Sunday, February 5, 2012


Eye contact is a very important way for newborns and infants of communicating with their parents. It is after all also for us a very special moment when we realise, that our child is looking into our eyes, not straight through them anymore. It is also the time, when the first smile brings happy tears into mommy's eyes. I could spend ours looking into Leander's eyes, trying to read his thoughts and feeling completely connected. And yet, I lost it somewhere along the way.

When I look around I realise I'm not alone. But that's not a relief, it's sad. Parents often talk to their children over the paper or the phone or the computer. At the breakfast table we tend to look at the mess that's about to happen, at the changing table we fight with a diaper, poo and wipes.
The only moments that pop into my mind when thinking of a parent-child-eye contact is the angry parent yelling into the child's face or the parent leaving the sad child with a caretaker. Is that all?

When did we loose this special connection? The opportunity to raise a person, that won't avoid the eye contact to a stranger?
Well I've got some thoughts.

1) As soon as the child becomes mobile we start walking ahead. When before I looked at Leander and said: "I'm going to the kitchen, I'll be right back" I then just said I'd leave knowing he would follow anyway. At some point I even started walking out because there aren't many places I could go to in our flat. But the main part is that I didn't necessarily look at him anymore, even if I did say something.

2) We had Leander facing towards us in the stroller for quite a long time. But when he started being artistic trying to face the other way I gave in and turned the seat around. The trailor we've got now doesn't even give us that choice. And most strollers don't give that either. When I talk to Leander I don't even know if he's listening. Until I hear an answer. Or not.

3) The diaper change became much more lively when we started changing Leander while he was standing up. Especially since he can walk I'm trying hard to keep the poo where it belongs while Leander is busy doing... what actually? I never distracted him with toys, I actually took them off him when he was up there on the changing table. But I didn't think that using an unattended moment of his to get the trousers off or the diaper on was some form of distraction too. Until I had another three days of intense Pikler traning last week.

In that training we looked at pictures and videos of diaper change situations in the Lóczy orphanage in Budapest. What struck me was the connection between the children and the nurses. Most impressive for me was their eye contact in so many moments, an eye contact in which you feel a strong relation ship and trust. It was something everyone would expect from children and their parents, but not in an orphanage. And again it made me rethink our (diaper) changing situations at home.

So in the evening I tried what felt easy and doable. And I learned that it wasn't. Because we had lost it. Even when I did remind Leander to "take part" in taking his trousers off, his pyjama on or anything, he did. But he wouldn't look into my eyes. And when he did, I tried to stretch the moment. Because I felt how special it was.
We're still not there yet but I feel that it is getting easier. Because while trying to bring him back to the moment, not using unattended situations to get on, I eventually get him when HE is ready to. I then have this cooperatve child Pikler always talked about. And this is not - as it may sound - a passive unwilling child, it's a happy one that feels being respected and trusted. The other bonus is - I am so focused, so right in this moment trying to connect with him that I don't think of anything else. I'm right there. With him.

As I say - I'm not there yet, but I feel that this is a wonderful upward spiral I just have to hold onto very tight and I will not just have a cooperative child (with moody exceptions I hope - because a "No!"from his side is important too, but that's another topic) but also a very strong and loving connection that's worth every minute we're late for all sorts of appointments.

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