Director of Child Education Centers “Patinete”
As you know, Patinete is a Kindergarten which, although it has the peculiarity of hosting children with serious difficulties in their institution, the majority of the children who come are children who would commonly be called “normal”. However, for us, this supposed “normality” does not exempt us from careful work with each one of them and that does not stop putting into play the particularity of the case by case.
Therefore, to exemplify the reflections about the entrance and separation process we have chosen to present what we could call “one case among others”, but as you will see, treated in its singularity.
Ana is 10 months old when she starts to go to “Patinete”. Her parents differ in the style of relation to her daughter: while the mother is presented under the nuance of protection, the father is more relaxed in this aspect.
Ana’s mother decides to accompany her daughter before she has to join her work again a few days later. What is the particular thing about this mom? She “sees” her daughter very “tiny”. This is a saying of the mother which is sustained in a timeless statement (it is not only that she sees her “tiny” at the beginning of her stay with us). In Patinete this mother is very protective with her daughter, very close to her, and addresses her with expressions such as “ay, my little one”, “my life”, “little thing”, “chiquitita”…
The mother used to sit on the floor with Ana, and if she ever got up to get a toy, the girl would get tense; at this point, the mother would ran back to her side saying, “oh, she’s scared!”. She said she looked small and feared that the other children would hurt her.
On many occasions, in the presence of an expression of discomfort or protest in the girl, but also in the absence of this, she said, “I’m going to breastfeed her”.
At first we noticed that if we approached and addressed Ana directly, she complained. We then decided to place ourselves close to the mother, making small conversations with her in the presence of the child, or to play with other children near them. It was how we were able to enter in a non-invasive way in that small bubble that was conformed around Ana and her mother.
We want to point out that, far from censuring her, or placing ourselves in the position of one who would know how to do and dictate the corresponding guidelines – a very current and extended discourse – we take this time as an opportunity to capture the modes of relation between both. At the same time, the mother could establish a relationship of trust with us by observing the way we address the children, calm them in their cries, present the activities, and take care of them both individually and in-group play activities.
Established this relationship of trust, to which Ana was also sensitive, the next step was to tell the mother to bring something to keep her busy – besides her daughter – during the time that Ana remained in “Patinete”. She brought a book, and we noticed that Ana, who had already accepted our presence, moved more, starting to move – first scooting and then beginning to crawl – towards objects near her.
Seeing other children – just two or three months older than her daughter – eating solid, Ana’s mother began to ask for the time of the introduction of this type of food. The answer was to refer to the age in which other mothers used to initiate their children, also to refer her to the pediatrician.
At certain time of the morning, in “Patinete” they offer cookies to the children. The mother, astonished, says that she has never given Ana a cookie. When a cookie was offered to Ana, she would not take it, and the mother would pick it up and tear it into small pieces placing them in Ana’s mouth. Ana did not bring anything to her mouth.
When the mother began to work, the time of the accompaniment ended. Ana stopped playing. She was quiet, very serious, and she cried if she was not picked up and held. There were days when we had to physically hold Ana: to take her in our arms, sit on the floor around her. We would like to emphasize that the discomfort in separations is not always expressed by the crying. In particular, in Ana’s case, crying was the easiest thing to calm down, because she quickly agreed to allow herself to be comforted by us. However, there were other behaviors (less annoying to the dynamics of the class and that could have made Ana go unnoticed) that became signs of her discomfort.
In a coordination meeting, the fact that Ana did not attempt to grasp any toy, was described as she would “not take anything”. Putting this in question allowed us, the day after this meeting, a closer observation of this “not take anything” leading to a successful intervention.
Sitting in the sandbox, it certainly looked as if Ana did not take anything – no toy, no bucket or shovel, nor did she manipulate the sand. Nevertheless, Ana did take something: her attention and her hands were directed towards little pebbles that were between the sand and that she was picking out. Noticing these pebbles also shows us that at other times she picks “bolisas”, little crumbs of bread (although she does not take a big piece), always the “tiny”. The educators created a series with the “stones”, the “tiny”, and the “small pieces” of cookie that the mother gave her. An educator then comes up with small pieces of paper and throws them close to the girl and a little further. Ana was then busy picking up what was within her reach and then crawling to catch those that were farther away.
From there Ana began to move more, also turning herself to the toys. She began to play not needing the arms of the educators, and to enjoy, fully, her stay in the “Patinete”.
When the mother began to work, every day she would come for a little while to nurse Ana. The baby would start to nurse, although we noticed that when anything caught her attention she would withdraw from the breast. On one occasion, the mother insists to Ana “Do you want?”, but Ana did not make a gesture for feeding. The educator responds to the mother “Well, it seems that she does not”! The mother insists until the child clings to her breast, exclaiming then relieved, “Ah, it would be the first time you say no!” Ana feeds a little and then let go.
The mother arrived some time later with Ana announcing, “Ana has weaned … and is eating a lot!” As the mother says, Ana has weaned herself. The mother continued to come every day for a little while to see her daughter. Moreover, in that “seeing” arose the “surprise” of seeing her grow: seeing her swinging with pleasure on a rocker, or giving steps supported by an educator.
Translated by Lorena Hojman Davis