I recently took my son to a birthday party for a young friend of ours. As usual each child was accompanied by their parent(s). When it was time, the children were served and encouraged to eat some lunch, and then the adults served themselves. The children finished quickly, and resumed playing with each other. I noticed my friends (who are very attentive to their child), were eating lunch and visiting with other adults. They really seemed to be enjoying themselves. Half way through the meal, their 3 1/2 year old approached the mother and asked her to go with him and play the game with the other children. Looking down at her plate, she tapped her fork on her salad, put it down, got up and left the table to accompany the child to the play area.
I stopped, started to say something, and realized she was gone. I was surprised at her reaction, and I realized how much RIE had really changed my life. Perhaps if I hadn’t heard and been encouraged so often by Magda to also take care of myself, I might have jumped up to please my child too. Instead I could hear myself saying, I’m eating right now, and you’ll have to wait until I am finished.”
When I work in a therapeutic setting with families, I come in contact with parents who have”sacrificed” a great deal for their child(ren). They sacrifice time, money, sometimes their relationship(s) for the sake of the child. So often I hear about how their child doesn’t “appreciate” all they have done for him/her. When I hear this a red flag goes up and I immediately explore with the parents what they are doing for themselves. Usually they have neglected themselves so much that their lives revolve around the children, and there is little left for themselves as a couple or an individual. Often they feel resentful and angry and it hinders the relationship with their child(ten). They are always waiting for the child to say “thank you”, and truly “appreciate” all they have done.
The first time I took my son to RIE, I was struck by the encouragement we got as parents to make sure we got our needs met. Magda would encourage us to respect ourselves, as we respected our child. Learning this has been difficult at times, since all around us our experience is that we “should” sacrifice for our child(ren)! But when we sacrifice what is the price? For the parent they may begin to feel unappreciated, resentful and overwhelmed. For the child they may never learn to respect their parent as a human being with needs; they may feel that they have to do everything for their parent(s) since the parent “gave them so much”, or they may feel such power in the family that they are overwhelmed with all the responsibility.
What RIE has helped me to do is “internalize” that my basic needs are important too. It’s OK to finish eating, it’s OK to take my shoes off, change my clothes, and go to the bathroom, before I change that diaper. The payoff for me is that I feel nurtured, and I can then give back to my child without resentment, or anger. My child learns to respect my needs and others, while learning to respect himself. No one has to be martyred and everyone wins.
Educaring® Volume X / Number 4 / Fall 1989/A Pocketful Of RIE®