Kids. They grow up so fast. (And nothing makes me sound older than when I say that phrase.)
My #4 child started Kindergarten this Fall. (It was a glorious day!) #3 cares deeply about how his hair looks; #2 is talking about what college she wants to attend; and #1 just breached 90 pounds and wants to play football. He’s in fourth grade. It feels too soon for this. Slow down a little, guys!
Upon reflection, I am reminded that my babies are growing up slower than many kids their age. Kids in foster care have been forced to grow up way before their time.
The six year old who has been responsible for feeding his four year old brother since he was old enough to climb the counters, is what we call “parentified”, and is an example of what we encounter every day. Or, take the 10 year old whose only concern is for his two year old sister. He isn’t asking for screen time, he could care less about sports, but he cares where his sister will sleep tonight. Have you ever met a 12 year old bouncing a baby on her hip? She stands at an angle, as if to put her own body between you and the infant. It’s protective. It’s instinctual.
Studies have shown the bond between siblings is often greater than the bond between parent and child.
Kids in care have been forced out of sheer self-preservation to grow up fast. Our volunteers are sometimes shocked at how well-spoken kids in care can be. They will look you in the eye and have a regular grown-up conversation with you. They will discuss their mom’s addiction, her boyfriend’s weird sleep habits, and the stuffed animal they didn’t have time to grab when the cops came today. They might calmly tell you they haven’t eaten since breakfast yesterday, or that they need to use the restroom, or that they would very much like to play a game right now. They sound rational, matter-of-fact, and mature beyond their years.
Or it can be just the opposite. They will demand your attention and scream profanities at you, even as you’re just offering them a snack. They might throw chairs, take their shoes off and throw those too, try to pull the tv off the wall, or make a mad dash for the front door. It’s all they’ve ever known. It’s how they’ve survived. It’s the physiological effects of trauma on the brain. It’s fight and flight bursting out of a tiny body.
Part of what we do at OMD is early intervention for kids who have suffered trauma. We bring calm to chaos, we bring tissues where there are tears. In a world that is going way too fast for our kids, we offer Slow. The simple act of sitting with someone in their trauma can be life-changing. It can begin the process of reversing the damage done and literally begin healing the brain.
That’s why we do it. We want to see whole kids -healthy kids- come out of the System. We want kids to have a childhood where their brains, and bodies, and souls can be nurtured. If only for a few hours, at the end of the day, we know we contributed to the slowing down of a world spinning out of control. We, our community of volunteers, partners, and donors, want our kids to grow up slow.