I was running errands today when I saw something that took me back many years ago and gave me pause to think.
I had gone to pick up my father and run him by the bank. Afterward, he wanted a cheeseburger, as I suppose most 73-year olds do (or he does, anyway), so we picked up a burger for him and headed over to drop off paperwork for my son to attend camp. The desk worker asked me to wait to speak to the camp leader, so I took a seat. Behind my seat was a window that looked into the nursery.
I love babies, probably more now than I ever have in my life. In the last few years, it has become clear that I most likely will never have a biological child. Both of my children were toddlers when they came to live with me, so I missed the whole baby time. I'm fascinated by these little people, from their size to their smiles to their wiggly, squirmy little selves. When I see my friends' children, I'm equally intrigued by how quickly they grow! They start out so tiny and helpless, and before you know it they're crawling and giggling and even saying a word or two.
So I settled on my bench and watched the one infant in the swing by the window. He wasn't particularly happy. He was squirmy and began to fuss a bit, and a worker came over and straightened his blanket, then pushed the swing again. Clearly unhappy that he was still in the swing, he began to protest louder, clenching his tiny hands into fists and waving his arms around.
I'm a forty-something woman with a master's degree in early childhood. I don't have a baby so I'm never tired of watching them, nor am I annoyed when they don't sleep when they should. I wanted desperately to go into the room and pick him up and comfort his cries, then find whatever it was he wanted to do.
The worker, however, is not a forty-something woman with no babies. She picked up the blanket, then laid it back over the entire baby, covering his head to his feet, and tucked it in to the sides of the swing, making it harder for the baby to move. Not only could he not move, he couldn't see either. The worker then sat down next to him and began kicking the swing with her foot. At that point I chose to look away. I had seen enough, and I was desperately close to saying something not so nice to the powers that be. Sensibility grabbed hold of me though--I needed my son to have this camp experience. Because of his needs, he needs to be in a structured camp program, and let's face it--the few spots that were left probably wouldn't go to the big mouth mother complaining about the way an infant was rocked.
Many years ago, I had worked for this same organization. I had privy to see some less than pleasant child care experiences, and the ones that stuck out most to me were in the infant room. Babies often were left to fall asleep in their lunches, put in swings for hours at a time, left to entertain themselves. Babies were left alone to "cry it out", even when there were more than enough hands available. The multiple staff members would be sitting and eating as babies cried, alone, in their cribs.
For the majority of my professional career I've been a "pick up the baby" type of person. I mean, the kid isn't going to roll over and pull a Stewie on you, asking if you could kindly come change his diaper. Babies have one way to communicate their discomfort, hurt, or fear, and that's through crying. So pick up the damn baby. Thank you. :-)
I'm not so rigid as to not recognize there are times that it isn't in the baby's best interest to be picked up. Sometimes, parents need more sleep and babies are old enough to make it through the night. Sometimes the baby is just a bit fussy and isn't really upset. And sometimes you just can't get there--something else is more important at that moment. But I always find myself cringing when I hear parents of young babies talking about "sleep training" and such. Huh? Are we in the infant military or something? Is there some need for your baby to rise and shine at six a.m. and that can only be accomplished through sleep training? I don't get it. It seems like one of those things that as parents we make into mountains, when they're really molehills.
As for the situation with the baby and the worker--after giving it several hours to mull around in my head, I decided to call and report it. The young woman who talked with me was very pleasant and listened to my concern. Will it change? I don't know. But maybe if the worker is educated about other ways to calm a baby, she'll do better. Most of us, when educated about better ways, do better. That was the purpose of my phone call--to encourage the organization to educate their caregivers about how to work with infants. And who knows? Maybe they will.