Rachel was Donal’s key educator when he first joined the baby room. She was a big help when Donal was settling in. He found it hard to separate and to find his sense of security with new people, new routines and new environments. There’s a lot of change involved, particularly if you’re a baby who is very alert to new faces and voices. In crèche, you not only have to deal with a changing group of babies in a room but also with the presence of several carers throughout the day and the coming and going of many parents. It’s hard when you don’t know quite what’s going on or what to expect. That’s why a key person is so important – someone who is on the lookout for you all the time and anticipates your needs and concerns.
Luckily for Donal, the crèche encouraged his parents to allow a month for the settling in process so that Donal could gradually extend his time in the crèche and slowly get used to the change. Luckily for Donal and his parents too that Rachel was his key person. She had the wonderful skill of communicating each day what he had managed and what he found difficult. She was both reassuring and honest, very sympathetic to his difficulties but also celebratory of his achievements. I want her to know how important her stories were. I remember them all because they were shared at home word for word– little stories like ‘today they were playing with the ball basket. They scatter the balls and the babies crawl after them and bring them back and throw them in the basket. Rachel says that Donal got the idea really quickly and loved it. She thinks he’s really clever’ – Another one goes ‘Today Rachel was rocking one of the babies and saying shhhshh to soothe her and suddenly she heard Donal repeating the sound…She’s really noticed how he likes and imitates sounds’. And again: ‘Rachel says that one of the phrases she uses whenever anything surprising happens e.g. the telephone rings or something falls, is ‘Whasdah?’ She’s convinced she can now hear Donal saying it and now that she has alerted us, we can hear it too. ‘Whasdah’ he says. These are stories Donal’s parents share with their family and friends, stories that build Donal’s identity as someone who is now managing the transition to crèche and building a relationship with Rachel. Rachel calls him her ‘golden boy’. His Dad thinks she probably says that to all the parents, but still he does think she has a special bond with Donal… she really likes him, he says and Donal really likes her. I personally hope she does say it to all the parents and I hope they all get that lovely sense from her that their child is special.
I’m reminded of the power of telling everyday anecdotes and stories – the small little incidents that happen throughout the day. They give parents an insight into the everyday and at the same time into their children’s growing relationships and abilities. Vivien Gussin Paley says that she always had a few stories to tell when she met parents because when she told the stories the parents knew that she liked their child and they in return liked her and even loved their children more. And now I personally know that it’s true. This is how we create a circle of people who like and trust each other around children. Thank you to all the baby room educators who share their stories and give so much care and attention to babies and families every day. We want you to know how important you are in the lives of families and how we value your caring attention, not just to our children, but to us all.