Sunday, October 18, 2009

my Friday lesson

My Friday night ended with me in the bedroom of three little boys singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Jonathan, age 4, has been there before.  For at least a month the last time.  All the staff know him.  He was gone for a while, but now he's back.  It probably does not mean good things are happening in his life if he's back there again.  Poor kid. 

Mikey, also 4, got attached to me.  I never deliberately try to make this happen.  I always let the children approach me and decide how long they want to hang with me.  I don't follow them around the playroom or try to sit next to them on the couch.  I am actually quite passive.  Except when a child needs some redirection or a toddler dispute needs mediating.

Mikey needed coaxing to go take a shower.  I helped him by telling him that I'd stay outside the bathroom door while he was in there and wait for him.  The staff do the bathing and dressing. Then I did one of the worst things I could do.  I didn't keep my promise.  I completely forgot what I had said and wandered away from the door.  He came out of the shower room, glared at me and said "You didn't stay at the door!"  I apologized and told him how sorry I was that I forgot.  He grabbed my hand to try to squeeze it and pinch me because he was so mad.  I tried to get him to tell me how mad he was and I kept saying sorry.  He still seemed angry, but he let me help him put his socks on. 

He sat next to me during movie time (Toy Story 2.)  It was a rowdy night in the toddler section.  There were at least twenty children there.  Lots of staff, but it was still a bit loud.

When it was bedtime Mikey got nervous and didn't want me to leave.  I told him I'd read him a story and that's how I ended up in the room with the three boys.   It is not easy to get three 4-year-olds to wind down when they have just come from being in a noisy room with twenty other toddlers.  I read a book.  We sang songs (softly.)  I turned down the lights.  I spoke softly to them and eventually got us all down to whispers.  I was in there for an hour before they began to settle down.

When they had quieted down a bit, I tried to leave but Mikey wasn't having any of that.  He sat up and told me that if I left then he was coming with me.  He was determined and put his two feet on the floor and would not get back under his covers until I told him I would stay.

So I sat on the floor, aware of the minutes passing by and annoyed at the staff chatting in the hallway.  (Um...ladies?  Children trying to sleep in here!)  I was thinking to myself, "Okay, what can I do to get them to sleep faster so I can get out of here?"  And then I realized - why do I care how fast they fall asleep?  Where do I have to go?  I'll just go home, eat a late dinner and sit in front of the TV.  Why am I in such a hurry to do that?

The meaninglessness of my work life has been bothering me lately.  I like the people I work with.  I enjoy the freedom that I have and the fact that in a typical day I get to use both my left and right brain.  I am grateful that my efforts contribute to this company staying afloat and therefore seven other people get to keep their jobs. But really, what I am doing?  Helping to sell stupid crap that nobody really needs.

This volunteer thing is the best thing I do for my soul all week. 

Once I realized that, I sat there in the dark with the three boys with a much calmer mind and heart.  I rubbed Mikey's back for a while.  Then rubbed Jonathan's back.  I was no longer focused on completing a task.  I was just happy to be there with them and glad to know that my presence brought them comfort.

Study of a Sleeping Child by Václav Malý


PeWee said...

I love hearing about your volunteer experiences. AND if/when I ever get a chance to be a mother again, I will remember this post when my children are having trouble getting to sleep. I've rushed it before. I hope they forgive me.

grasshopper said...

PeWee - the few times you rushed it or were exhausted or distracted could never in a million years overshadow all the love, time and attention you gave to your boys. Never, ever, ever.

They have nothing to forgive you for. Forgive yourself.

Bethany said...

How did I miss this post? It's beautiful.