My first day at my placement, I entered the classroom and a young girl ran up to me. She was wearing a plain light blue dress that looked like some sort of school uniform, but I am pretty sure it was not because she was the only child wearing one. She wrapped her small arms around my leg and looked up at me and smiled. She was two years old and her four front teeth were rotten stumps. She did not seem to care, though, so I didn’t either.
The rest of my first week went by casually, but I noted a definite change in the sweet girl from the first day. She turned into the troublemaker of the class: never wanting to share, hitting other kids, pulling their hair, never wanting to eat her food, never going to sleep easily. She morphed into a handful, and I started to resent her a little under my façade because I did not understand why she had to be so constantly irritating.
Then one day—I think it was Wednesday—during my second week, the possible reality of this young girl’s life finally struck home. The teacher had stepped out of the room for a moment after she put the young girl to sleep. The girl had had an exceptionally rough day, and I could not help but compare the girl from that Wednesday to the sweet girl from my first day. So I moved to sit next to her mattress to watch her sleep, wanting to see the sweet, peaceful girl again. She stirred a little and let out an adorable, girly, sleepy sigh. I put my hand on her back and rubbed her a little, and suddenly everything clicked for me; the gravity of this girl’s situation, and my purpose at CEN. The girl felt so fragile. I could feel her ribs through her dress; the same dress from the first day, the same dress she wore every day. It had stains all over it from messy meals past and she had taken off her shoes again, probably because they were too small for her feet and hurt her to wear them.
Of course I am by no means positive about my diagnosis of this girl’s life, but all of her antics during the day are most likely just a cry for the attention that she does not get at home. She just wanted to be loved. That was the biggest thing I could do for this small child and all the children at my placement: show them I care about them all. Be warm and welcoming when their mothers have to leave to go to work. Dry their tears when they softly sob all day long. And just love them.
I think (I hope) I did that. After I have gone, they will likely forget my face, but hopefully they will always remember the feelings of affection I have for each individual child.
Cadet Rebecca Ciszewski with the tias, or aunties, who help run the daycare during lunch time.