Friday, July 10, 2009

She's only two (Part 2)

This blog post refers:

Last Toddlers session this morning for this school year. My son came along to help with the 'money-changing'. He's very good at this.

I was wondering if Mum-without-a-clue ("G") would turn up. Childminder ("J") was there and said, "O dear! Maybe she won't come again. But her girl needs to keep coming here."

Mum with blonde hair (let's call her "B") arrived. She told me that we have better watch out for "that little girl" ("M"). She could see her, she said.

"Where?" I asked. My responsibility was to check in parents and toddlers and any visitors. I need to account for every person who is in the building for health and safety reasons. In the event of a fire I am to blow the whistle, lead the folk to safety. Most importantly I must grab all the attendance cards with me so that I could account for everyone.

I hadn't seen M.

"There she is in that blue dress."

"That's not her."

B saw the back of a little Asian girl with jet black hair and assumed that that was M. Immediately a bell rang in my head: Wait. You did not even bother to see the little girl's face and you are making an assumption.

When things quietened down and my son and I had a breather from checking folk in, signing out parking permits, collecting money and giving the correct change, registering new families, etc. Mum G turned up with M.

I was really pleased to see her. But as usual, she did not wait for me to check them in properly and plonked down £1 coin on the desk. First of all it's £1.50 please. Secondly, please do not just slap the coin down on the desk. Please give it to my son, who's the 'treasurer' today.

Anyway I then talked to her about my plan. J has agreed to shadow G for the morning and quietly give her pointers on how to control M. That is, if G would agree to that.

She checked that it was to take place at the session, not at home, etc.

I introduced the two ladies and assured G that J will never touch her child and left them.

Some time later J came along and said "the mum's not listening", but proceeded to write her contact details for G to contact her, just in case.

On further probing it appears that the Mum IS trying. But she is totally unaware that she could use different 'voices' to indicate her feelings to her child. When J told her to say something to M, she did, but in a voice that does not reflect her own authority.

J was certain that little girl M is a very jealous girl and the mum would be in trouble when the baby arrives. UNLESS she gets some help. Mum assumes that she would be able to cope with baby arrives.

I was going, "O no! If she blows and the child is hurt Social Services will remove her, and the baby ...."

At the end of the session I was able to have a brief chat with G. She did not indicate any negative feelings about the morning except that "the other mothers angry".

I assured her that the other mothers are not angry with the child, but felt that for her own good, her own safety, she had to be controlled.

We were standing on the road. I said our children know, for example, to come to the end of the road/pavement and stop and not run off. For their own safety they must learn this. Her reaction seems to suggest that she had never even thought of this aspect of discipline.

I also noted that she could use a different tone of voice. I turned to M who was all smiles and friendly with me now. She waved goodbye to me.

I said, "Look, this is my son. Say goodbye to him." Mum translated. M waved another energetic wave. All smiles.

I was surprised. I could possibly be the first person outside the family who was firm with her, told her exactly what to do, etc., and today she was 'my friend'.

What was good to see was there was no argument between mum and daughter. I think G is making some progress.

The surprise of the morning really was J (the childminder) telling me that B (mum with blonde hair) is "not very nice".

Another sad observation today was that another mum told me that she discovered a mark on her son's chin and it appears that one of the bigger boys had squashed his chin last week. If these incidents are not reported to us immediately, there is nothing we could do.

This mum described the boy as "the foreign boy", to which B added , "that Somali boy?"

Today was the "that Somali boy's" last day and I did not want to make a fuss of it. He is actually one of our success stories. When he first came he could not sit still. Now he sits down to have his juice and biscuit as he is supposed to. He is generally polite to me. When I tell him off (eg 'driving' into the babies area), he responds.

Last week when I saw that he was very sad while his mum and sister were still at singing session I took hold of his hand and said, "Mum will be with you in two minutes."

Of course he had no idea what two minutes meant. "Count one to sixty two times and they will be finished. Could you do that?"

I sat him on a chair. He started counting, using his fingers. When mum and sister finished he was a happy bunny.

The big question is, why did mum not witness the incident herself? Parents are supposed to supervise their children AT ALL TIMES.

So I, foreigner #1, am getting nervous about people making assumptions about others on the basis of colour of skin, clothing, etc. It does not give me a good feeling.

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