Kids, what are they good for?

Remember that bit about me not knowing diddly-squat Spanish? That makes ESL a trip. My current jam is, when the folks are using Rosetta Stone and my fellows are entertaining themselves with all the bebes, I take Spanish lessons with that bilingual eleven year old. It has its flaws, but it’s helpful. Once that’s done, I resume my role as caretaker to a group of children with whom I can barely communicate.

It is hard. Have you ever tried to get a two year old to sit and watch Tinkerbell with her three year old sister? Don’t do it. You’re in for tears because all that two year old wants to do is Hulk-smash the laptop and eat Legos. Or everyone wants to play tag but half of them can’t run in a straight line and you’re kissing booboos while grappling with squirming bodies in the other hand. It’s tiring, it’s stressful, it’s a two hour twice-a-week gig. I’ve always said that babies are just puppies that learn to talk and I stand by that – except puppies are a bit more durable it seems like.

This minor stress has me sincerely, down to my core, appreciating the efforts of all the single parents I’m interacting with through other programs. Or not even single parents but parents that are working jobs and studying for school at the same time. Parents trying to make ends meet when they can’t plan dinner without a precious gremlin starting a fight with precious gremlin #2. Parents pretty much doing any regular adult thing while also keeping another dependent human being alive.

It’s real, it’s kind of dark, it’s kind of the last thing I ever want to deal with for more than 4 hours a week.

The privilege of getting to know people has gifted me a few stories about childcare. To put it simply, an old man I think is swell told me about being a single father to a child with Down Syndrome. In a word: hard. In three words: trial and error. But that’s all parenthood, apparently. Struggling and hoping to do better the next time around, if the next time is five minutes or an entire child later. I thought, because Mr. Single Father was an older man, he’d have done as my parents did and laid out some corporal punishment – seems a bit harsher once I learned his kid had Down Syndrome —but he said no, he never took that measure, and neither did his parents. Colour me surprised.

Today, we like to applaud our single fathers for their courage to do like so many mothers have done and raise their children. But alongside that is apparently endless critique and commentary from strangers, strange mothers that probably know no better but think they do, giving Mr. Single Father unsolicited advice all through his parenthood. No one knew his situation, all the angles and histories of it, but they thought with their token wisdom they could correct any misstep he appeared to be making, regardless of his consent or their actual correctness.

That’s parenthood in the public eye, and that’s also just living, otherwise known as struggling. People can be clawing at the edge of a cliff and we’re, inclusive broad generalized “we are”, lounging back in our chairs saying “reposition your fingers” and or other helpful climbing related jargon.

The point is, walk a mile in a strangers shoes and don’t tell people how to raise their children.

But sometimes do, like when you want to gently break them of the habit of slapping their kids but you also don’t want to report them to child services. So instead, like Circles of Support, you provide training and tools for parents to recognize triggers in their control and how to communicate with their children to provide good lives for the wee tots while also allowing the adults to actually live a life — while also providing a better life for said wee tots in the process. Every single person I’ve encountered through these programs names their children as the first reason to improve their current situation. Work Ready, a program for adults with children or pregnant women, hosts a group of mothers working to eliminate barriers between themselves and self-sufficiency, such as drivers licenses or a GED. And all those women find a common factor in their motherhood, their children, and their efforts to provide.

Words has it that children are the future, but observation shows that children are the reason people want a better future.

Beauregard Charles ’17
Gettysburg

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