Last weeks Sunday Nature Trip, we explored a very wild looking forest and after about an hour we found a green clear lake, surrounded by beautiful old trees. We spread our blanket next to a very old grandma oak. And while I sat there, watching that majestic tree and J climbing on its roots, I reminded myself of the first 18 months and how J has grown and grown, too.
Tall trees need strong roots to be able to stand and hold balance and to be able to provide the whole upper part with enough water and nutrients.
Children might not be plants at all, but I like to think of that metaphor from time to time. Children start as rather immobile beings, lying on their back. Until 18 months they strive more and more for heaven. Starting to lift their head, when lying on the belly. Starting to sit on their own. Starting to stand and finally starting to walk their first steps. And the journey is just at the beginning then. But while striving for height, our little forest children also need deep roots. Otherwise they will move insecure and start falling.
That is why I love Emmi Pikler’s work so very much. In her books and writings she always recommends to trust in the baby’s capability to do every movement alone. When a baby at 7 months finally starts to pull himself up and stands while leaning on the table, no one needs to stand behind him. We can stay calm and trust him deeply and he won’t fall down. And he on the other side will start trusting himself and not rely on us standing behind him. But if we are always ready to hold him with our hands outstretched, our baby will not develop that self confidence. He will then fall whenever we are not behind him. It is the same with sitting and walking. Let your baby grow on its own. Don’t hold him by the hands or pull him to walking. He will manage on his own. Maybe at 10 months, maybe at 18 months. But when he does, he will be much more content to have done it on his own. And he will do it much safer.
So that part is the letting grow. The roots are the other side.
But how do I give my child roots?
One important way is being mindful.
Do you know that situation, when you are not concentrated on your child because you are talking to a friend, writing an email, looking at your phone and your child is going crazy? Running everywhere, leaving the playground, leaving the restaurant, hurting himself, being rather bored etc.? Children need mindful playtime. They DON’T need people to play with them all day. But they need to know you are there. They need to know you see them. You smile at them from time to time. You nod, when they climb up the ladder and you look understanding if they fall on their knees while playing ball. That is one important part of rooting.
Another idea that comes to my mind with the term of roots is the common injury situation. It is an adult reflex, whenever a child (especially a baby) hurts himself, to lift him up and hug him. At that moment you unroot your child. You take him to another height than he is used to and thereby excite him even more. Stay on the ground, hug your child at his own height and hold him close, let him cry and talk to him about the situation. Don’t distract him by saying: “Nothing happened” “All is well” “You are fine!” (How do you know that?!). Let him live and feel his pain as long as he needs. Analyse the situation together and find the spot where he hurt himself. I have made the experience that whenever I lift J up after he hurt himself, he will cry much longer, while he is so much more centered when I just stay on the ground with him.
For us the journey goes on every day. Running and climbing is now ahead of us. At the moment J starts balancing on seesaws. I don’t mean he sits there to bob up and down. He actually stands up and wants to walk from one side to the other. And just like Jean Liedloff already said: A child will rather fall, if he sees our scared face, than if he just concentrates on his body and movements.
In that sense, be rooted.