By Bridget Wood
It's been ten minutes now, and Sylvie's attention to her task is showing no signs of waning. She is laying on my bed, staring intently at the fibres of the cushion tassels and moving them through her fingers. About five minutes ago I heard a voice in my head say 'You should really pick her up' but then I recognised what the voice was - my ego, my desire to be needed by her in that moment. Observing the command I commonly use with myself around my children ("Wait"), I left her alone.
Because it's so easy to interrupt babies isn't it? To feel that they need more stimulation, more activity, more cuddles. Or less tears and less discomfort. To trust a baby and allow her to simply 'be' with her surroundings, with her emotions, is one of the last frontiers for us as parents who are deeply committed to facilitating our children to grow into their full selves.
Babies, like all children, are sentient beings with thoughts, inspirations, feelings and a consciousness that is both separate from and profoundly interlinked with our own. They are here to teach us, just as much as we are responsible for teaching them.
Understanding how to move our body naturally, and recognise the ownership we have of it, must be one of our most joyous experiences as new humans. When a well-rested and calm baby is offered opportunities to explore her new world on her own, from birth, she develops the ability to entertain herself simply through being. It is one of the richest opportunities for us as mothers is to witness our children enraptured by their own quiet magnificence.
This 'exploring of the world' begins on a blanket, on a firm but comfortable surface. For a 1-month old, perhaps their exploration is noticing how the wind gently ruffles the curtains nearby, or how the sun casts a shadow next to them, or how the way their body feels changes as they move their limbs about. No bright, overstimulating toys or people in sight, just the baby and their environment.
At four months, after realising their hand is attached to them and they can control it, it is a source of wonder and play for days. Some simple toys nearby and an activity centre with a couple of items give her something to swipe at, all the while moving and seeing how her movements can give her new perspective.
For a baby, this play is their work. It's their growth. And the gift we give them by creating enough pause in our busy days so that they can have this time that is just theirs, is that they develop skills in focusing, grounding, and attention to detail that will serve them for life.
And when you give yourself the permission to allow your baby to simply 'be' and do what's valuable to her, you are by extension, giving that same permission to yourself.
So next time you think you're 'ignoring' your contented baby playing by herself, look more closely. What is she doing? Where is her attention? Talking and engaging with our babies is enormously valuable, and so is their sense of solitude.
Bridget Wood is Co-Founder of Nourishing The Mother and a lover of life and connecting people to themselves through wisdom, introspection and quality questions. Bridget is also the Director and Events Manager of Suburban Sandcastles. With an insatiable appetite for knowledge and a desire to understand the bigger picture of human behaviour and how the world works, Bridget is on an inspired path to learn more deeply who we are beyond the limitations that we, and our society and culture, place upon upon us.