Description by Cara Wilson-Granat
Magda Gerber was a treasured gift for so many of us young American mothers and our children back in the Seventies. Well respected throughout Europe, and her native Hungary, the revered Infant Care Specialist relocated to the States, primarily Los Angeles, where she began a popular practice teaching what we considered to be a revolutionary perspective of child-rearing.
Madge Gerber met with a group of us at Queen of Angels Hospital. She discussed how to raise children gracefully without the stifling smother-love. Ms. Gerber showed us two mind-blowing films. “How Wonderful It Is To Bathe” showed a careperson bathing children while maintaining a constant, cheery, loving dialogue with each child. Like a fine piece of choreography, it had a kind of ritual to it. The children knew what the washcloth and soap were for, and, while the babies anticipated each step – were obviously cognizant of everything that was happening and was going to happen (we saw babies barely old enough to sit up and reach their arms to the woman to help her soap their tiny bodies) the older children (2 & 3 years) already held their own in this bubbly ballet.
“Loczy”, Is a residence for normal infants in need of full-time care in Budapest under the direction of Emmi Pikler, M.D., It is acknowledged as a model center for the study of infant development. Loczy has attracted visitors from all over the world. Caregiving is guided by:
An intimate, stable relationship with one person, developed during care-giving, where the infant is freely exploring and manipulating objects in a safe environment.
Who is Dr. Pikler? She, as well as her accomplishments, are well known. She was my children’s pediatrician and my professor. Later, I had the privilege of working with her in Budapest, at the National Methodological Institute for Infant Care and Education. Dr. Pikler proposed that unrestricted an not sought gross motor development positively influences all other areas of growth – social – emotional, cognitive and even character formation.
I needed an upper in the tra-la-la swing of things. I called up Madge. I asked her about hopelessness. How can you feel ‘up’ after knowing what you know surrounds you? Madge understood my despair. She answered in a voice that was rich with Hungarian vibrato. “Wars? Violence? Cara, I cannot stop them. I don’t like to picket. What I do, what I like to do most is help parents and infants not make that much violence. When I am depressed all the world’s sad things get to me. And when my spirit gets high, I suddenly see all the many goods. My feelings are my prism. The world is exactly the same, but when I feel high – feel good about myself, then I can cope with it. I try not to be overly upset by things I cannot change. Look, Cara, it is much easier to give to the world, but to give to one person is harder yet.”
Cara, you asked me to explain why I keep telling you parents how much easier you could raise healthy “happy” children if you would make outdoor living a regular habit for your babies. Why? Because babies thrive out of doors, they sleep better, eat better, look better, play better, and learn better
Can too much loving spoil my child? – “Love? No! But many ways of demonstrating love? Yes! The list would be endless to tell all the atrocities both physical and emotional that adults inflict upon children in the name of love. Even kissing and hugging may not always convey to a child that she or he is loved.
I will try to recall from my own experience what it feels to be truly loved by someone: It makes me feel good, it opens me up, it gives me strength, I feel less vulnerable, less lonely, less helpless, less confused, more honest, richer. It fills me with hope, trust, creative energy, it refuels me.
How do I perceive the other person who gives me these feelings? As honest. As one who sees and accepts me for what I really am; who objectively responds without being critical; whose authenticity I respect, and who respects mine; who is available when needed, who listens and hears, who looks at and sees me, who shares herself, who cares.
Quality Time is that precious time of truly being with your child … The best way to begin this gentle balance is by making the diapering time, and all other care, a special time. No distractions, just the two of you doing the rituals of caring in a pleasant, peaceful, and rhythmic way while you talk with your baby… about everything you are going to do and are doing. “Okay, love, let’s take off this wet diaper… the child and you are a team. Your eyes are not frozen on the diaper, and you are not under the pressure of dealing with a frustrated baby who feels trapped.
[Magda Gerber] offers Insight into the best ways — usually the simplest — to live with our children. See the child as a human being. Talk to your child as if you are having a conversation with him. Trust the child’s ability to solve problems. Treats them all, from infants to toddlers, with respect.
Magda Gerber was a treasured gift for so many of us young American mothers and our children back in the Seventies. Well respected throughout Europe, and her native Hungary, the revered Infant Care Specialist relocated to the States, primarily Los Angeles, where she began a popular practice teaching what we considered to be a revolutionary perspective of child rearing.
Magda saw all children as individuals worthy of being respected; each considered able to be safely autonomous, capable of making intelligent choices and not as mindless extensions of their parents. She showed us films of caregivers with infants to toddlers and the little ones were being talked to and cared for as discerning beings capable of participating in their diapering, eating, playing, etc. In fact, every and any interaction you could think of involving tiny ones also involved their expected cooperation.
We seriously couldn’t believe our eyes seeing what we were seeing. At the point in which I discovered this amazing teacher, I had two little boys, one two and a half and the other nine months old. I was desperately wanting to raise them with a grace and peace and dignity that I longed to learn. I was so terrified of what I coined “smother love.” I knew there had to be a better way to be a better mother. Magda confirmed that there was. And it was a lot easier than I could ever imagine.
So a dear friend, Cappie Baptie, superb journalist, and one who shared my passion for children and motherhood, published the parent newsletter, “After Birth.” I was honored to be a contributing columnist in which I was able to reflect the voice of so many of us needing answers from the amazing Magda and my beloved Cappie, who created such an enlightened forum.
– Cara Wilson-Granat