The children arrived at A Kid’s Place late one night; the stormy summer weather reflected the fear these children felt as they were thrust into a new environment. The two oldest children seemed genuinely appreciative to be here and gratefully accepted the food and drink we offered before luxuriating in a warm shower and cuddling into fresh pajamas. Their two year old sister, however, did not go easily into this huge life transition. She cried. Mournful tears, gulping sobs, screeching terror-laced screams. Nothing we did would calm or console her as she sobbed through her bath and wrung her “Frozen” pajama top between her chubby hands. Her brother, who had been enjoying his new toys as he watched a “Full House” rerun, seemed oblivious to her struggles until his sister whispered something to him. He immediately stood and asked if he could help.
This young man, all of eight years old, tiptoed into the bedroom where the house mother was pacing the floor with the little girl. “Can I help?” he asked quietly. “She’s used to me.” He settled himself into the rocking chair and patted his knee as the house mother gently placed his sister on his lap. Immediately, the tearful gulps turned to gentle hiccups as the little girl clutched her brother and hid her face in his chest. Her hair lay matted against her forehead and her back continued to heave sporadically but she soon succumbed to her exhaustion and fell asleep.
What part of this story turns your heart? Is it the baby who has been removed from her home and familiar people? Is it the brother who steps into a very adult role and calms his baby sister? The part of this story that sheds a light on what we do is the relationship between siblings. When the chips are down and everything you know has been pulled out from under you, there is still the familial love and support of siblings. Our little girl was introduced to the toddler class the next morning, where she cried a little less traumatically but nevertheless spent the duration of the class on the lap of the teacher. The next day she returned but didn’t want to play or interact with the other children.
Today, she is thriving, thanks in part to her brother who gave up his time with his friends to sit on the floor in the toddler class and let his sister explore this new experience safe in the realization that her brother was there when she needed him.