Babywatching for Empathy
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B.A.S.E. ® Babywatching UK Volunteers

28/11/19
Sent by HESTER SMITH, B.A.S.E. ® Babywatching Group Leader and Mentor​​​​​​

My baby and I both thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being part of the team little - along with our lovely Babywatching leader - who took Babywatching to the Year 5 class.
We started on a cold and wet January day, when she was five and a half months - the same day incidently that she first managed to just about sit upright by herself! We managed to keep our sessions going right up until the end of the academic school year - luckily she was a late crawler, so although she was nearly 1 year by the time we finished, she was only just beginning to want to crawl to the children in these last few sessions!

It has been an amazing experience to have baby J watched so intently by the children and to see our interactions through their eyes. I was fascinated by how certain children were able to attune to her needs. I remember one instance where she began to clap her hands - I began clapping too - and all the children spontaneously began to clap as well. It was very powerful to be a part of. Moreover, the look of amazement in her eyes was so wonderful - a sort of “look what I have managed to start all by myself!” Equally wonderful though, was a few moments later. The children had become really quite excited and the energy in the room was escalating. One small boy suddenly said loudly “I think we need to be quiet now - she looks like it’s getting a bit much for her”. I think he saw this even before I got there myself - and I think he was absolutely spot on with his understanding of her in that moment. Such is the power of Babywatching.

The child I won’t forget is one who was a looked-after child and had often been excluded from the classroom when we arrived for our session. This allowed him the chance to see us alone. Without my ever mentioning it, he picked up on the one thing that I have found really difficult as a mother: my little girl’s battle with eczema. Each week he would check what he could see of her skin and comment on what he saw or ask about how the eczema was. I was really moved by his kindness. As the weeks progressed, it felt as if he developed a very special relationship with both me and my baby, in these momentary exchanges.

I am so glad that we were able to be a part of Babywatching - both for me and for my daughter. There is something very powerful about being observed - just being - with my little one, by a whole class of children. There’s something extremely validating in being witnessed, even in the sessions when nothing particularly profound was said. More often than not, I would leave with a little skip in my step that wasn’t necessarily there before the session. When profound, insightful moments did occur, I found that they stayed with me for days - and sometimes weeks - afterwards.

As for my baby, she loved the whole process from beginning to end. When we started, she wasn’t that aware of the children as such, but she was aware of being in a different environment and one where she received a very particular type of attention from me! As she grew, my sense was that she loved the energy in the room. And gradually she began to be more and more interested in the children. She is a wonderfully gregarious little being, and I do wonder whether our weekly Babywatching sessions have had a large part to play in the development of what an outgoing little character she has become. I am forever thankful that we got to be part of such a wonderful venture.