Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Last night, two new kids came to the shelter. Their mom was filling out forms at one of the dining room tables while they sat in the living room. Both kids looked stunned, exhausted, and beyond sad. 

Their mother said they could join group time while she talked with a counselor. Reluctantly, they came downstairs with us. They sat in on the “older kids” group, listened politely, though later I learned their English was still poor, and took part in “playtime” by coloring and watching. 

They didn’t talk to anyone, including the other kids. Continued to look devastated and worried. They needed to talk. I had someone cover for me in the playroom, grabbed a teen translator, and took them to a private area.  

Welcome to the child’s hell of leaving home suddenly. They understood why their mother had to leave. The older child did not want to return home because of her father’s behavior. I asked the younger child  if he was glad they left or did he want to go home?

He wanted to go home, he said, and fought not to cry. I asked him why. Silence while tears rolled down his cheeks. “Poppi?” I asked, and he nodded. We handed him the kleenex box. I told him it was okay to cry. Told him it was okay to love Poppi.

Because it is.

Poppi, despite his treatment of their mother which is also traumatizing to them, is their father. I told him he could love Poppi, get mad at him, be scared of him, want to play with him, miss him. His feelings were okay.

He gradually stopped crying. The older child seemed sympathetic toward him, but did not change her agreement with Mom’s decision to leave.

Now the tough time starts. Mom and these kids have brought nothing with them but memories and fear and confusion. I will not be present the next two group nights. When I return, I will find out if Mom decided to move in. And whether these kids can smile, relax a little, and accept the love that overcomes so much in the shelter.

I hope they will be there.

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