An article published yesterday in The Daily Beast caused quite a Twitter stir! Have you heard of "Resources for Infant...
An article published yesterday in The Daily Beast caused quite a Twitter stir! Have you heard of "Resources for Infant Educarers?" Or "REI?" Because until today, I had not. Contrary to what I first assumed, Resources for Infant Educarers is not new at all, but was established in 1978. It seems to be more noticeable now due to its expanding group of celebrity followers. According to the article's author,
Little-known outside academic circles, the RIE philosophy has spread among parents via word-of-mouth. It has its own tight-knit circle of instructors; its own rituals (the narration of the diaper change); its own spare aesthetic (no mirrors, no dangling mobiles, no Baby Einstein); and its own set of guidelines (no singing, no rocking, no playpens). All of this honors the baby’s “struggle” and builds a more “authentic self,” proponents believe. RIE toys are simple—a paisley scarf, a wooden spoon, a plastic colander—so as to stimulate imagination and motor skills. And baby days are calm; there’s no running multiple errands with the little one in tow.
Some supporters of REI pointed out what they perceived to be factual inaccuracies (e.g., several stated that REI parents do sing with their babies), while others criticized the practice, with one commenter noting that it sounded very similar to the way her mother raised her -- and she was left with deep emotional wounds as a result. Many commenters noted how great the idea of going back to a regular old childhood -- free of over-scheduling and battery operated toys -- sounded. While I find some of the tenants of the practice imperative, I find others a little off-putting. And you know what? That's exactly how I feel about most "parenting practices." I interviewed an expert a few weeks ago for an article I wrote about how parents handle infants and sleep issues -- the classic cry-it-out vs. comfort argument. We discussed sleep training and what he said summed it up very well. Basically, putting a "label" on regular old parenting practices makes it all sound technical or difficult. I have to agree. There is a lot of classifying and categorizing. Some parents will argue their parenting beliefs to the death. But why do we have to give all parenting practices a fancy name? I don't necessarily fit into a category very well. While we practiced many attachment parenting principles with our babies, such as babywearing, others didn't work for us, like co-sleeping. I over-parented my son because I had to over-parent him. As he adjusted, I backed off. My daughter was the opposite as a baby, and so I parented her differently. Even though it was an option (albeit a more difficult one), I didn't breastfeed. My point is that I parented each of my children according to their needs -- and my abilities. I change as my children change. I adjust. There are some issues I'm very rigid about, but I'm flexible with others. I sometimes find it frustrating that by categorizing the way we take care of our babies and raise our children, we can create contention and add a little extra pressure to an already very difficult and important job. While I'm a huge advocate of education -- whether that's attained through reading parenting books, attending classes, talking to other parents, etc. -- I also think that it's possible to work too hard to fit into a category. I don't know enough about Resources for Infant Educarers to feel strongly one way or the other. I looked around the RIE website and read some, only because I like to learn. Thinking about RIE simply gave me a broader issue to consider. One commenter on the article summed it up quite well in my opinion:
Parenting is not about following the latest celebrity-embraced craze. It is about understanding how the brain works and how we learn and grow, attuning to your child's natural disposition, consciously shedding the reflexive flawed parenting in one's own background and replacing it with sound practices.
How do you feel? If you're expecting, do you have definite plans for how you intend to parent your baby? If you're a new mom, do you find that your expectations for your parenting style and reality are the same? Photo credit: River Beach

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