I arrived in Kliptown at the community centre this morning and the Mothers and babies were ready and waiting for me. The space was already set up, I could basically walk in and immediately start the class. Nicky from the Sky Foundation did an excellent job in organising and Bob Nameng the Director of the Foundation was also there to greet me. I brought my basket with a variety of different rattles for the kids to play with.
There were 7 mothers and babies within the age group 1-9 months old and one that was 1 year old. We started sitting in a circle and I asked the mothers if they had any questions or concerns about their baby’s development. There was no questions or concerns so I decided to go around the circle asking each mother to say the age, name and gender of their baby and what they have noticed in the development and what their baby can do. The 2 mothers of the 4 and 5-month-old babies said that their babies could sit, I could see that they can sit but not by themselves, the mothers had to hold them up otherwise they would fall over. Neither of these babies could roll or come to sit by themselves. There was one 9-month-old that could only sit and when on his back he could not bring himself to sit, he could also not roll. Then there was one one-month old and one 2-month-old baby. The one year old was mainly on his mother’s breast drinking.
I asked all the mothers to have their babies lie down on their backs and we started the lesson with tapping and getting the babies to focus to their mother’s faces. I got each mother to choose a toy for their baby and we used the noise of the rattle to tap on their chests in order to make eye contact. Once they got the baby’s attention we started with squeezing on the chest and then moving to tapping and squeezing the legs and arms. I very quickly realised that all of these babies do not move a lot and the mothers don’t know how to interact with their babies so I started working individually on each baby. I managed to give each baby and mother my individual attention. From tapping and squeezing I taught the mothers of the 4-1 year- old how to let their babies roll. The 9 -month old was screaming blue murder, he did not like to be taken out of his comfort of sitting. I asked the permission of his mother if it is ok if he screams a bit so that I can take him from back to rolling on his belly. I tried to bring him in to side sitting but he was helping so little and his legs were so stiff I could not bring him into side sitting at all. I was able to roll him from his back to the side and onto his belly and to do a bit of sliding up of his legs for crawling. The 9 -month old was crying a lot so I decide that this was a good moment to start singing, when I asked the mothers to sing a song they looked at me as if I was crazy. They told me that they don’t sing for their babies and did not know any songs. The one mother of the 2 month old said that she hums sometimes for her baby. I insisted that we choose a song and asked them if they knew the African lullaby Thula Mama which they all knew so we started singing all together. I made them tap their babies to the rhythm of the song and whilst they were doing this to their babies I was working with the 9-month old.
During the session I also spoke about the importance of movement in a child’s development. I used the 9-month old as an example where I said that when children can only sit in one way they are content in their comfort zone. Within their character there is foundation of giving up or not trying something new because they don’t know another way. I spoke to the mothers about how important it is in life to be able to have different options in order to have more choices. I used the 9-month old boy that can only sit as an example. I even raised our political situation in South Africa. The young children of today is the future of the country, if the parents can empower their children it will impact their future in a positive way. When the 9 month old cried I told the mothers that life is not always easy and by teaching the children different options in their movement patterns it also teaches them how to cope in difficult situations in life. I could see how they engaged, listened and understood what I was saying.
Before bringing the session to a close I decided to go around the circle to tap and squeeze each mother’s arm so that they can feel what their baby is experiencing when they tap and squeeze them. The mother of the 9 month- old could not speak much English and her older daughter was translating. I saw that she could not move her right arm and she explained that she had a stroke one year ago. I started tapping and squeezing the paralysed arm and all of a sudden, she could move her arm. The daughter asked me to show her so that she could do it with her mother every day. The mother was then able to hold her baby boy with two arms and not only one. I realised that the mother was now also empowered!
We ended the class by al standing in a circle and I showed the mothers how to hold the babies so that they all face each other and that the babies could see one another. We then did some stomping of the feet forward, backward and sideways. I made the mothers repeat through words according to the direction they take (walking forward and repeating forward, forward, forward and then walking backwards and saying backward, backward, backward) I think they preferred this to singing.
I asked them if they could say one thing that they learnt and what they will practice at home.
The next class has been scheduled.