The family are of an Indian origin and follow the Sikh religion. The parents, Mr and Mrs Singh, have been married for 8 years. They live in West London and both work as postal workers for Royal Mail. Mr and Mrs Singh both work on separate shift patterns, Mr Singh works an early shift of 4am-1pm and Mrs Singh works a later shift of 2pm-9pm. This arrangement ensures that one parent is always at home to care for their two children. The Singh’s have an 8-year-old boy (Charanjeet) and a girl aged 3 (Simran).
Mrs Singh is at home in the mornings to get the kids up and ready for school, whilst Mr Singh is at home during the afternoons and, often being assisted by his parents, they take care of the children after school. For the purposes of my observations, I will be monitoring their daughter SimranThe Singh’s have a close-knit extended family as Mr Singh’s parent live next door and his brother lives only a few streets away. The grandparents play a very active and important role in the care and upbringing of their grandchildren. They are very often on hand and very willing to help out with any day-to-day childcare duties. The children see more of her patriarchal family than their mother’s family as they live in Canada.
ObservationThere were several people present at the time of the observation* Simran, 3 (the child I am observing)* Mr Singh, 30’s (the father)* Mrs Singh, 30’s (the mother)* Charanjeet, 8 (the brother)* Mrs Singh, 60’s (the grandmother)I knocked on the door and was promptly greeted by the grandmother. She led me into the kitchen where Simran was reading a magazine on the kitchen table and her mother was busy preparing some food. As soon as Simran saw me, she drew close to her mother’s legs, partially hiding her face so that I could not see her.
I introduced myself to the mother owing to the fact this was our first meeting.Thought: I suppose this was Simran’s way of seeking comfort as a stranger had entered and had seemingly made her uncomfortable.I was then ushered into the living room where the father was watching television.
The room was immaculately clean, spacious and decorated in a lilac colour scheme. There were various family pictures all over the room, making the room feel homely and full of warmth. We exchanged hellos. The mother came into the room and Simran, who was not far behind, came in and sat on her lap. At this point she acknowledged my presence with a shy smile and then quickly put her head into her mother’s chest. A few moments later she got up and began searching the area for a toy, she soon emerged with a green and yellow snake that was behind a chair and began to play with it on the floor.
She rolled around the floor with it laughing and looking at her mother for her approval. Her mother laughs and asks Simran, “Are you giving the snake love?” She replied, ‘Yes mama, like you give me”. Mother smiled warmly at Simran and she responded.The mother offered me a drink and some food. I couldn’t refuse, as it looked delicious. Mother placed the food onto the table and then sat down, Simran once again placed herself on her mothers lap. Mother then remembers that she has forgotten the napkins, she puts Simran down and tells her to stay as she would only be a moment, but this seemed to cause Simran great distress for she ran after her saying “Mama, mama where are you going?”Thought: I am amazed at the attachment Simran has to her mother and at the anxiety she has when mother leaves the room for the briefest of moments.Thought: Saying yes to some food was probably a mistake as this led to conversation, which diverted my attention from Simran.
After about 20 minutes, I kindly pointed out to the mother that I should continue with the observation as I had an appointment to go to after this visit.Feelings: This made me feel slightly uncomfortable, as I did not want to appear rude or discourteous.After that I took a place slightly away from the mother and continued with my observations.Simran soon became fed up with playing with the snake and went to her toy cupboard, which was full of her and Charanjeets toys, and brought out a keyboard. She took her seat on mothers lap and started to make some interesting sounds on it.
Mother actively encouraged Simran, “Well done Simran that was beautiful”. This delighted Simran and she smiled approvingly.Simran suddenly stopped playing and turned to her mother and began cuddling her as she sat on her lap. This was an affectionate display of beautiful eye contact and warmth shared between mother and daughter.
There were lots of laughter and exchanges of smiles.Feelings: How beautiful to watch the sweet and loving display of affection.She then suddenly got up and started to skip up and down the room happily singing, with pigtails flying in all directions. Simran seemed unsure of where she should sit as she glanced from me to her mother with a puzzled expression on her face. After a minute or so, she decided that she would sit facing her mother. She picked up her baby doll and a bag full of the dolls items such as a milk bottle, food and clothes.
She put the baby in her arms and affectionately caressed and cuddled the baby. She crouched over and kissed the baby on the cheek. I couldn’t help smiling, as it was such a sweet scene.Thought: How sweetSimran glanced in my direction to see what I was staring at; at this point I looked away from her. This moment made me a little bit uncomfortable as I sensed I was invading her private space.Simran then began to carefully empty the contents of her baby bag onto the floor and started playing mother to her doll.”Mama, I am going to put a cardigan on the baby..
.. it’s winter'” Simran tried to put the cardigan onto the doll. But, every time she tried to get the sleeves of the cardigan on the dolls arm, the doll would slip from her grip. She tried this a few times to no avail. This began to get her very frustrated and flustered “Ohhhhhhhh mama I can’t do it! Mama can you help me I can’t get it on her arm? Baby is cold mama”. She passes the doll to her mother who successfully manages to get it on. Simran continues to play for several more minutes.
From time to time, she gazes at her mother and then returns to her playing when she is given a reassuring smile.After a while mother suggested, much to Simian’s delight, that they should do some colouring. With this signal she was up like a shot and getting her colouring books and pens out. Simran then returned to take her place back on mothers lap. She started to colour and mother joined in making suggestions of what colours to use on a picture of Barbie. Mother suggested that they colour Barbie’s hair black like Simrans. Simran acted upon this advice and began rummaging through her box of colours looking for a suitable colour. She would pick up various colours, look at them intently and then shake her head disapprovingly.
Simran suddenly looked excited after she thought that she had found it. She had however picked up a dark green pen. Mother told Simran that the colour wasn’t black, but Simran said “No mama, wait and see, wait and see”, and chuckled amusingly as she started to colour Barbie’s hair.
Even though the colour was a dark green, Simran was convinced it was black so there was no point in trying to convince her otherwise “See mama it’s black”, mother simply laughed.After a short period, mother suggested that Simran should practise writing her name. Simran took out her scrapbook and slowly and carefully turned through the pages with her fingers until she found a blank sheet, she then handed the book over to her mother. Simran then gave her mother a pen so she could write down Simrans name in big bold letters for her to copy. Using the pen, Simran tried copy it but found the pen difficult to grasp “Mama it does not write”. Mother replied, “Beta, (Indian for darling) you need to grasp the pen tightly at the tip”. Mother explained to me that Simran normally uses a pencil for writing practice.
She then encourages Simran to continue her writing using a pencil instead. After a few moments Simran agrees.Thought: The poor little mite.The father chastised the child for being too much of a baby.
Mother said to Simran that Papa was naughty, as he did not understand that Simran likes to be able to do things.At this point the father left to collect Charanjeet from school. When Charanjeet arrived, Simran burst out of her mothers lap with joy and rushed to greet him. “Charanjeet Charanjeet, you’re home! Can we play now?” he ignored his sister and took off his coat.Charanjeet came into the room and said hello to his mother and to me. He sat down near his mother and Simran once again took her position on her mothers lap.
The mother and father began ridiculing Charanjeet about his new girlfriend at school called Deena. However, Charanjeet did not find this very amusing and began hitting his mother on the arm in protest. Simran found this very hurtful and began thumping her brother with her tiny little fists. “Stop Charanjeet stop!” The dad meanwhile just carried on watching television. The mother said to Charanjeet that hitting an elder was not very nice.
Simran similarly voiced her disapproval and told her brother “I’m not your friend you hurt my mama”. Simran had a look of hurt in her eyes but Charanjeet seemed oblivious to this.Feelings: I felt a bit awkward as felt I was witnessing something that I should not of seen. Charanjeet appeared very angry with his mother for he was hitting her quite aggressively.Thought: I am taken aback by the ability of a three-year’s understanding of violence and her ability to be protective over her mother.Mother, suddenly releasing the time, attempts to get up having remembered that she has to bring in the clothes that had been drying outside.
Simran resisted her mother’s attempts to leave and said “No mama! I want to sit here with you”. Mother replied, “Beta you can come and help me’. So off they went. But then Simran disappeared upstairs for she had misunderstood her mother’s instructions and, moments later, emerged from upstairs having brought down the clothes that needed washing. Mother noticed this as she brought in the washed clothes and, whilst affectionately kissing her on her head, explained to Simran that that was not what she had meant.
ReflectionThis interaction with mother and daughter was very interesting, it was evidently clear that her relationship with her mother is much more about love and affection, this is in contrast to her relationship with her father. She displays a close attachment to her mother and often looks lost or hurt when mother leaves her alone or leaves the room for even the briefest of moments. This is in stark contrast to her behaviour and attitude towards her father whom, in the presence of her mother, she seems to largely ignore or not acknowledge. Simran spent much of the hour maintaining eye contact with mother and enjoyed being stimulated by her mothers company as she tried to continually engage Simran with various activities.
She continually looked to her mother for her approval, praise and affection as if they were the most important things in the world to her. Likewise, the mother seemed very focused and attentative towards Simran and continually encouraged and praised what she was doing. The father on the other hand, although present in the room, seemed to have little or no impact on the child. Through Simrans behaviour, it seemed the only people present in that room that mattered to Simran were herself and her mother.
Another interesting aspect of the observation related to the violence that Charanjeet had displayed towards his mother and the protective response that came from Simran. The intervention shown by Simran shows the deep attachment she feels towards her mother and depths she would go to in trying to protect her.