This past week was so exciting – Cohort 7 began at the infant house, as did I! We are all new to Tumbleweed, and our first week was spent not only getting to know each other, but also coming to know and love our new space that we share together.
There is a lot to think about as I begin building relationships with the infants in my group. Amy gave me a book on Magda Gerber’s RIE approach that I've been reading throughout the week. The book primarily focuses on what it means to be an infant educarer. An integral part of this concept is the idea that the education infants receive is 100% imparted by the care we provide. When we care for infants, we are teaching them what respect feels like. We are honoring them as individuals and teaching them that their bodies are theirs alone – as care providers, we assist children who cannot yet walk or feed themselves, but by doing this carefully and thoughtfully, we teach them what is and what isn’t acceptable in how others treat their bodies. This idea resonates strongly with my previous ideas about infant care, but seeing this concept articulated so clearly was amazing, and really shaped my week with the infants.
As I engaged with LT and AJ (my only two full-time kids, for now) in diaper changes, feedings, and play-time, I made it a goal to focus on courteous, respectful engagement with their bodies. For example, LT played freely on the rug for many minutes at a time throughout the week, and I always avoided picking her up abruptly or changing activities without proper communication first. When the kids needed diaper changes, I would let them know where we were about to go, and I talked them through the various steps so they were attuned to the process, and felt like active participants in their own care. When AJ woke up from her naps, I would lift the blanket hanging above her cradle, and wait for her to make eye contact with me and show that she was ready to be picked up before doing so. CS stayed with us for a few hours on Thursday for the first time, and there were some tears when his mom first left for the day. I took special care to acknowledge and respect his feelings about saying goodbye, and made sure to offer him comforting hugs, but not to simply scoop him up and quiet him down without asking. I wanted to make sure he felt welcome to express his emotions however he wanted – comforting was always available to him, but I didn’t wish to impose this on him without his permission.
Of course, the kids are also learning how to interact with each other, and this means I have been narrating their interactions with the same things in mind. When LT and AJ were lying on the rug together, we worked on listening to AJ as she reacted to LT’s curious touches. These were such sweet moments, as AJ and LT looked at toys together, or curiously touched each other’s faces. I gently explained AJ’s protests when LT touched her ear a bit too roughly – LT looked at me intently when I narrated this for AJ, and simultaneously removed her hand from AJ’s head. We are all learning each other’s limits, and how to engage with one another respectfully and lovingly, which is such an important part of getting to know each other!
These are just some of the things that I have been reflecting on as I engage with the children, and I am eager to continue learning about the babies in my group, as well as reading more about Magda Gerber’s philosophy. Our first week was amazing, and the kids really seem to love the space, and our time together! We are patiently and respectfully learning each other’s rhythms and personalities, and I couldn’t be more excited to continue this bonding.