It was the lovely sound of Christmas songs that welcomed visitors to Christianna’s house, the visit was done just a few days before this Christian holiday. Peeking through the verandah half doors you could see the faces of some high spirited toddlers looking back at you. A little hello and over will come “manman” with a lovely smile. She will instruct you to come round to the other door, which was the actual entry door. It might seem a little puzzling, as you would think you were actually standing right next to the entry. She will then explain that visitors come through the other door, the verandah door leads to the children’s ‘outside play area”. Once you’ve reached the side door you will see there a sign where it is clearly written “PLEASE TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES BEFORE COMING IN”, and after doing that you could then step into the child-minding world of Christianna Annette, a proud registered Child-minder since February 2017.
A mum of two children of her own as well as two grandchildren, with a third on the way, Christianna says she loves children. Indeed you can see and feel it as she interacts with the little ones surrounding her while they wonder who the stranger who just came into their house is. She says she feels that as a mother she is more relaxed than strict, she is firm in the way she brings up children under her responsibility but she understands the children, she knows that some days some will have their little mood swings so she observes so she can figure out how best to entice them to join in the fun of the daily activities. These are all important traits in someone who wants to take care of children.
Christianna has been minding children for almost nine years now, she said originally minding children wasn’t what she had set out to do; her hope was that she would take care of the elderly rather. She indeed started out as such, with her father who fell ill due to old age and needed a carer so she stepped up. The one day one of her cousins asked her to mind her two small children, which she did, and before she knew it was minding three and then four kids. Of course, as with all things in life, sometimes it wasn’t easy, especially at the beginning. She said that some days when some of the kids would be inconsolable she would feel so helpless and wanted to give up but her father advised her, he told her that you have to be patient with small children, understand them and they will understand you. Before long, she had gotten the hang of it and now she knows exactly how to deal with all the different personalities of all children she watches over.
If you ask Christianna why she wanted to register and she will tell you that she was inspired by the “leve debourye” campaign and she wanted to give it a try. She felt she had all the necessary skills, especially with her experience in nursing and she thought she could be successful at it. For now she is minding only six children but her licence allows her to have ten kids at a time, since she has an assistant. Her children range from five months to two years old, however, she is also currently minding a child who is older. She says that she likes to encourage parents to take their children to day-care when they turn two because they need to get used to larger groups of children, since they will soon go to school. Some parents are very upset about this because the children are used to her but she does explain that the change is for the children’s own good.
One of the secrets to keeping the children happy is keeping them entertained, according to Christianna, so she has a schedule for them, which ranges from watching cartoons, playing games inside or outside, reading, drawing, singing and dancing. She also teaches them about their body parts, how to write their names and other interesting activities. “Sometimes you take out the book and you say come and read kids, some of them will not even come to you and some will not listen at all; you need to understand that they are kids and you must not get mad at them, sometimes you need to adapt to their whims.”
Christianna ensures that her kids are always safe so she modified her house for that. She has installed a gate at the front verandah of her house to ensure that when the kids are playing they cannot get out without supervision, she also has a wooden enclosure separating the play areas from the verandah and the dining area and other parts of the house which may pose a risk. The back of the house is also gated in case she takes them out to play there or one of them manages to get over the wooden enclosure. Her kitchen was also modified to separate it from the play area. She had to build a little nook to change the smallest babies as well. She is also prepared for her biggest fear; fire. When you come up to the house you can clearly see the bright red fire hose right next to the play area out of reach of the children of course. Christianna says she has already prepared her emergency assembly point and already organised for assistance with two of her neighbours in case of an emergency. She also has her property fumigated every three months. This all cost her quite a bit, but she says that IECD assisted her financially with SR10, 000 for the initial costs; all child-minders get this to help with the home modifications.
Some people who mind children cook for the children as well, but Christianna says that food allergies are very common nowadays so to avoid any of the children being sick she asks parents to bring in their food from home as well as any juices and of course their formula. They are properly stored in each of the little cubicles. She does prepare neutral snacks for the children like oatmeal, fruits and sometimes sandwiches; which sometimes, due to the mood of the children, she has to eat herself!
Before leaving her we asked Christianna if she will keep doing this job for long and she told us “No matter how badly one day goes, with discipline, patience and God by my side, I can keep doing this job; with the children I feel stronger, and their parents are very understanding and supportive. But I think that I might retire at 55!” Whether the parents will let her go that easily is another story!