The Movie Babies: Parenting and Playfulness
I saw a picture today of a hairy camel smiling. The little girl in front of him was smiling the same smile. It reminded me of the little Mongolian boy on the movie Babies, when he first steps out of his Mongolian yurt. The priceless smile, the crisp air, almost an innate understanding of the adventure of life that awaits him. I love the movie. I love how it was filmed. If you haven't seen it, it's worth checking out.There is no script, and stretches of time where nothing is said at all. As the audience I was perched at a window peering into the lives of babies from all over the world. Birth to the first steps. The countries- Japan, Namibia, The US, and Mongolia. Watching the babies as they move through their days felt like taking in an impressionist painting. You have to do the work and fill in the spaces for yourself. I found myself tilting my head, nudging my husband, shaking my head, chuckling, and pursing my lips with sighs of heartfelt emotion. The babies were priceless, truthful and absolutely authentic. All of them.And then, wow - some of the parents seemed to be from a different planet. Schedules, constant attempts at coerced learning, and borderline obsession with safety... Flash to Mongolia with baby in the yurt by himself for most of the day. Flash to Namibia where babies toddle around their chatting working mothers, a more of a hands off approach- to say the least.The movie gave me some food for thought. Taking a step back, I wondered where I stood with our parenting style. Nursing my kids until they are three, sleeping together and living and learning together pretty organically and spontaneously everyday. I try to let them be and not orchestrate or plan out their lives. They have freedom to move and are certainly not constantly supervised. We have traveled with the kids on dusty Indian trains for days, carrying with us just the bare necessities. Yes- I thought our life together was pretty simple. After watching this movie, it made me step back and marvel at how other families do it and how there is always room to simplify. I want to keep the doors open for my kids, and guide them by shining the light in front of them along the way. Yet, they probably don't need the guiding hand as much as it is offered.At the end of the movie, I... well I don't want to ruin it for you. I can say that I came away feeling that kids in the west are not necessarily living a better life. They have more access to things, but are not necessarily any freer. And, what stuck with me is that there is a lot of directing going on; we often don't trust that children are natural learners. Seeing the babies in Namibia and Mongolia play like little scientists observing and taking in the world reminds me that kids all learn in their own unique way. It reminds me to have faith in my kids abilities. To lighten up. Trust is important.At the end, despite the wildly different lives that these babies live, it is clearly evident that all of the babies are loved. The Babies director said, a father by the name of Balmes, " the message to me, is that as long as there is love, babies need very little". With your love and your presence (ok, and your milk and maybe a good baby carrier!), your babies will fill in the empty spaces just fine.Kids have a good sense of playfulness and humor, and they respond to it! We can learn a lot from them.