Free to Be?

In the early 1970's Marlo Thomas created an album called "Free to Be, You and Me." As a young child listening to my best friend's record, I believed it was revolutionary: "Every boy in this land grows to be his own man. In this land, every girl grows to be her own woman...and you and me are free to be, you and me." I hadn't heard anything like it! My friend and I sang the words at the top of our lungs, with arms outstretched and heads thrown back, as we bounced up and down to the beat on her bed. It was an innocent time and we thought everyone in the whole world believed in this vision for children too.

This past week, the words from this song have been rattling around in my head after I watched a particularly joyful and determined one year old at work. Her parents have fully embraced her independent sense of self and together we marvel, as she uniquely unfolds so beautifully in front of us.

"...and you and me are free to be, you and me..."

I keep finding myself humming this tune, and then am a bit surprised to discover I am unintentionally singing it aloud.

As a parent, I tried to apply the lessons I gleaned from "Free to Be" in the best way I could. For 20 years, I prominently posted a handout in my classroom by infant specialist, Janet Gonzales-Mena, with the words, "Respectful, Reciprocal, Relationship" at the top in bold print. I believed then and still do, that these three R's are the key to supporting healthy interactions with young children. It hasn't always been easy to trust and wait; sometimes my own agenda got in the way and I lost either my patience or perspective. But, I kept striving and practicing.

In 2012, I had the chance to delve deep into Magda Gerber's Educaring® Approach. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take the RIE® Foundations Intensive course in Los Angeles and spent the time studying, listening, observing, and contemplating. It was a profound experience to be immersed in the Approach. I have been working ever since to look at my relationships with infants in a new light.

The years since have been amazing, challenging, and full of unexpected lessons and opportunities. I continue to rethink, reexamine, and reflect as I observe and learn from children, parents, and professionals around me.

"Free" can be seen as:

Allowing young children the freedom of time to learn in their own way.

Giving space for the freedom of movement.

Waiting, which gives time for the freedom to discover.

Offering the autonomy to become who they are.

Magda encouraged each of us to allow our authentic selves to shine. She said, "having respect for the world is when you allow people to be what they are."

I wrote the words you just read in 2017 and was so grateful that I felt like I was learning a new way to be more inclusive and accepting of all humans.

In the wake of George Floyd's murder, I have become more aware that others may experience the world differently than I do. This brings new perspective into my interactions, and honors the wisdom of these experiences. I now see how much work there is yet to do to "be free, you and me." Not just with our infants and toddlers, but humanity as a whole. Those of us who work with children are given a unique opportunity to help create a world without limits.

Would you like to delve deeper with us?

You are always welcome at the Friends of RIE® Minnesota (FORM) gatherings. By coming together, we can learn from one another, share ideas, and grow in understanding. As we thoughtfully navigate the months ahead with COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, we will shift from in-person gatherings to online in the Fall.

We aim to kick off September with a thoughtful gathering on race, equality and mindfulness, a sort of "where do we go from here?" discussion led by the warm and engaging, Rupa Ryan Kryzer. Our schedule of events will be posted both on our website and our Instagram account. Come and join us---we will save a virtual seat for you!

RIE® Associate Bio: Carolyn Paetzel is a licensed educated, and parent, with 25+ years of experience working with parents, infants, and students to help deepen their understanding of each infant's unique and innate abilities. Carolyn has presented at numerous workshops, including the RIE® Infant/Toddler Conference and the MNAEYC State Conference. Carolyn has served as a consultant for local child development programs. Carolyn is the coordinator for FORM.

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