I'll preface my little post here by saying that I am a full-time stay-at-home-mom, so that's obviously where my bias is. I'm well-aware not everyone wants to do this, some people can't, that's fine,we all love our kids. (I saw an "expert" on The Today Show recently proclaim that there is virtually no benefit to being home with your children anyhow. :) ) The point of this post isn't about stay-at-home vs. working moms by any means.
WELL today I took the kids down to our small neighborhood park (the boys in the double stroller, Anna walked, Kaitlyn in the Ergo carrier for everyone wanting to picture the funny site that we must have been.) Just about every time we go, there is at least one Mexican woman there with at least five small children she's babysitting--this must be really common in Santa Maria, running a daycare out of your home, in fact there's a woman two doors down from us who does this.
Today was no exception. Five kids, one surly woman and her 12-ish daughter that were (sort-of) watching the children, all of whom had nametags on. Most of these kids, like the kids I've seen there before, appeared to be either attention-starved or just plain mean. One little girl seemed to want me to constantly praise her and watch her go down the slide--I wondered if her mommy had ever brought her to the park and just sat and watched and clapped and encouraged. Obviously her babysitter wasn't doing that. One little boy I helped up the rock wall proceeded to call Anna a baby and tell her really rudely that she couldn't make it up the wall (which wasn't true.) I'm at the point now that when I'm at this park, I just parent other peoples' kids, because no one else does. I told him it is not nice to call people babies, that when we're at the park we need to be encouragers and be kind, etc. I don't think the babysitters ever knew about our little "chat". (They also assumed I was babysitting too, as I overheard the daughter saying, "Lots of people are babysitting." Kind of a sad assumption in this context, although of course it makes sense why someone would assume not all of my children are mine.)
Later some more women showed up with some more kids, not sure if they were theirs or not, but again as usual they just sat back and allowed their one little girl to chuck a ton of bark and dirt into Anna's face and mouth. No apology or showing of concern, the women just kept sitting there. Anna was crying and I cleaned her up and just told her that some kids don't know how to act at the park, and maybe it was an accident.
All of this to say, it really makes me sad to see children semi-neglected and uncared for! Why don't these parents or day-care providers ever clap and cheer for the children or at least PRETEND to take an interest in what they're doing? Doesn't anyone realize it's frustrating for other children (and their moms) when huge groups of kids show up with minimal adult supervision? One day we were there I was so frustrated, this poor little girl kept vying for my attention while her babysitter read a book on a distant bench and never looked up, and meanwhile I'm wanting to enjoy my own children's achievements?
So often I fall into wondering what good I'm doing my kids, if our days spent together are too boring, how much it really matters. While I can't know for sure, and there's no way to quantify it, I DO know that Anna gets to see her mom jumping up and down for her when she makes it to the top of the rock wall, that Yosef gets to know that his mom thinks it's really important when he sees a big truck, that Biniam knows somebody cares when he starts wandering towards the street.
Today as we were leaving the park, Yosef and Biniam were happily shouting at the tops of their lungs, "Bye kids! Bye everybody!", waving and smiling without a care in the world, excited about going home for the McDonald's leftovers and milk that awaited them for lunch. I wonder what kind of homes the kids at the park return to at night, are they so carefree, do they get a warm meal and a bath and a big hug from Daddy? Does Mommy care about the big slides they went down, the games that they played?
I am so grateful for the children I have, and for the grace God shows me by allowing me to nurture and love them, and watch them grow into the people He wants them to be. Whether we're with them for 24 hours a day or 12, we can show them they're special and that they're loved, first by God and then by us. Doesn't get much better than that!