Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Just What the Hell is Going on Here

This place where I volunteer - sometimes it is like a Twilight Zone episode. Such odd things can occur. Things that just don't make sense to me. I have to accept the fact that I am not in charge. That I can't make all the changes that I would like to see. I might be able to influence things a little, but I am not there often enough to even know the whole story most of the time.

The joyful part:

The 6-year-old from last week is still there. He hugged me and said he missed me. I got to stay until they went to bed and read him two books in his room before saying goodnight. I didn't expect him to still be there. The more I see him, the harder it is going to be when I show up one day and he's gone. I hope he is there when I go back on Friday.

The strange parts:

There were just three kids in the section today. Four staff members and me. What a great opportunity to give the kids some one-on-one time. Nah. Let's just sit them all on the couch and watch a movie.

And here is a great example of how I can be quick to judge, but maybe I don't have the whole story. Maybe the three kids had a day chock full of great one-on-one attention from the staff. When I first arrived, two of them were helping one of the older ones with his homework. Maybe they had an enormously stimulating day and the passive activity of watching a movie was really what the kids needed. I might not have enough information to make that call.

I start to read books with the 6-year-old in the same room that the movie is playing. It's like a living room area where they have big couches. We are reading and pausing because he is getting distracted by the movie at times. But we are still interacting. Then one of the staff says, "Okay, no more reading. We are watching the movie now." Really? I can't read with the kid?!?!

[I start to hear the Twilight Zone music. Do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do.]

So I think, okay, I'm still with him and he's snuggling a little next to me and that is a part of what he might need too - some physical closeness with a caring adult. We can watch Will Smith as a cartoon fish doing silly cartoon fish things.

Then a staff person from another section brings in the sister of the 6-year-old and the two sisters of the 2-year-old to visit. These are older kids who stay in a different section. Time to stop the movie so these siblings can have some quality time together? Of course not!

[Do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do.]

They let the siblings sit next to each other on the couch and continue to watch the movie. The 6-year-old gets shushed by his older sister when he tries to talk to her because she's aware that, at the moment, they are expected to sit quietly and watch the movie. The 2-year-old is clearly happy to see his sisters but they also look like they feel they have to watch the movie and don't really get to give him much attention.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!?!? WHO THE BLEEP IS RUNNING THIS PLACE?!?!?!? Why are we not shutting off the movie and encouraging the older siblings to talk and interact with their brothers? Isn't that simply good common sense? I am convinced that at least two of the staff were enjoying the movie too much and didn't want to shut it off. Reminds me a little of the first time I volunteered there. It seems like they are used to doing what they need to do to get through the day and not really thinking too hard about the emotional needs of the children.

I haven't been doing this very long but I hope that as I get more comfortable there and the staff gets more comfortable with me, that I'll be able to influence things in a different direction when I see these odd things. For now I am just trying to focus on being there for the kids.


Bethany said...

This place really pisses me off.
I'm so glad you are there.
Totally ridiculous.
How OLD are the adults who are taking care of these kids?

Bobby said...

These people are getting paid for their services there, clearly not enough, or they might actually care. Telling someone to stop reading and watch the movie????

"And the Nobel Peace Price goes to......that person"

Keep up the good work sis