Holding Space

I’m in New York for a conference this week.  This afternoon I was just about to walk into the building where the meetings were being held when our nanny, Meg, texted to tell me that Carys had quickly fallen asleep for her morning nap but woke up screaming and crying five minutes later.  Meg went in and changed Carys’ diaper and held her but Carys kept crying, and then wanted to go back in the crib (most unusual – she almost always wants to go back out to the living room and play during nap time!).  Meg left the room but Carys continued crying, and every time Meg went back in Carys would accept a brief hug and then point again to the crib.  She had a clean bum and refused milk and Meg texted me to ask if I could think of anything else that might be wrong.

I couldn’t, but I found a quiet-ish spot in the corner of the lobby of the Bloomberg Tower and did a quick video chat with them.  Carys was hugging Meg (and her stuffed tiger, Hobbes) tightly, crying on and off – I’ve never seen her sad like that before for no apparent reason.  There wasn’t really much I could do; I just told her I loved her and wished I could give her a hug and that I’d talk with her again later in the afternoon.

Meg said that after we got off the phone Carys cuddled with her for another 30 minutes, then signed for milk and drank 2oz (rather less than average), and by lunch time she was apparently back to normal.  I’m still not even sure what was wrong – maybe she missed me, or perhaps she suddenly realized Meg had forgotten to defrost sausages (her favorite!) for lunch.  Who knows?

Someone posted an article in a RIE Facebook group I’m in a few months back about the concept of ‘holding space’ for people:

What does it mean to hold space for someone else? It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.

Image courtesy Nanny Meg

Image credit: Nanny Meg

I’d like to think we held space for Carys today.  After we did everything we could to fix what might be physically wrong we supported her, physically and emotionally, and let her experience her sadness.  We didn’t try to cheer her up or make her laugh, or shame her into ‘getting over it.’  Meg hugged her for as long as she needed to be hugged (and I wished I could too!), and when Carys was ready they moved on with their day.  They went to the park after lunch and Meg sent me a photo of Carys playing in the sand pit.

I’m proud of the parenting (and nannying) we did today.

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