I have a confession to make…I am a recovering Professional Worrier.
Professional? Yes. I know, as I unknowingly made it into a career.
I might just be among the best. You see, I started my apprenticeship when I was very young. By the time I was five years old, my family had given me the affectionate name of “worry wart,” not something that most of us aspire to have as our moniker.
As I grew up, I tried hard to be well prepared in case anything went awry. I worried about everything and everyone. I could and would worry here, there, and everywhere in between.
As a parent and a caregiver, I worried a lot. Do the infants in my care have what they need? Could I do more? Have I planned enough?
The continual worrying was exhausting, but I was really good at it.
What does this have to do with the Educaring® Approach?
Just about everything!
Magda Gerber addresses this topic in her book, Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect. She understood that parenting is “the most difficult job for which you cannot really prepare yourself.” Can we make it easier? My answer is yes!
How?–“by not trying to do the impossible while missing the obvious.” She advises parents to “relax, observe, and enjoy what their babies are doing, noticing and enjoying new skills as they develop naturally.”
Magda shares that our role as parents and caregivers is “to provide a secure and predictable environment.” We are encouraged to “be sensitive to your infant’s changing needs; the infant has to feel your caring presence. But, you don’t have to teach. You don’t have to buy more gadgets. You and your infant can just exist and enjoy each other as your relationship develops.”
That last sentence sounded so peaceful and unlike any parenting or child development information I had ever encountered. “You and your infant can just exist and enjoy each other as your relationship develops.”
The Educaring® Approach invites each of us to become fully present and aware of our own attitudes, feelings, and perspectives.
I realized that my own unneeded concern could cause a knee-jerk reaction (versus a thoughtful response) and leave out the opportunity for me to carefully observe and read the baby’s cues. Maybe this is what Magda meant about “not trying to do the impossible while missing the obvious?”
Striving to be more mindful has helped me find a natural rhythm with each baby, and our relationships have deepened as a result. As I learned to move slowly and observe, I watched the children experience pure joy and a true sense of accomplishment from their movement and play. I witnessed the development of persistence, self-determination, and resilience; lifelong gifts they could carry with them.
What can you do if you find yourself getting anxious and worrying? Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, has a suggestion. She developed a mantra, “Worry doesn’t work.” By saying it aloud and asking herself, “Okay, so what can I do instead?” —she gives herself time to slow down, reflect, problem solve, and thoughtfully proceed.
And so, I wish for you the chance to let go of the burden of unnecessary worry. Try to set it aside for the children in your care and for yourself. Why? Because “worry doesn’t work” and life is pretty amazing when we are willing to be in the moment.
If you begin to struggle, it’s okay. You are human. You are invited to try again.
Carolyn Paetzel is a RIE Associate
Originally appeared in the FORM newsletter