Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Where The Heart Longs To Be


The Mama called downstairs right after I heard the coughing, and I knew what it meant. I knew even before she called out for me what was happening. One of the girls was sick and throwing up. I reached their bedroom and sure enough it was Beatrice.

"Poor baby," I said.

The Mama consoled Bea and took her to the girls' bathroom. I immediately stripped her bedding and hauled it quickly it to our bathroom to rinse off, consciously closing off my nose to prevent that ever-present gag reflex. Of course we love our children, but nobody likes to be close to the vomit.

We got her cleaned up and mouth rinsed and back to bed while Bryce bounced off the walls. Bea's always an-early-to-bed great sleeper. Bryce is not. But on the other end Bea get's up even earlier than me now that school has started, at or right after 5 a.m., and Bryce gets up much later, around 6:30 a.m.

For now and at least the next few years they'll share a room, which has worked out fine to date, even with the growing differentiation of sleep patterns. They sleep snuggly in their own beds, safe and sound, surrounded by dozens of their favorite stuff animals, while we sleep comfortably in our own room down the hall.

All in the safety and security of our own little locked up home.

When we bought our house, we weren't going to have children. Less than two years later we thankfully changed our minds. The night before Bea got sick above, I had finished watering our backyard, something we only do sparingly these days because of the drought. When I came back inside I gazed out our kitchen window.

"I love our little house," I told the Mama. "We raised our babies here. We put that little backyard together ourselves."

"Yes, me too," she said.

I reminisced bittersweet. We made it through the lean times and I learned a lot about the rock bottom perspective. We held onto our house when so many lost theirs during the great recession (although some economists would argue we should've let ours go).

But something kept nagging at me, like when you're trying to forget something you never wanted to remember in the first place, but it's always right there in the peripheral of your frontal lobe.

The NPR article -- that's what it was. The one about homeless families in San Bernardino, CA and the fact that California ranks third in the U.S. — behind only Kentucky and New York — in the percentage of children who don't have a home, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness. (Read more about the things you never wanted to remember via the Los Angeles Times staff writer Joe Mozingo's series San Bernardino: Broken City.)

There are about 2.5 million children who experience homelessness in the U.S., which represents about one in every 30 children. And it should come as no surprise, but again according to The National Center on Family Homelessness at American Institutes for Research:

Research shows that homeless children are hungry and sick more often. They wonder if they will have a roof over their heads at night and what will happen to their families. Many homeless children struggle in school, missing days, repeating grades, and drop out entirely. Up to 25% of homeless pre-school children have mental health problems requiring clinical evaluation; this increases to 40% among homeless school-age children.

The impacts of homelessness on the children, especially young children, may lead to changes in brain architecture that can interfere with learning, emotional self-regulation, cognitive skills, and social relationships. The unrelenting stress experienced by the parents may contribute to residential instability, unemployment, ineffective parenting, and poor health.

If you're familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs, safety and security are the second tier of the pyramid, ahead of physiological needs (food and water). Unfortunately issues like homelessness are so emotionally and politically charged that no one cares about hierarchies of the many needs. This makes it difficult to shine a light on the fact that there are solutions that really do make a difference, including safe and affordable housing as well as education and employment opportunities for parents.

I'm also not suggesting we would've been on the street or in a shelter or motel if we would have lost our house. We were fortunate and still had resources, employment and a family support system. But my heart goes out to the millions of homeless children and families in this country (and throughout the world), thousands of whom are in Santa Cruz County, for whatever reason they lost theirs.

Pointing fingers at those less fortunate and saying it's their fault because they're homeless is not a solution, especially for the children.

Bea just started 1st grade and Bryce has one more year of preschool, and for them, home is where the heart is -- and they still have years to be a kid. But for those without, a loving safe haven is where the heart longs to be.

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