Beginnings – a reflection on the importance of cherishing the early days of a new year
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Sector.
With many children heading back to term-based care in previous weeks, The Sector reached out to East West Childcare centre in the Victorian suburb of Fitzroy, Wurundjeri Country.
East West Childcare has a reputation for innovation and compassionate and responsive caregiving, and Co Co-ordinator Ruth Harper shared her thoughts with us on what it means to begin the year in her Exceeding rated service.
“Beginnings can be hard, even when we stagger the start of the year. This year, we have 18 new children joining our service – that may not sound like a lot to some, until you know that we only have 25 children in our care each day.
Our new children start with a week of what we call “settling in” visits – a chance to get to know the educators and the rhythm and flow of the service. They had their first week of care this week, and the combination of many new children, and those new children being a younger cohort, has meant tears, learning and reflection.
Yesterday there was someone crying – often more than one someone – most of the morning. Against the soundtrack of tears, some of our older children thought that painting the floor seemed like a fun idea. Many of our new parents are, understandably, anxious, and needing a lot of support.
Our older children are feeling more comfortable in exploring their space, perhaps emboldened by the realisation that they are now the “big fish” in the pond, and have been removing the cushions and mats from the jumping room, continuing to jump – from heights – even though we’d told them they’d need to put the cushions back for it to be safe.
This has meant that we’ve had to embark on a big “sort and modify” mission, reconfiguring the indoor environment – even though it was after 3pm and none of us really felt like doing it.
While we were standing around looking at the room, which looked as though it had just given birth to several hundred messy pieces of furniture, with old couch cushions, toys and loose parts “babies” everywhere, to the point where you literally couldn’t see the floor, or the children hiding amongst it all, a new mum walked in to pick up her daughter.
It was a bit awkward, for her to find us in this way – after all, she’d just entrusted her most precious child to us, and here we were, looking like we’d just been through a tornado. Luckily, she was cool and just asked if we needed any help, as she picked her way through and over the (temporary) chaos.
Several of our established parents soon arrived, but they were less taken aback, already being comfortable with us and our ways. Today is going to be more of the same, only more so, because today there’s 13 (thirteen!) new children coming, and yesterday there were “only” six.
It’s ok though – we know that beginnings are hard and messy and really tiring and relationships take time.
It’s ok if children cry, it’s ok if parents cry – it’s even ok if we cry. It doesn’t even matter if things are a bit chaotic and messy.
Children are going to cry and be angry and reject us; we as educators are going to feel frustrated and angry and worried. We might question ourselves, and we might feel like we are not enough.
We will probably feel like we are failing some days, like it’s all falling apart. There will be times where we think to ourselves “I’ve always wanted to work stacking shelves in a supermarket” and that’s ok too.
Crying children are not a problem. Their being new and adjusting to our environment and finding their way is not something we need to stop or solve or control – they’re just “being”.
It’s ok to stop, to notice, to recognise and to respond. Sometimes that response is as simple as acknowledging that yes, sometimes beginnings are hard.
As a team of educators who trust one another, we check in with each other. We acknowledge the reality of what we’re all facing. We be honest, admit to feeling doubtful, overwhelmed, scared – we embrace vulnerability as a powerful tool of both bonding and leadership.
We cut each other, and ourselves a little slack. Beginnings are hard at the best of times, and unfortunately, the Christmas and New Year break for many of us was not the best of times. The devastating, unrelenting bushfires meant most of us were pretty stressed before the new year even began.
We pause. We remember that which is the most important in the work we do. We remind ourselves and each other that it isn’t the Instagram worthy displays or the meticulously completed checklists that make us who we are – it’s the relationships.
Like any new relationship, there needs to be space – space for learning and growing, sharing and knowing, space to be, to belong and to become.
We know that beginnings are hard, but we also know the journey we are beginning with our new children is one of the most powerful influences in their lives – and that’s what we hold on to.”