We do have to do better, because kids are awesome.

19 12 2012

Last week, I had every intention of posting a new blog on Monday. I was planning for it to be something fun and lighthearted, since my last one was a bit heavy. Then on Friday, as I was standing on line for cheesecake at the agency Christmas party, a little pissed off that we were expected to return to the office for an hour afterwards, a coworker looked up from his phone to say, “They’re saying it’s at least twenty dead now.”

There are a lot of ways I thought I could approach this.

I could get into the need for a serious overhaul of mental health services in this country. However you feel about the author of “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother”  and the general narcissism/martyrdom of mommy-blogging, (yeah, who am I to judge?) she’s right. And of course, we don’t need mental health services so us normies can be safe, we need it because the mentally ill are human beings who deserve treatment. Anyway.

I could also talk about gun control. My boyfriend’s a police officer, and there’s a gun in our home. This makes me somewhat qualified to say that anyone who thinks that a gun could be safely kept in a kindergarten classroom and that a teacher would have been able to stop this with returned fire is an idiot who shouldn’t be allowed to own a water pistol. Honestly. Peanut butter is too dangerous in our classrooms, but an M4 would be just fine? Not to mention that it’s hard enough to find good teachers when they aren’t also required to be sharpshooters.

OK, maybe I do have a few things to say about that one. But it’s all been said plenty.

I could talk about why interviewing children who’ve just been through unimaginable trauma, then defending it as “allowing them to share their story” instead of “trying to be the first ones to get the story with no regard for ethics or the well being of six year olds” is bullshit and wrong.

I could mention the sick opportunists blaming this on lack of prayer in school or comparing this massacre to abortion. But then I would have to think about them.

I also thought about writing about this woman and the other teachers there. People who are often criticized for not “getting it,” because they’re young or don’t have their own kids or are just doing it for their big fat paycheck. It’s hard to imagine that you could care about someone else’s children that much, but everyone I know who works with kids understands it completely.

Then I thought what would be best would be remembering why we care about these kids so much. How even when they drive us crazy, they are sweet and innocent and make us laugh. How the worst day can be brightened by a visit from a child. To remember who we’re protecting when we talk about all of the changes to be made and work to be done.

SJ: “Did your teacher tell you she called me?”
8 y/o: “Yes.”
SJ: “What did you think about that?”
8 y/o: “Busted.”
Ha! We call that insight.

6 y/o: “Did you bring play-doh? It helps me with my anger.”
Well, look at you.

9 y/o: “I have a concern. My dad snores. I can hear it through the wall, it’s ridiculous.”
I love the confidence it took to bring this up during a safety conference.

SJ: “Let’s talk about what you love about your family.”
7 y/o: “We have a fish.”
The fish’s name is Crunchy, it is pretty great.

6 y/o: “Hey SJ? When you’re done talking to my mom maybe you can come give me a hug?”
Oh…ok, that sounds lovely. It’s nice that we can schedule these things.

11 y/o: “My school said you were looking for my report card. Did they tell you it was beautiful?!”
It was beautiful.

SJ: “Are you excited for winter break?”
5 y/o: “Yeah, I’m ready.”
SJ: “What are you going to do?”
5 y/o: “Party.”
I bet!

7 y/o: “Don’t worry mom, I’ll help you take care of him. Hear that, baby? It’s you and me!”
This was said to his mother’s protruding belly, as she cried over her boyfriend having left the family.

4 y/o: “Hi SJ! This is my snowsuit. Wanna hold hands?”
Yeah, why not?

Everyone I know was devastated and overwhelmed with grief and feelings of powerlessness as they watched this play out. Some of us can help in concrete ways, but sometimes it feels like all you can do is bear witness by overloading on horrific news. We know this isn’t for the best, but it might feel like all there is. We can also bear witness by remembering, honoring, and protecting everything that’s wonderful about childhood. The reaction of so many people was to want to hug the children in their lives closer. It applies to us too.

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4 responses

19 12 2012
Addison Cooper

Beautiful. The kids that we are blessed to work with are sometimes delightful, sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating – but so very often intelligent, resilient, and hopeful. I wouldn’t trade this line of work.

19 12 2012
mjfrombufalo

like X30

20 12 2012
carolynsocialworker

And that is why I work in a Children’s Hospital. No matter what we do to these kids, they remain just that, kids. Ready to play/joke/be silly at a moment’s notice.

20 12 2012
kristin lee johnson

omg–a fish named crunchy. love that.

and I love your blog and would like to introduce you to mine (www.kristinleejohnson.com) and my newly published novel, “unprotected”. It’s a romantic thriller about a young child protection social worker. Yes, a little self indulgent since I have been a CP social worker for the past 18 years, but I wanted to read about one of us being the good guy. Thank you and keep fighting the good fight!

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