Trust me, I am a baby

Imagine if your baby say that to you:

“Trust me, mum (dad/nan/responsible adult in charge of me) I know exactly what I am doing”

What would you do – apart from double checking that the drink was not spiked – would you relax and stand in awe or would you just turn and say “oh, please! You are a baby!”

I would incite you to think again on what your answer would be under this hypothetical situation. It is difficult, it is not? This beautiful human being, just arrived in your life, needs your whole attention from feeding to dressing almost 24/7 – yes, discount a few hours of sleep here and there – so how can she/he be able to  “ know exactly what he/she is doing”? How could somebody who depends her/his entire life somehow can know exactly what are they doing?

The answer is simple really. They know what they are doing: they are learning. They are learning about what surrounds them, who surrounds them. When they cry, they are learning to “ask” in the only possible way known to them at that time for food, for warmth, for comforting. And they are learning as well who are those “giants” (a.k.a. parents/carers) who respond to that cry.

The baby will “take mental notes” of the voices, smells, main features of the face of the carer, and the way the carer handles he/she. The baby will feel the “mood” of the carer too.

When you see a baby gazing around and you are wondering what they may be thinking, the baby is learning about the space and is starting to see what is near, what is far and as soon as she/he is strong enough to move – they will know when, and you will know as well, because you will see it – they will try to grab what they see, reach to it. And then is when they discover the beginning and end of their bodies.

When they start to gaze at those two marvellous things on their sides, later to be known as hands, they can spend hours looking at them. Have you ever stop to gaze at your hands and truly observe them, noticing every wrinkle, every knuckle, the tips of your finger?

And for a baby it gets even better when they discover those things at the far end, called feet. And, as the hands, they will end up in their mouths.

All these processes are not to be belittled; they take a “huge” effort from the baby and is one of the fundamental cornerstones for development in every possible sense: physical, emotional, and cognitive.

Physical because they start to learn about their bodies and the boundaries and how to go beyond those; emotional because they start to recognise emotions such as joy when they can touch what they see, they can reach what is near or perhaps frustration because they cannot do so; and cognitive because they start to recognise distances – near or far, for example – and is setting the baseline for what later in life will be other cognitive capabilities such as speech and concentration.

Because they require a fantastic effort from the baby, only him/her will do all this on their own good time; a baby *knows* when is ready to learn all this, when is ready to do this effort.

Trust the baby. He/she knows what is doing.

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What else?

As I mentioned on my previous blog, nowadays I am working as a Nursery Assistant in a nursery whilst doing my Early Years Education Course. Being an assistant I go from one room to another and providing help wherever and whenever needed. As I said before I am gaining more experience than I can handle.

This last week I had to spend more time than usual in the babies room which provided me with amazing insights – now they see me and they greet me with immense smiles – and plenty of food for thought since inevitably, I keep comparing what I read with what I see and I imagine how I could help them develop naturally in the best possible way.

Well yes, I say “I imagine” because being an assistant I am there just to do that, not to say what I think and what could be done to help / improve and make it better for the little ones. Between the state-of-the-art equipment together with the age appropriate toys – sufficient to rival any toy shop, believe me on that one – that is not difficult at all, just requires time.

But time is something that gets completely lost in the midst of cleaning, feeding, changing nappies, filling forms, more cleaning, nap time, more feeding, more cleaning, more forms to fill (directly proportional to the amount of feeding, naps and nappy changing) and so on and so forth until the evening draws to a close and there are no more babies left because they have all gone home.

I’m sure by now you must be wondering…but what about the babies? Well, the babies are there crawling, walking, babbling, crying or sitting in between the nappy changes, the food and the nap.   The carers are there not only to care for these primal needs in a baby aside from having an extra pair of eyes in the back to watch them so they do not fall or injure themselves.

The carers as well are there to educate the little ones in basic life skills since they have to start to learn how to socialise, how to be together at circle time and how to play together, respect each other and schedule in between some unguided exploration amongst dealing with complex emotions.

So you may say what is wrong with this picture? Everything seems to fit the description of any nursery in the planet if anything a pretty good one. Children are fed, entertained, changed, put to sleep and controlled. What else?

What else. Some questions, is the answer to the “what else”. Question yourself: does a baby know all this malarkey of socialise of being together at circle time and being sat amongst their peers?

Does a baby need to learn “basic” life skills? This raises the question of what do we think, culturally and as a society what a life skill is…

Tête-à-tête

It has been quite a long time since my last post. And yes, probably I did write the same words and I made the solemn oath to myself to write more often.

And yes, life happened and the blog got thrown right to the back seat together with my solemn oath and my will to write once a week or so.

Spring is finally here and this would be the third spring season on the blog. Funnily enough the daffodils pictured three years ago (http://thehappyboobclub.com/2013/03/17/the-first-daffodil/) are the same who decided to bloom first yet again three years later.

So, life happened. Finally I started my course on Early Years Education.  Finally I got a job working with children as an assistant. The place is fairly new and there are children from 6 months old to almost 5 years old.  Being an assistant I pivot from one room to the other  and I get to see the “ins and outs” of childcare and everything I am reading in books notes and lectures from my course I can put into practise – or not – during my work.

Needless to say I am learning so much and gaining so much experience that I feel I could write volumes. More than once I thought on writing on this blog about my day as a sort of cathartic experience but then again I am so intertwined with the confidentiality policy and child protection and child safeguarding that the idea soon became an illusion.

Not because of the name and shame – that of course would not happen – but because of the back-of-the-brain fear that my catharsis would fall into the wrong ears. Paranoid? Yes of course. I read “1984” quite a while back and it has become one of my desert island books and living with the world posed by Mr. Wells in the now is tough enough. Nowadays where EVERYTHING is readily available at the press of a button (or the slide of a finger) no matter how hard you try to hide, you will always, inevitably be found. Unless you decide to go wild and get rid of any means of communication even then you would not cease to exist in the virtual world.

Do not take me wrong. I think the advance in technology is beyond awesome and some good comes from it. I wonder – in the same way probably my parents did – what is ahead and what the future would be like for my son who uses a “Smartphone” as easy as I use a toothbrush. The innovations in technology are so embedded into us that we take it for granted and it is hard to go back to the good old paper letter instead of the fast email as a dear friend reminded me a few days ago when we were having a conversation using skype whilst she was in Argentina and I was in England.

This techno life we acquired – either by will, force and/or need – is unconsciously (or not) being transferred to children. Proof of this is not only the innumerable amount of parents who decide to switch from open dialog to Smartphone but the behaviours I see amongst children as small as 9/10 months old in my place of work.

As I said at the beginning being an assistant I hover around different rooms. Last week I had to assist in babies’ room and the babies were playing at length with different toys. Amongst those toys there were some that looked like a mobile phone made of wood with big coloured buttons and a mirrored surface (see picture, courtesy of http://www.toyshopuk.co.uk/brands/erzi).

Anyway, time came to serve tea and of course all babies were seated round a table. Guess what? Two or three babies were having tea, with a pseudo mobile phone by their plates and they were pressing buttons and time to time picking them up whilst eating. Until I intervened and removed the objects from the table which of course caused some discomfort.

This is a picture that is ingrained in my memories and honestly it hurts. It is one of those things that it does not matter how many times you blurt it out, it will still be there. It raises so many questions. My main question is if these babies when they grow old and are fully formed adults would understand the deep value and meaning of a dialog face to face with another breathing human being either across a table or side by side when they grow up without having a screen in their hands.

Daily Zen

Last Monday we have been as every Monday at the Parent and Child group that normally gathers at the Waldorf School of South West London. The group is called Bluebells and it is the most calming environment I have been with my little one since we started to go to these types of groups. And I can say with some degree of certainty, we have been around playgroups, parent and child group, baby’s cafes and the sort for quite a while now and so far, Bluebells is the only one where my son and I feel at ease.

And because we both feel at ease he can do his thing in a complete safe environment whilst I can do my thing – normally parents would do some craft, related to the season we are in – whilst chatting and listening to what any other mum (or dad) has to say or comment. Not to mention the amazing Jo, who is inspiring to say the least and who is always with the right answer or the most suited observation.

And today was one of those days where Jo told something ever so true that it was like one of those things that are very obvious in front of your nose and you cannot see it – do you know what I mean?

What happened was that my little dear son was  – as usual I dare say – throwing things away left right and centre without any care of what was to the left to the right or to the centre; not to mention when he got to throw things aiming at the “nearest target” call it another child, a wall or the table. You name it, it was one of those days where no one nor anything was safe.

I was not at ease anymore fearing where the next woodblock would end, and nothing seem to distract my son from this activity; today what was meant to be a safe, calm, relaxed environment was a hazardous one at the hands of my son.

It is worth to mention that this throwing things activity started quite awhile ago but these last two weeks was in full force. I remember commenting it to Jo and asking for her best opinion and she suggested to do something productive i.e. throw it inside a basket, a box, like a game to aim at something. I did try it without any results. If anything it exacerbated his little passion. And today he was very passionate about it.

No need to mention that at my son’s age (2 years and a half) he does not quite yet understand the concept of hurting someone or damage something. And it will be a while until he starts to grasp this notion. But in my head the fear of him doing any harm to another child was growing and to be honest I could not picture any likely scenario of how things could turn. At the end of the day anything material that gets broken can be fixed or substituted; a child with an injury – and the anger of the parent – cannot be fixed with an infinite amount of apologies or arnica.

When the morning session finished and we were getting ready to go back home, I did ask Jo if she could give me an idea of what to do when my son got into those frenzied outbursts of throwing everything around, and I was concerned; I did tell her I was not ready to face an upset parent and child in the near future.

The answer was quite simple. She said to me, “do you know what one of the principles with Zen is?” “A little” I replied. “Well, Zen says to live in the present and to resolve the present”. “Children are like little Zen masters, they live in the present, without a care in the world about tomorrow, or about what happened yesterday”.

I could only smile and look at my little “Zen master” who was about to throw another wood block towards the door. “Think about it” said Jo “the best resolution is for the now, for the present. No point on trying to solve something that may or may not happen tomorrow or in five years time”. We said our goodbyes and made our way home.

And whilst I write this I can’t stop thinking on this little conversation we had. The more I think about it the more I agree. To resolve the situation in the present surely will be settling some ground for a similar situation in the future…and then I have to stop myself in my tracks because again I’m thinking in the future instead of the “today”.

It is challenging to think or even toy with the idea of going into this line of thought. Although on reflection I always act and live in the present, it is *very* true that I pay too much attention on what to resolve now so it won’t be a problem in the future – and sometimes the future could be in two days time – instead on focusing the present.

True, it is necessary to set some foundations but as well it is necessary to live the moment and it is something I need to learn. I suppose, it is time to follow the little Zen Master.