maison verte-uk cd's dvd's to watch and listen about infancy infants and their parents

   Jacqueline Sudaka-Bénazéraf

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VERANDA, Maison Verte

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Emtretien avec J.M. Carre

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Book "Libres enfants de la Maison Verte" by Jacqueline Sudaka-Benazeraf

Jacqueline Sudaka-Bénazéraf

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maison verte-uk testimonies page

Here are two testimonies, each one written by a group of parents who, together with their children, were frequent visitors to two different Maisons Vertes in Rome (Casa Verde).  Below them you will find a transcription from a ‘mother user’, Jacqueline Sudaka-Bénazéraf, of the original Maison Verte in Paris; she has since gone on to write a book about her experience.

 At the beginning, we started going to the Casa Verde because we were curious about the project, without really knowing what it was all about. Since the beginning our children were enthusiastically waiting for Tuesday and Thursday afternoons to come around, so that they could go to the Casa Verde to play with their mothers or fathers. So we kept going there, even though we wondered why, after having attended long days at school, our children were so energetically running into another school’s room rather than going outside!    

 After joining the Casa Verde for several months we can now clearly witness that in this small place something different is offered to parents and their children. In the Casa Verde nothing is taught: the child who freely plays with his parents and other children is welcomed. The welcomers give the same attention and discretion to both the young and the old! We feel relaxed and feel that we are being listened to and truly heard by them. Most of the time dinner and shopping can wait! However, there are some fundamental rules. For example, it is essential to listen to everyone’s point of view when children are arguing; or, if you have to just go away for a moment, it is important to share that with your child.       

 For all of us it has been a terrific opportunity to play with our children and reflecting on the anxieties and misunderstandings that can occur between children and parents. At the Casa Verde there is an opportunity to share personal experience with other parents; to talk with the welcomers when your child is not eating properly, or not sleeping well, or if there has been a loss in the family, or a separation. You can talk about the possible consequences on the child’s development. It has been a real support, a healthy experience for us and for our children.

 We feel we have been really lucky to have had the chance of being part of this project, an opportunity that unfortunately has not been given to other parents. With this letter we would like to give testimomy to the importance of our personal experience and the hopefulness that the Casa Verde will be established within other schools and cities, in order to give to other parents the same chance we had.

Rome, 21st June 2004

 We are a group of parents who live in the Monteverde Borough, and who are attending a pilot project based on the Maison Verte, a care centre founded in 1979 by the French Psychoanalyst Françoise Dolto.
It seems really important for us to express our opinion on this experience.

We believe that the presence of this project might positively influence the general wellbeing of individuals who are living within our Borough. Here, we found the opportunity to encounter and share our personal maternity experiences. It has been important for us to have a place to go to where we have the chance to spend a couple of hours with others, breaking the routine of everyday life: when you are a mother of a young child and often you spend the whole day isolated.  

 All of us agree that this aspect has been the most important. The relationship between a mother and her child becomes so exclusive that sometimes it becomes really hard to allow a proper separation. When a mother goes back to work, she has to deal with bringing her child to a nursery school or employing a nanny. In any case, there will be someone else who is going to look after the young child for most of the daytime. This specific moment could be really problematic.

 The Casa Verde gave us the opportunity to gradually deal with this separation, by offering to our children the opportunity to socialise with others. The children got really used to it. It is significant indeed for them to experience a place with structured rules, the same each time, the same toys at their disposal, and especially, peers to play with. Perhaps, it has been even more important for those children who went to the Casa Verde with their Grandparents or Nannies.

 Certainly not less important has been the presence of the welcomers, who are able to observe children’s behaviours and tendencies, letting them freely use the space at their disposal. The welcomers also are able to listen to us, parents, and we have got a lot of questions and doubts! This discrete and, at the same time attentive and very welcome presence, is a special feature at the Casa Verde. It is different from every other place responsible for children’s entertainment that we have known.

 We understand this service could seem to be less necessary than creating new nurseries. However we believe that the Casa Verde could represent a necessary prior step to this, and for this reason not less necessary but indispensable to enhance wellbeing and to prevent discomforts.

 We wish our Borough could provide us this service in future. For all of us it would be a huge problem if next year the Casa Verde will not be here anymore to welcome us.

 We are really grateful for your understanding. We hope you will take this concerning and urgent matter into consideration.

Rome, 28th April 2006

Jacqueline Sudaka-Bénazéraf

Associate professor of classics, and doctor of letters.

a testimony to the first Maison Verte in Paris

(transcribed and translated from the you tube clip which you can find via the side-link).

'Françoise Dolto wrote to me in 1987 when I published my book 'Free children of the MV’, she said that I was a ‘mother user’ and that I ‘gave testimony’; this formula suited me perfectly. Indeed, I accompanied my son for three years to the MV on Rue Meilhac which FD founded in 1979. It was the dearest MV, which she was also, more than her books even. It was my three years of complete happiness. I was no longer alone, isolated in the symbiotic dyad of mother and child. I became again a woman who could dialogue with other women, who could speak well of her children, and of all mothers accompanying their child. I was able to cut the power source of my anguish by discovering my child at a distance, a good distance, near and far at the same time, with him. I saw him with other children, in the eyes of other adults, flying on his own. He knew I was there, and gained a little more autonomy every day, which allowed him, one day, to separate himself from me in order to enter into school. He knew I was there – and this is a fundamental principle – the child knows a parent is there.

'I want now more than ever, in a time more difficult than that known by FD, I want to recall what were the essential principles: to teach the children that they are born into speech; that they have a first name (by which they are called when they enter the MV); that they are in a small society of children that they will get to know and with whom they are going to play; that they have rules to follow; that it is not a utopia, this house, that it is a micro-society, where they learn to become responsible people, where the social contract is tied, where they will become, one day, in their turn the citizens in a city, to live there as much as possible in harmony with the others.
The second rule that we sometimes forget with Dolto, is that she placed limits.  boundaries: we do not play with the truck near the water. Between the two is established a line that we will not cross: games with water do not mix with the games on the trucks. Thus the children learn about that which we can call the law from an early age.

'Faced with the violence of a society where children don’t always respect their parents or teachers, and who pass to the act more than to the speech, where the child is more and more caught in the circuits of profitability, I would like to return to the construc-tion, with others, of speech and of the teaching of FD, and to defend her principles.
To what violence are we subject, us parents?

What are the challenges they know today, these parents to whom comes the response: 'zero for conduct’*2? And those teachers to whom one gives no response. What are these crèches which lack personnel, that are understaffed? What are these children, finally, what is their place, they who are jostled by the accelerated pace of adults, their parents, their teachers sometimes. [Children] who are in the time of others and not of their own, that are delivered, what is more, to the scientific research that is now looking for a pill to prevent crime, prevent delinquency. We know that only the word can allow the child to communicate what is nothing less than his or her suffering. That subjectivity of the child, it is no longer only a question, it is time now to get it going again, to get it moving.

It is urgent to return to the principles of FD and to create again the MV, the Maison Ouverte.
Let us turn an other gaze on our children, whatever they are: whether they are unwelcome, whether they are deformed by society, whether they appear brutal, disabled, foreigners. Let’s return to them and listen to them. The MV is a link where mothers, fathers, children, psychoanalysts and welcomers can install themselves in a time and in a speech, where one can find oneself with the time and the voice, without judgement, without shoving. And it is there that one can develop oneself as a humanized person from the youngest age.

With her genius for simplicity FD has given, in the Cause of Children, an identity card: she has said: 'here it is, stupid as a cabbage, we sit, and we cause' adding: 'and all is well'.

Jacqueline Sudaka-Bénazéraf
Associate professor of classics, and doctor of letters. Author of ‘The Gaze of Franz Kafka, A visual writer’ (Maisonneuve et Larose, 2001); Franz Kafka, aspects of a poetry of gaze (Peeters-Vrin, 2000). Only the white is nothing: Paul Klee, illustrator of Voltaire (Ides et Calendes, 2008). Director of three documentary films, she is a teacher at the University of Paris, Sorbonne.