Observing and adapting, we find ways to comfort

By Lower Elementary Teacher Amy Fujimoto

I remember the first moment I saw my son Hayden. He was hanging upside down with the doctor holding him by his foot. My first thought was, I don’t think I am ready for this. At that moment I didn’t feel strong, wise, or capable of being that little guy’s parent. He screamed crazily. I was frightened, and wondered if I could ever comfort him. It was a terrifying shock to my system. Very slowly as the evening passed into night and into day again I would sleep a little and Hayden would calm down when he slept on my chest. We slept many nights like that. Once David and I brought Hayden home, also the slowest David has ever driven in Seattle, we learned that Hayden loved to move. He would become calmer as we “bounced” and walked him around the house. David and I wore a path up and down the living room and through the kitchen. Walking back and forth as we comforted Hayden. He liked it when we sang old camp songs, too.

David and I were going through a huge structural change. Every aspect of our lives adapted to this little creature who was our responsibility to keep alive. Along with, of course, loving, teaching and guiding him into becoming a kind human being. Fritjof Capra, a physicist, and Pier Luigi Luisi, a chemist, wrote in their book “The Systems of Life,” “A living organism responds to environmental influences with structural changes, these changes will in turn alter its future response, because the organism responds to disturbances according to its structure, and that structure has now changed. But this process—a modification of behavior on the basis of previous experience—is what we mean by learning.” The changes David and I made were how we learned to be parents. We observed Hayden, found ways to comfort and meet his needs, and adjusted the structure of our expectations and lives to meet Hayden’s needs. One example was any ride in the car. When we tried to take him on a car ride, we observed that he screamed uncontrollably, and learned that if we were to take long car rides, we needed to allow for many stops of walking, bouncing, and singing. We avoided long car trips too!

Remote learning is a huge structural change. Many of the reactions I had when I first saw Hayden I am feeling again—fear, anxiety and inadequacy. I am learning how to teach in a new way. Families are also learning how to “do” school from home. Communication is different, connection between all people is different. This is a massive change for everyone! We are all new parents.

What I experienced as a new parent I am reminded of as a beginning remote educator. I observe, I adapt to the situation, and I try something new. I hope to comfort my students, the families I work with and at the same time, myself. I attempt to do this in new ways. I am grateful for the opportunity to take a quick walk in the afternoon with David. Along with all-day access to chocolate. Perhaps those little things are my equivalent to bouncing and walking that soothed Hayden 14 years ago.