You can stay at the shore, denying pearls exist.
Or you can dive into the sea, and find out the truth.
I admit I am a passionate woman and this is a passionate post. A post about a woman who turned to be an amazing friend although I didn´t get the chance to meet her in person. A post about the journey I started guided by her words. And about my gratitude for what I found following her path.
I met her around 4 years ago. Our encounter started softly, as a shy relationship. Somehow I came across her name… I don´t know how it happened nor when I read about her for the first time. Never mind. The fact is it happened.
Magda Gerber, a Hungarian infant specialist came into my life. And changed me. As a mother, as a wife, as an educationist, as a parent advisor, as a human being.
In my working space I offer playgroups for babies and infants based on the free education movement. I particularly base my work on the research conducted by Dr. Emmi Pikler and the parenting philosophy provided by Magda Gerber at RIE.
Even when the playgroups are oriented to babies and infants, I notice a clear need in parents for guidance and help.
“How do you do it?”, they ask me. “You are respectful and loving. You don´t shout, you don´t scold, you don´t neither punish nor lose your temper at ANY time and toddlers play in such a self-regulated and harmonious way!”
They believe I am a magician (lol!). Just imagine… some hocus pocus here, some fairy dust there and, voilá! A peaceful active and engaged toddler playgroup emerges. But I know nothing about magic (ups!). Sorry to confess that. My only secret is this: I took to heart the treasure that Magda Gerber has left in her Educaring approach.
When I first read Magda Gerber, something deep within told me it was a great discovery. I didn´t have the need for further research to support what I found. None could have been better than my own, clear, intense and heartfelt understanding: her vision is TRUE. Or even better: her vision offered me a link to my inner TRUTH.
It is not about a theory. It´s about life expanding under a new light.
In my work field I have observed how much guilt parents feel when they cannot strictly follow this or that theory they´ve been recommended as the best one for rearing their babies, which is a real pity because guilt deprives parenting from the joy of being intuitional and respectful to oneself (and therefore to the rest of the world, starting with our babies).
In some cases, intelligent, loving parents even put their babies into real danger (physical danger I mean, such as driving with a baby on the lap or carrying a baby while dealing with boiling water on a stove) because they cannot stand hearing them cry. They know they are doing wrong, still they feel lost. When they ask me for help, we have noticed that having read about attachment parenting and brain damage caused by intense crying was a main influence on their risky decision.
Of course, sleep and limits are also always present in my playgroups parent´s agenda. In an endless insomniac chain of desperate days they have read all what they found on the topic and have tried a bunch of methods. Even when they really want it (and need it), still they can´t put their toddlers to sleep in their own beds and they feel lost in the quicksand of confusion when facing their children´s need for limits.
Since they trust me, they tend to ask for help (they still think I have some magic powder somewhere – I have none, I insist). When I listen to their questions, I tune in. I check my own experiences. I accept them, share them and let them go. Then I connect: what would Magda have answered? God! I don´t know! So I wait… And trust…
I let her words come to me. What did she say related to the particular issue? That´s the lifesaving device that always helps. Parents start nodding in acknowledgment. They get touched. Usually this is enough for them to find their own way through. They start verbalizing themselves their own answers! And I feel a tremendous gratitude.
Differently from other theories, Gerber offers a philosophy, a way of questioning, understanding and interpreting infant education. If you just analyze it from “outside”, without testing it, you may criticize many topics, especially if they are taken out of context (such as misinterpreting “not immediately picking up a crying baby” as “abandonment”, or “not carrying babies” as “underestimating skin to skin contact”).
Accessing to a knowledge that points beyond the regular social standards tends to be generally criticized, because it won´t fit into social accepted ideas of what is Truth. If you stay in that realm, you´d probably find lots of reasonable arguments to judge her approach and even think her philosophy is “outdated”, old-fashioned… as some people do say.
I´m convinced this is simple vain talk, just as staying in the shore, denying the existence of pearls. She was way advanced in the front line of humane vanguard.
But if you dive into Gerber´s vision, if you test it and get really soaked with its principles, that´s quite a different experience. Being it so wonderful, why is not everyone joining in, then?
I guess the hard part of Magda Gerber´s approach is that we, adults, need to reteach ourselves. At least this is what her magic guided me to
- relearn how to WAIT for life´s perfect timing, instead of pressuring into it,
- relearn how to RESPECT in a deep humane way beyond stereotypes and age gaps,
- relearn how to ACKNOWLEDGE and ACCEPT .
Imagine a world ruled under these statements. If we are in any way expanding into an evolutionary process, I would sow for a future guided by these principles. I cannot think of a better way to define LOVE.
She saw that future. She found the pathway to a better world by respecting life from the very beginning.
She did it for babies.
She did it for us.
So the other day, when my heart jumped in joy (one more time) while observing and working with peaceful, happy babies, toddlers and parents I could only say: Hey! There was some magic here after all, but it is not mine… it belongs to her.
Thank you Magda! May this be my humble tribute to you.