Gosh, it has been so flipping long since I have blogged. I honestly forgot I had this thing for a while. It's been two years I think. And life has basically done about ten 180's since then. It's turned out good, which is good. And I'm too lazy to get in to all of that now. Maybe I will later. But for now I have to write. I have never written on this blog for anyone but myself. I write to stay sane...or some version of sane. But the published and unpublished posts were causing some issues for me, both in my marriage and in my extended family, so I stopped using it. Thankfully it is now a safe space again. So I can talk. And while most people don't get it, I honestly think that words are the most valuable thing on the planet. Without them, it is a boring place. Okay, so on to why I need to write. I need to write because I feel a lot and think a lot, and some times it is just about to cause me to burst. Tonight I am writing what I felt today.
I volunteered at the shelter today. I do this most Sundays. And today I just felt sad afterwards. I told Pat, my boyfriend, that it often feels like I've failed the kids when I am leaving. I've given them two hours of playtime, but it should be three times that. I have given them a small snack of cheese slices and milk and fruit, but it should have been a breakfast and a lunch. I have given them toys to play with, but I wish there were more pretend play items, and dress up. The kids have fun but it would be better if they had better spaces, and more room to run. It would be better if the adorable six year olds, who really want to play make believe where they are dressed up as heroes and villains, didn't have to worry about trampling the toddlers that are in the playroom too.
One of my volunteers tells me we should limit the numbers. She is right. We should. But it is almost impossible for me to do that. Because I remember. I remember having little ones of my own. And the only thing that saved me was having a break. Even if was tiny. So when a mother, who is at her wit's end, comes knocking on the playroom door, an hour in to it, with a look that tells me she is at the edge of a cliff. Her child may or may not have shoes on. This mother may or may not have eaten in the last 24 hours, or slept, or cried hard tears of despair. And I am supposed to turn her child away? Turn him away from the one chance he has that day to play with toys, since all of his were put in storage when he moved in to the shelter? Turn him away, when this may be the one opportunity to eat for the day, because it's the end of the month and the money has run out, and his mom can't get a job because she has no child care for this child?
The child may be a pain in the neck. And those are the ones that need it the most. I am not a child psychologist. I am a social worker. I do not know all the tricks. I know a couple. And for some of the kids they work. But for other kids, they could use a team of specialists, to peer in to their little heads and see what is going on. One sweet girl struggles. And it makes sense. Her dad is in jail, and he's there for beating her. She can not see a child and not hit him or her. And then immediately feels horrible about it. She needs to be retrained. Her brain needs to be rewired. Yet her mother, who has been in the shelter for a year, or more, has never been referred to the Children's Center. She had no idea what it was. I don't blame the case workers. There are three of them for 115 families. I don't know who to blame. But I want to blame someone or something, because it eases my guilt.
It eases my guilt because I can't give these kids what they need. Nutrition, safety, stimulation, enrichment, peace. I can't do it. Instead I give them this tiny slice of time, filled with a million kids, where the goal is to have children interacting in a positive way, playing and creating, learning. But one child is yelling, and as soon as we remedy that, someone else is crying and as soon as that is attended to, someone else is struggling with the inability to share. With 38 high needs kids, the majority of whom are experiencing trauma, it is bound to happen. They are fragile. They appear tough, but they are not. And the tweens and the teens, with their special needs. And the parents. I mean, I have to compartmentalize because the lack of support is just unbelievable. It feels cruel.
I was wrong, this didn't make me feel better. But maybe I will never feel better about this. Maybe I shouldn't. It's horrid. No amount of journaling about it is going to make it better.