A few weeks ago I started volunteering my Tuesday nights with my friend at this house in East Palo Alto. It's for teenage or young mothers that have either been kicked out of their homes or in a difficult time. Some of them get to live in the house. They all get to attend classes and events at the house. Tuesday night they have parenting classes and while they are in class, we watch their kids. Some are really good, some kids are fierce and some cry - a lot!
I had a crier tonight. She wouldn't stop...only to call out to her mom. My friend commented to me that I was really taking one for the team because a super unhappy kid makes it harder on all the other kids reminding them they can't see their mom either. It's also hard on the moms and volunteers. After about 15 minutes she went inside the house with the younger kids and then their were five.
Last week we had 16 kids and 3 adults. This week we had 5 kids and 5 adults. The adults are not super talkative with each other and after my friend left (she had something else going on), I kind of wanted to leave too, but I forced myself to stay. It's good practice in discipline for me. Sure, I could have left, but then why go next week? I didn't have anything pressing at home and I have a chance - my one chance this week to really be outside my comfort zone and play with these kids.
Sometimes I leave with a great uplifting feeling. I had a great time with the kids and with my friend. I felt like we were really helping out. Other times I just try and help keep the kids from hurting themselves and others with their rough play and pure excitement on the old, worn out playground and toys. That can be draining, but I can't even imagine doing that all of the time! Moms and dads out there - I really tip my hats off to you guys. In just the hour and a half or two I'm there, I get drained.
It'll be nice when the kids there start to remember me and maybe even the mom's. It's so hard to build a relationship on just a few hours a week, but maybe next week we'll have a kick ass play date. Can you say "kick ass" when talking about kids and a playground at a place that needs some attention and new toys? Sure, why not! I will. :)