• Anne O'Connor

A Gentle Touch

It’s not unusual to find me baby-gazing. It goes with the job. Sometimes it’s not so much a prolonged observation as fleeting glance at something that has caught my eye – more often as not an interaction between a child and the grown up they happen to be with. Years of observing in nursery has helped me become fairly adept at not drawing attention to myself or getting in the way of the interaction. But I messed up this morning. And am sorry that I may have interrupted something beautiful and rather special, even in its ordinariness.

So… I ‘m rushing to the station and approaching a crossing where someone with a toddler in a buggy is already waiting for the Green Man. I notice the grown up is gently stroking the child’s hair with the palm of their hand in a very deliberate, measured, forwards motion,whilst gazing down at the top of the child’s head. The child looked flushed and sleepy as though there had maybe been a bit of a mad rush to get them into the buggy and out of the house. But they were calm and very accepting of the hair stroking, whilst they sat gazing outwards at the traffic.

I’d noticed all this as I’d walked towards them and been struck by the calm connection between the two of them. It was beautiful and soothing … for me too, defusing some of my own stressiness, dashing for that train. I had no way of knowing if this action was the culmination of a long soothing session, whilst rushing out of the house maybe? Or just a whim of the adult? Or maybe even the grown up’s own need for soothing touch as they waited at the crossing with their mind whirring with the demands of the day.

But I wanted a bit more of it for me – so even though I was now standing side by side and a little in front of them, I glanced back to watch some more. And they both clocked me doing it and the adult instantly stopped the hair stroking. Then the lights changed and they set off across the road in the opposite direction to me.

I have to trust that that was not the only soothing tactile experience they both would have in the rest of their day, but even so, I want to say sorry for interrupting. It was a special moment in its ordinariness - and beautiful in its power to convey love and affection and relationship. Exactly what we all need to start our day with.

Find out more about the importance of touch in my series on Sensory Processing in Nursery World.

Blog Illustration by Tanya Williamson. Look out for more of Tanya's superb illustrations coming soon to this website!

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