status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage
As people who have “Liked” the Status Viatoris Blog Facebook page, or those who follow me on Twitter, might have noticed, I have on several recent occasions been called upon to help out at the local “nido” or nursery.
In most of Italy, free schooling starts at three-years old with the “asilo” or “scuola materna”, before the children go on to junior school aged six. For those who require childcare before then, there is usually the paying option of some sort of nursery.
At the moment our nido (lit. nest) boasts a frankly edible selection of tots; two fifteen-months olds – an Italian boy and an Albanian girl, nicknamed Romeo and Giulietta; so enamoured are they of each other; as well as another five kiddies (three Italians, an Albanian and a Romanian) between the ages of twenty months and two and a half years old.
My tasks when present could not exactly be described as onerous; unless that is the ideal word to denote cuddling squirmy little bods, assisting with the posting of plastic shapes into correspondingly shaped plastic holes, posting pasta into eagerly gaping mouths, wiping teeny noses, and occasionally breaking up scraps between minuscule human beans who weigh less than Pooch (although they are often considerably snottier).
On those days I am summoned, I arrive promptly at 9h30 in the morning – some of the children will have already been harassing the main nursery nurse since before 8h – and don my fake crocs before facing the throng.
For the following hour we romp merrily round the playroom, building Lego towers with really big Lego, calling each other on plastic mobile phones and posting plastic shapes into correspondingly shaped plastic holes. Occasionally the older children are occupied with more exacting tasks like colouring or drawing, whilst the babies coo and peck at each other in the playpen like lovestruck doves.
At 10h30 we migrate en masse to the bathroom; a Gulliver-like space equipped with tiny sinks, tiny loos and a tiny bench for tiny bottoms to perch whilst waiting for their turn on the potty.
Once bladders have been emptied, nappies changed and tiny hands washed in the tiny sinks, our charges make their way through to the dining room, where they plump down on their tiny chairs and wait for the first of the daily DVD renditions of Jo Jo (a strange little clown) or similarly animated forms of entertainment.
At 11h30, the tata (lit. nanny, and the name by which most Italian preschoolers address the non-family members who care for them) goes downstairs to the kitchen to collect the first course of the daily meal – usually pasta con sugo or al burro (pasta in plain tomato sauce or with butter) or minestra (soup).
Following the first course, all the children are give a small drink of water before being presented with their second course: cold ham with peas, breaded chicken breast with tomatoes or other such simple fare. Another drink of water is then given, before a small piece of fruit and an additional episode of cartoon capers, wooden puzzle or suchlike.
As 13h approaches, the little ones are taken one by one back to the bathroom to be stripped down their undies and given another spin on the potty, before being coaxed into a cot or one of the tiny beds in the dormitory next door – a flurry of fat, bare little legs flashing round the room as they attempt to avoid capture and somnolent-incarceration often ensues at this point…
But eventually they are all snugged up under the covers: the two smallest babies alternately popping up and down meerkat-style in their cots, and Number One Tata goes in to settle them with a ninna nanna (lullaby) whilst I get on with sweeping and mopping up the ravages of lunch.
At that point I am usually set free from my childcare duties, but I have been reliably informed that the little angels kip for over two hours before being woken for another round of potty-sitting, a yoghurt and a game or cartoon before their parents arrive to collect them at 16h.
I can certainly think of worse ways to spend my time…
This is Status Viatoris, good practice for future maternal endeavours or an excellent contraceptive? Well that really depends on the mood of the day, in Italy.