Farewell to the woman who cared for thousands of babies
DURING more than two decades of devoting herself to her work in early childcare, Judith Harm has never encountered two babies like each other.
Mrs Harm, who is retiring today after 14 years with Crayons Early Learning Centre at Hatton Vale, said this week, “In 24 years, I’ve never struck two babies the same. Every one is different.
“They’ve got their own attitudes and personalities and every one is beautiful in their own way.”
Mrs Harm, who has cared for thousands of babies, said she began her career in childcare aged 41 when her niece called out for help while working at a childcare centre in Laidley.
“I was between jobs and my niece said, ‘Aunty Judy, we’re short-staffed – can you come in and help out?’ and I never left.”
Mrs Harm worked in early childcare for 10 years before joining the team at Crayons 14 years ago.
A Laidley local – Judy was born at the Laidley Hospital and her parents Mick and Gladys Lyne were also born in the region – has three grandchildren of her own.
She said she’s going to miss the children she has worked with and their families, and she hopes to still see them around – as she does with the babies she first cared for years ago who are now grown up.
“They still tug at my heart and I still see some of them and come into contact with their parents.
“I’ve never had a parent yet that I couldn’t get on with – they’ve all been wonderful.
“Some of the children I’ve had in the nursery have stayed in the centre until school, and then they’ve come back for before and after-school care.
“And it’s lovely to see them progress and see how they’re doing.”
Whenever a new family has joined the daycare centre, Mrs Harm has always asked them about their child’s routine.
“And then I explain that it won’t last because it changes when they’re with other kids.
“But I just tell them to write their routine down and it gives us a sense of what their cues are and that all helps.”
Praised by fellow staff for her calm nature, Mrs Harm said working in the nursery was at times “like an emergency ward in the hospital”.
“If they’re all crying, you have to work out why they’re crying – one might need a bottle and one is crying because the other one is crying.
“I can only deal with one at a time, and the calmer you stay, the calmer they stay. They can feel it if you’re tense.”
Mrs Harm said there had been one young boy who had “attached himself” to her.
“He didn’t like anyone else. So one day I focused on him and took photos of all his expressions and filled a poster with them and said, ‘This is the many faces of this boy.’
“He’s at school now and his mum still has the poster. There’s so many stories like that and they’re all special in their own way.”
Ms Harm said she was “very sad” to leave Crayons Early Learning Centre, but she would continue to run the Sunday School at the Hatton Vale Uniting Church.
Sandra Christensen, director at Crayons Early Learning Centre, said Judy would be missed by her colleagues, the parents and the children.
“Most of her career she’s been in the nursery with the babies. She’s like a grandma to them and they call her ‘Grandma Judy’.
“She’s loving, nurturing, and very caring. It can be hectic with four babies crying, but she stays calm and she’s amazing with babies.
“I don’t know how she does it.”
Ms Christensen said herself and the other staff had all learnt “patience and kindness” from Mrs Harm.