Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I get attached to some kids at the shelter. Can't help it. They are great kids and they are real. They aren't happy, well-behaved, and helpful all the time. They admit shelter life is hard and that they can't tell Mom how they feel because she is upset enough. I can believe them.

But a couple years ago, I worked with the seemingly "Perfect Child." She was very pretty and always well dressed. Her hair was beautiful and beautifully styled. She spoke good English, was coperative and enthusiastic when I was around. A good student, also, according to her mother. She seemed happy even though she and her mother stayed at the shelter an unusually long time.

I soon realized she wasn't popular with the other kids. It's easy to tell which kids are "tight" at the shelter. They spend a lot of time together, get along most of the time, share toys, mothers, and snacks. They become "siblings".

I never saw her doing things with another kid, though she might do the same activity next to another kid. In group, when it was her turn to share, she always talked about how mean the kids at school were to her. She thought this was because they were "jealous". Given her intelligence and beauty, it was possible this was true. At least with some kids.

One night, I arrived at the shelter to find her gone. Her mother had broken a couple of important rules more than once. Kids know when Mom is in trouble. She never shared this with me or her worries about it.

She always said the right thing, or at least what she thought I wanted to hear. She always did the right thing. Always looked lovely. But something was missing. She was like a beautiful shell emptied of its substance.

Sometimes children severely damaged by fear and forced into hiding their emotions can develop more trust, empathy, and friends when their environments improve. Maybe she feels safe enough now to relate more significantly with others.

I hope so, but wish it hadn't been so dangerous for her to be "real" when she was little.

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