I now know a limited amount of Spanish and how to use it and even when. I’ve learned to talk with people who don’t speak English at all. I’ve been told to shut up…by a 2 year old. I’ve had to think over and over again what it must be like to not know the home language of the place where you’re living. I’ve had to think over and over again about how not knowing that language puts people at an immediate disadvantage when it comes to navigating already confusing social services and when finding resources for their families.
Two years ago when I heard “DV” used in a sentence, I had to pause and make that face like, “Oh, of course. I know exactly what you mean.” I wish I didn’t know as well now what that means, but I do. Daily, I hear of women and children living in domestic violence situations. Women who feel like they can’t leave for a thousand different reasons, and mothers, young and old, who are desperately just trying to figure out what is the right thing to do for their children. Imagine if you will, being in a relationship where you are experiencing violence toward you, or your children, or both. And then, add the extra layers of poverty, or of not being a legal citizen of this country. What decisions can you make? How can you change things, or get help, or LEAVE?
I know now what it means for families to have to navigate the completely fucked up system of services for children and families in this country. If you think for one second that the children are the ones being put first in these systems? Think again. If they’re lucky, there are good people working for them and supporting them, but that does not seem to be the norm in my experience. These systems tout themselves as “interdisciplinary”, meaning that lots of people and programs work together to support families. Or? Lots of different people with lots of differing opinions have lots of differing ways of “supporting” families and passing information along. I can’t say more about this, but what I know as an early childhood educator is that all children need consistency. These babies need consistency the MOST, and these systems hardly seem to be consistent.
At home, I can get a mouse out of the trap all by myself. I can unclog a toilet, I can re-caulk the bathtub, and I can fix the cable modem when it fails. I can figure out how to refinance my home, how to find someone to replace a failing HVAC system, and once in a while, I even eat some veggies. I see things every single day at work that make me come home and hug my kids a little harder. Sure, some months I have to shuffle bills around, and pay one thing before I might pay another. There is never money left at the end of the pay period. Ever. But the girls and I have a roof over our heads. I love this sweet little house and the home we’ve made in it. We have food on our plates. We have people who love us and who support us, and who hold our hands through all the things that suck in this life.
I have failed at a lot of things in my life, but these two years have taught me to look at those experiences a little differently. I spent a long time in my life being fooled into thinking that things were making me happy. This life of mine now is about experiences, and about fitting lots of experiences into the little time I have here. It’s about saying yes more. It’s about owning my failure, and thinking about how to be a better human moving forward. It’s about kindness. It’s about finding something to be thankful for in every single day. It's stupid hard work, and I've found that I'm not very good at owning my stuff. It's about reflection and about being intentional, and all those ridiculous, cliche words in the memes I hate. I don’t believe for even a second that I would have this kind of perspective had I not started my job. Some days I leave work and I want to cry. Some days I really DO cry. But I’m truly glad I’m there. If I’ve learned anything it’s that I can’t predict the future. This is certainly not at all where I thought I would be at 42 and I’m not at all sure where I’ll be in another 2 years. But I’m happy, and I’m learning something new every single day. And for now, that’s all that matters.