote a sort of unpleasant review of this book, the first of many books written about a parenting approach called RIE, or Resources in Infant Educarers. If you are curious about the basic premises behind RIE, you can read about them here.
I had a relatively negative reaction to the book in conjunction with my own ideas of RIE, based upon parents that I knew who employed this philosphy in their homes. RIE has a bit of a stigma here in Los Angeles, and I’m afraid my previous post has helped to indulge that stigma.
My curiosity about RIE did not end with that review, since many of my mom friends have at least attended RIE classes, and I have one friend who is employed as a caregiver because of her expertise in this way of raising children. Although I have had many issues with aspects of RIE, there were other pieces that I thought made a lot of sense, and I felt like there was more to learn. So guess what I did?
I went and joined a RIE class.
And guess what? I kind of like it. A lot.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of things about RIE on which I’m not completely sold, but I’m a big believer in questioning things and one of the things I love about this class is the teacher invites an ongoing dialogue about parenting. While she usually answers by pointing back to the structures laid out by the approach’s founder, Magda Gerber, there is definitely an understanding that we all have to do what works for us. However, on the whole, it’s been especially helpful for me in my relationship with my older son as well as Fuzz’s relationship with him.
Here are some of the things that I like about the class:
1. The People: My class seems to be filled with people who are not practicing RIE to the letter (and fully admitted this on the first day- for example more than one family used a baby swing!). This made me much more comfortable with my decision to take the class. I was really nervous that everyone in there would look down at me for not ‘following the rules.’ This is one of the myths I had to dispel for myself about RIE. Anyway, I really like the parents in the class and the babies are great too. Fuzz immediately feels comfortable there and he loves to play with the other babies. Which leads me to the next thing I love…
2. The Toys: The entire room is considered a “Safe Space.” This means that everything in the room is completely safe for babies and you could actually leave the room and be confident that your baby would stay safe. The toys are all placed on shelves that the babies can reach, and they are all extremely simple, like slightly deflated balls (so babies can grab them with one hand- genius, right?) small bowls and lids, little wooden teethers and some stuffed simple dolls. Not one had a squeak, a ding, or a blinking light. Every baby was completely engaged the entire time.
3. The Structure Of The Class: We spend the first 20 or so minutes of the class just observing the babies, which is totally fun and adorable, and also it’s very quiet and relaxing. Then we talk about our observations and have open conversation about any parenting struggles and how the RIE approach can help us.
While I would never claim to be raising my baby with the RIE approach, I have started incorporating a lot of what I’ve learned into my every day life with Fuzz.Here’s what I’ve done so far:
1. I’ve made a safe space in my house. Although Fuzz doesn’t like to play here for much longer than 10 or 15 minutes at a time, it has helped me get some things done (like make dinner) and I’m told that with more time, he’ll want to stay there longer. It’s so much better than worrying about what dangerous thing he’s about to put into his mouth.
2. I often feed Fuzz on the floor with him either near me or in my lap, instead of in a high chair. This allows him to let me know when he’s done (even though he’s definitely picked up the “all done” sign, as well as the sign for “more”) and I also don’t let him chew on his spoon anymore because it interferes with the feeding process. He’d rather chew his spoon and then throw it than eat. Now I try to keep the spoon, by telling him I’m going to keep it. Then he lets go of it and I can give him another mouthful without going through sixty spoons. It sounds harder, but it’s actually less messy than the high chair.
3. I try my best to tell Fuzz what I’m doing before I do it. For example: If I’m going to pick him up, I tell him first. To be honest, I’ve always done this (except when I forget, which I occasionally do, I’m human). This has helped me because I find he is less likely to freak out if I tell him we’re going to put on his onesie instead of just surprising him when it goes over his head. I’m sure most of us do this without even thinking about it. Sometimes he still freaks out, like when I put him in the safe space so I can go to the bathroom, or whatever, but tough toodles Fuzz, mama’s got to go.
Anyway, I don’t think RIE is for everyone. I’m not even really sure if it’s for me, but I’m (finally) enjoying learning about it and I’m interested in continuing this journey as Fuzz grows out of the baby stage and into a toddler.
Janet Lansbury, I hope you are proud, or at least, hate me less.