The weather was good last night, so we took the kids outside after groups. Our new-ish volunteer, "Coach", handed out basketball camp tee shirts and the kids got to play a "real" game. One three-year-old's tee was so long, he resembled a tiny, but proud monk!
Just before snack time, a mother I didn't know introduced herself and her three-year-old son to me. She wanted to see what playtime was about. As we talked, she revealed she'd just arrived at the shelter and was exhausted.No wonder! She'd boxed and put everything she owned into storage that very day. Including her son's big wheel, bike, and toys.
Kids' favorite possessions, which might even be their teddy, doll, or binky, are a big loss, though they may not be aware of it for a couple days. Getting used to all the kids and adults in the shelter demands tremendous emotional energy.
Gradually they realize what's missing. Ask for their toys, then their father, grandparents, pet, neighborhood friends, home, privacy, bedroom, teacher, favorite foods and clothes.
They lose whatever sources of stress they had at home and have to deal with those inherent in living in a shelter. Some children have to learn or improve their English. Adjust to Mom's mood swings as she begins to feel safe enough to express her real emotions.
Many must attend a new school, day care, or camp. Find out Mom doesn't have the money to buy what she used to buy.They must share space, toys, and Mom with other kids and adults. They start to talk about why they're there and then have to deal with the anxiety, confusion, and guilt that engenders.
Unfortunately, there's little that shelter staff, volunteers, and residents can do to take away the children's losses. They are part of the reality of escaping from Domestic Violence. A painful start to a different life. Yet recognizing, grieving for, and accepting these losses are stages the women and kids at the shelter need to pass through.
The women who hang in and work through this pain are Amazons. The children, heroes.
I am in their debt for all they teach me and nowhere near as courageous.