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.