Television spot – Basic trust

Television spot – Basic trust

Last Thursday I had the anxiety-provoking experience of watching myself on the CBS 11 O’clock news try to explain the philosophy and approach to child care propounded by Magda Gerber (founder of RIE) to millions of New York viewers.

I’ll admit, I had moments of dismay at the slant of the coverage, the inane banter of the news anchors, and the gaps in the picture presented. Having been recruited as a parent who had attended RIE classes with her own daughter and was now in the middle of her own training, I was taken aback to find myself featured as a “RIE Educator,” with no other actual experts to back me up! The segment had taken a long time to produce. One delay was occasioned when after weeks of planning, our taping of a mother feeding her toddler his snack was pre-empted by a forecasted snowstorm that never came. During those many weeks, I’d talked at length with the producer, explaining (I thought) the nuances of the 5 basic principles of Magda Gerber’s approach and how they can be implemented in parent-infant classes based on her philosophy and in life. And assuming, wrongly, that she herself was following through on the leads to actual experts I had provided.

A three-minute segment that includes responses from parents who had never heard of Magda Gerber, and a critical quote from a psychologist equally unfamiliar with her philosophy can only go so far. In the end though, the brevity of the segment, the omissions, the really silly promos, didn’t matter: What came through so shiningly was the competence of the babies and toddlers involved, how worthy they are of our trust in their abilities.

For the lap-feeding we taped, the producer was worried the cameraman invading her space would throw off 10-month old Gwendolyn. Instead, Gwendolyn was stellar. For the first few bites she gave clear cues: mouth wide open, I’m ready for more; no Mommy, I’m taking a break now, etc. Then she started to reach for the spoon. When given it, Gwendolyn improvised an ingenious way to use the handle to get the pears and oatmeal into her mouth. She indicated she wanted some water, drank from her cup, then signaled she was done and ready to play. Exactly as scripted!

Later, with some trepidation, her mother placed Gwendolyn in her crib, told her it was naptime, and leaving the lights on and the camera by the crib (not the usual naptime scenario), she left the room. Gwendolyn cooed and talked and fussed some, and in about 15 minutes, she was asleep.

During the toddler class taping, the cameraman wandered the edges of the space, one mother was being interviewed just outside the class, a class newcomer arrived late, none of it fazed the toddlers. They played with great creativity, worked out conflicts, got up after falling, and generally behaved as toddlers well-versed in the theories and philosophy of Magda Gerber: able to be independent, to make choices, to navigate life’s difficulties.

In my TV interview I talked about Basic Trust. As defined by Magda Gerber, child therapist and founder of RIE, it means “believing in your child’s competence and supporting her authenticity.” The parents, babies and toddlers who participated in the shoot exemplified Basic Trust in action. Long after the silly promo spots and efforts to imply serious controversy (About high chairs? Really?) have faded from memory, I’ll still cherish how the taping and the segment affirmed so forcefully for me how worthy of respect these babies and toddlers are.