BY DEBORAH LAURIN, PH.D Candidate, University of Oklahoma-Tulsa
Villő, 28 months, waits at the gate that divides the play space from the eating area. For several minutes, she spins the wooden latch of the gate her attention focused on her activity as Gabi, her caregiver, attends to breakfast with Abel. Finished with breakfast, Abel returns to the play area. Now it is time for Villő’s diaper change! Villő walks with Gabi to the washroom and steps up on the little stool in front of the dressing table. She lifts her left leg to the table, while balancing with her right foot on the stool, then reaches with both hands, finding stability in her three points of contact, before easily pulling herself to standing on the table. Leaning with her back against the rails that enclose two sides of the dressing table, Villő faces Gabi who is speaking softly to her. Gabi begins to unzip Villő’s pants, pausing as Villő helps push her pants partially down, Gabi then, gently slips them over the bulk of her diaper. Villő sits now for more stability, with one leg extended and the other bent her little fingers capably push her pants down to her ankles. Pushing the pants over her foot presents more challenge, so Gabi assists Villő easing the pant leg over Villő’s foot to the end of her toes. Now, Villő finishes her task, first pulling one pant leg over her toes and then the other. Villő stands bending her knees a little with her legs apart to aid Gabi as she carefully removes her poop-filled diaper. Ready with a basin of water, Gabi holds the basin as Villő puts her fingers in the water and touches the bar of soap. Speaking softly to Villő, Gabi meets her gaze with a smile. Taking the cloth from the water, Gabi gently cleans Villő with slow wiping movements, then, pauses. Standing sideways in a semi-squat position, Villő holds the dressing table rails with both hands for balance. She adjusts her posture in cooperation, first lifting one leg slightly and then the other as Gabi continues to clean her bottom. Now the washing is complete and Villő removes a wipe from the package and cleans her vulva with a few back and forth strokes, then, places the wipe in the garbage bag Gabi is holding ready. When Villő has completed her task, Gabi takes another wipe and gesturing she speaks to Villő who in response cooperatively lifts her leg so Gabi can continue with cleaning. Standing, Villő gazes through the window above the dressing table, observing the children playing in the room next door. Gabi follows Villő’s gaze and noticing her interest, pauses in the diapering process to narrate about the activity that has captured Villő’s attention. When Villő’s interest shifts back to Gabi, she offers two diapers for Villő to choose. Gabi holds them in front and in a moment of playfulness, Villő selects a diaper lifting her right leg and chooses with her toes. They both smile at this, their eyes meet before Villő turns to hold the rail with both hands as Gabi places the diaper, secures the tabs, then, snaps her onsey closed. Gabi rolls Villő’s pant leg into a doughnut like shape to guide and ease Villő’s dressing. Now Villő turns to face Gabi, still holding the rail with one hand for balance, she steps one foot and then the other through the doughnut hole of each pant leg. Gabi pauses, watching and waiting, as Villő pulls her pants up stopping at her diaper. This is difficult and requires Gabi’s assistance to ease it over the bulk of her diaper. Fully dressed and still standing, Villő lets go of the rail smiling widely and gazes at Gabi with warmth and delight, she extends her belly toward Gabi. Gabi leans toward Villő too, returning Villő’s smile and gaze before offering her hands, then, lifts her from the dressing table to the floor. It is time to wash hands! Villő walks to the little sink at child height, turns on the tap, and washes her hands rubbing them together under the running water. Gabi stands nearby, speaking to Villő, but does not interfere with Villő’s task. Reaching for her towel Villő dries her hands, then, finding the little loop on the towel, she hangs the towel on her peg. Her diapering completed she returns to play.
The beautiful vignette above is an actual observation of diapering at Lóczy, in Budapest Hungary at the Pikler Institute from a visit in June 2016. Ahead of its time, even in 1946, the Pikler Institute continues with a unique approach to childcare that exemplifies ideals independent of the status quo. For most, the practices described may seem different from the way diapering is typically conducted in most infant and toddler group care settings. The diapering routines at Lóczy offer a cultural context in which to re-envision most infant and toddler diapering practices. Importantly, the Pikler® approach is not a recipe to follow in a lock-step manner. A phrase coined by a participant at the San Francisco Pikler® Intensive, “Inspiration, not replication” resonated with my experience of observing the caregivers and children at Lóczy. It is a reminder of what Lóczy offers, without copying; valuable insights about the way the Lóczy children and their caregivers are together. My visits observing in the children’s groups at Lóczy profoundly moved me, in a visceral way, deeply imprinting in my psyche the well-being of the children and the utmost care in every gesture and word of their caregivers. It gave me a feeling of immense hope, like recovering something precious, previously thought to be lost. READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE IN OUR JANUARY NEWSLETTER, PAGE 10.