Working with kids living in children’s homes can lead to developing a strong prejudice against their parents. How does one push their child to the streets? How does one let their child grow up in a place with no parental involvement? How in the hizzeck does one not visit their child on the last Sunday of every month when they live in a home? I once had a conversation with the adult brother of one of the boys about his kids. He already has one child in a nutrition center and it seems like this will be the child’s home for her entire childhood. He now has a second child and I sat with him and his girlfriend as he excitedly explained to her that if they can find a home to accept the baby, then she will get an education. Three points for realizing the importance of education! Negative four for enthusiastically seeking a spot to drop your child. (I think it was mainly the enthusiasm that got me. It’s one thing to look for a better place for your child when one is in a state of desperation. It’s another to have the attitude that this is just what you do. And isn’t it great?!?)
Seeing that kind of attitude makes me jaded. I start painting the parents of the kids that I know in broad strokes. ‘They’ (meaning ALL) don’t care about their kids. ‘They’ (meaning ALL) expect others to take on the responsibilities that they have decided to shirk.
And this is where my favorite little family comes in. Remember close to a year ago when I wrote about The Baby on the Street? He had come into this world just a few months before and was literally living on the street with his parents. In the evening they would unfold a play pen and set up his ‘room’ in a corner of the building’s sidewalk where they slept. In the morning they would fold it back up along with all of this clothes and take them to a kind woman who let them store baby things at her house.
The first time I found out that his mom was pregnant, they began telling me all of their plans. That soon-to-be Dad was going to get a job. That they were going to get a place to stay. That their baby was NOT going to live on the street. I listened to their dreams and encouraged them to make it happen, but in the back of my mind I was formulating plan b. Living on the street is less than comfortable. If you COULD leave the street, wouldn’t you do it while pregnant?
But everyone always tells me that having a baby is powerful.
Yes, when he was born, he lived on the street. But seeing their little set up on the sidewalk was astonishing. One evening I dropped one of the boys off nearby and stopped to say hello. Mom came to the car to greet me while Dad stayed on a blanket, folding all of the teeny tiny onesies that they had somehow just washed. I got out to see the baby who was already fast asleep in the play pen. Snuggled in jammies with a fuzzy blanket. It was an idyllic scene to see this young family working together to care for their happy and healthy little boy. But then you lift your eyes a few inches and remember that you’re surrounded by trash. Their place of rest didn’t have four walls much less locks to protect them.
As the year progressed I saw less of them together. But every few months, I’d bump into Dad. To my delight, they were renting a room. Their situation was still precarious. They had to pay daily to keep the room. This means that Dad has to make enough money each day washing windows or selling munchies to pay for their food and the room. It’s less than ideal.
But this squishy little baby… Oh my goodness.
I spent a good amount of time with babies on my last trip. And the experience was less than encouraging. One two year old has a drastically distended belly. I tried to non-chalantly glean some information about what and how often she eats. Three times a day. Rice, beans, cheese. Hmm, not the most balanced diet, but shouldn’t lead to that belly. Parasites perhaps? And then a three month old who is overly lethargic. She lacked inquisitiveness, there was no brightness in her eyes.
But then we have this little guy. He’s now walking, which is troublesome for Mom and Dad. His little baby brows are always furrowed as he looks around at the other boys. I like to think that he’s thinking “Come on kids, leave with Jenny immediately! I believe you can have a different life!!” Most importantly, he is fully connected with the world around him. Can say a few words. Can show you where his ears, nose and eyes are. And can blow you a kiss, which is very important as a Honduran male. Developmentally, he is right where he’s supposed to be. HOW???
By no means is he out of the woods. Their situation is still dicey. What if Dad doesn’t earn enough in a day? What if Mom and Dad split up? His future scares me. Odds are still against him. But can we just stop for a moment and realize just what his parents have accomplished in the first 16 months of his little life? They have clawed and scraped and worked so hard to provide everything they could for this little one. They have had little to offer compared to our expectations, but what they’ve given are the things that really matter. When it was just the two of them, they remained on the street. HE is what has made them reach deep inside and find the strength to overcome so much.
I never thought that a baby on the street could be such a blessing.