Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Educaring: Teaching Lifelong Self-Care Habits

A central concept of educaring is that the primary way we "educate" infants is through the care that we give them on a daily basis.  Above all else, an educarer guides routine tasks like diaper changes, washing hands, and getting dressed in the most respectful and patient manner possible.  The RIE method of diapering involves the child: each step is explained (& I will often include a rationale for the step - e.g. we are going to rub in some ointment this time because I've noticed a small rash forming, and this will help it to heal), children are involved to the fullest extent possible, and even the youngest of infants are given plenty of warning before actions are taken.

As Ruth Hammond writes in Respecting Babies, when we slow down and perform these tasks patiently and methodically, we are teaching children "what respect feels like (through touch), and what is and is not acceptable in what liberties others may take with their bodies."  When I was first learning about educaring, I envisioned the RIE approach to physical care as not only communicating to infants that we respect and value their bodies, but also imparting a message that will hopefully stick with them forever: that their bodies are worthy of their own respect and love, and that as they gain the autonomy to care for themselves, the same patient, methodical, and loving care is appropriate and valuable.  By modeling a respectful, nurturing approach to physical care, we are imparting lifelong lessons that will shape the way self-care is approached.

As adults, how often do we go through the motions with our own self-care without much regard for its purpose?  I know that I, for one, do not often pay attention as I'm brushing my teeth or washing my hair.  It is very rarely, if ever, that I appreciate the goal of whatever task is at hand (namely, the nourishment of my body).  Learning about educaring opened my eyes to this, and I was a little startled to realize that I routinely ignore the opportunity to engage in respectful and loving self-care.  Over the last few months I've challenged myself to change this and though it is hard sometimes to slow down and really think about what I'm doing, I have truly noticed that I'm more at peace with my physical being when I've taken the time to care for it respectfully and patiently.

It's interesting because I've also noticed that the babies of Cohort 7 are always so fascinated when I drink water, eat, put on a sweater, or pull back my hair.  This has given me even greater motivation to be a positive model through my own self-care because I see that they are watching closely, learning about the way in which adults care for their own bodies.  I have started explaining some of these actions in the same way that I explain what we are doing during diaper changes or when I'm helping them to wash their faces after a meal - always outlining the purpose of what I'm doing, and why it feels good to listen to your body (e.g. "I'm drinking this water because I noticed my mouth feeling dry, and I know the water will make it feel good again!").  My goal in all of this is to encourage them to listen to their bodies, take the time to do whatever will make them feel best, and foster a sense of independence surrounding all of this.  After all, they are the only ones who can possibly know how their bodies are feeling at any given moment, and it is never too early to completely involve them in the process of nurturing themselves - a lifelong endeavor.

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