by LK Hunsaker
Lessons for adults from the youngest.
Currently, I work as an infant teacher. It’s not a high-profile or well-paying job, but I have always enjoyed the presence of infants. It's an exhausting profession, being the main caregiver for four 8-12 month olds along with helping with older and younger infants and keeping records of everything they do during the day and creating lesson plans for each one every week. Lesson plans for babies? Yes, I wonder about that myself constantly. But, even though we rarely have time to do everything written on the plans, it does make us stop to think about how children learn and what is important for them to learn.
I think, however, that we can learn more from them than they learn from us, if we pay attention.
An old adage says, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." Yes, that is true with infants, also, but the infants who squeak the worst with no good cause are held in less regard than those who quietly go about their business. We treat them all with the same caring and consideration, but we can not possibly wish to be in the presence of the squeakers as much as in the presence of the non-squeakers. So how important is it, really, to get the grease if you are held in such low regard when you have it?
Another old saying is, "Slow and steady wins the race." Have you ever watched a baby learn to walk? The unsteadiness on their feet is made up for by the determination in their eyes and their willingness to just get up and try again when they fall. They have no doubts that they WILL achieve their goal; they know without being told that if they keep trying, they will succeed. And the pride that beams from their faces when they do succeed show that they already realize what it means to work hard for what they want to accomplish. You never see that look from the babies who are still being carried around by others.
Hold on to your comfort item. Babies naturally choose of their own accord which items they need to comfort themselves in times of pain or irritation, be it a bottle, pacifier, blanket, or favorite toy. They also naturally choose the time to let go of these items if given the option. Allowing someone else to choose what is right for you against your inner knowledge of what you need causes unnecessary pain.
Don't be afraid to hug or smile at others. Babies smile more when people smile at them. They love more when they receive more love. Do unto others...
Spend time with others, but also alone. You can easily tell young children who have been allowed to do for themselves and have some space of their own from those who haven't. Those who haven't are more likely to be the squeakers and are never quite content.
Babies don't want you to be upset with them if you have earned their respect by giving plenty of love and affection. This isn't to say they won't ever disobey as they grow, but whether or not how you feel matters to them makes all the difference.
Setting boundaries creates comfort. A baby who has fatigued himself by exploring his world gets cranky if left to explore too long, and he sleeps easiest after finding some type of confinement, be it a crib or pair of warm arms. Explore, search, but maintain the boundaries that make it safe and comfortable to explore and search.
And from the words of Kurt Vonnegut: "And remember, Babies, ... you have to be kind."