My 2nd week here in Romania has been quiet, but full of learning from the kids in particular.
More than anything, I have come to recognise how grateful I should be for my own children, and what effect normal upbringing has as opposed to not much upbringing. As I have said before, each of the kids at the village is a sweet person. But I have come to see some common traits in them too, which I know I have worked to channel in my own children without thinking about it most of the time.
One is that most of the kids have so sense of value of things. In their world, things (such as toys, books, pencils etc) appear, and if they trash them, more will appear. It happens by magic. And so, they don’t think twice about destroying things or just flinging them over their shoulder after they have finished with something. It’s paradox that they are actually in quite dire situations and will have to come to terms with starting at 0 once they reach adulthood, but that living in this village supported by the government and donations actually teaches them the opposite of being frugal. The cycle of having to work to gain something just doesn’t exist, so how are they going to realise this? My kids see me working, and they know about our family finances, our income and our normal expenses. In my opinion, this is something that could be improved at the village, maybe by having a store in the village instead of magically replenished supplies, meaning that kids within a family will come to realise that resources are limited and need some care and thought.
There are also issues with aggression – which is to be expected. I have been teaching my kids how to deal with feeling aggressive for ever, and it still comes up sometimes, so how should I expect the kids in the village to be able to deal with it? I am not quite sure what could help in this area. I remember that at school there was a natural system where the older kids regularly brought the younger ones in line. I remember one situation when a guy from my class tried to pick a fight with some other guy in the first year at “the big school”, aged 11. A boy from the upper classes (must have been about 17) stopped him, and the main message was that violence was despised and who and where did he think he was? This one occurrence worked wonders, and it kept on working well as long as I was at the school. So maybe the natural authority of the older kids could be used, which would also help them taking on responsibility. I also think that there has to be a strict set of rules that counts for all kids. No punishments, but simple rules like “move away from somebody if they are being aggressive” – “get an adult to help in an argument instead of it developing into a fight” – ” if you are a threat to other kids and cannot control your violence, the natural consequence is that you will have to stay within the vicinity of an adult who will control you” – “always talk, state what you want, why you want it, and listen to what the other person has to say”. This should be published to anyone involved in the village to help develop a stable understanding and give the kids a system that they can use within the village, at school or anytime later in life.
Another difficult point is the overall organisation of the holiday times. There are some people who give certain lessons regularly, others (like me) who are there for a certain period of time, and the families also have some sort of programme, such as any other natural family would also have. As these 3 sources for activities are not very coordinated, it often ends in chaos. Bearing in mind that these kids come from difficult backgrounds and have problems with consistency, concentration etc, I think they would benefit more from having a fixed programme that they can sign up for and also contribute to. Therefore, they would know in advance that somebody called Anna would be around making papier mache figures from mon-fri 10-12, and after finding out what that is, they could sign up for it (or not). If they sign up for it, the expectation would be that they take part for the whole activity, not just for one day of it. They would also have the option to offer courses themselves. One boy gave me a skateboarding lesson the other day, after being very doubtful whether that would at all work, seeing that I am a girl. You should have seen his happiness when his instructions started showing effect! Kids are talented. They are usually not little Einsteins, but I know one who would be able to give drawing lessons, another who could teach all sorts of gymnastics tricks, some more who could teach clapping games etc.
Some of the kids have appointed me as their personal translator, which I am just a teeny weeny bit proud of. Of course, this only means that they know they have a greater chance of me understanding them than with any of the other volunteers and it doesn’t say much about how well I have mastered the language until now – but it still feels good.
All in all, I can see myself doing this again. I would know what to expect next time, and might be able to coordinate things better upfront. It is definitely doing me good to have this time to grow for myself, without work being a major block in the road and taking up most of my time and causing so much frustration. I am happy here, when at home I would just be missing my kids and worrying about them. As I am in the city, I have time in the evenings to meet up with new and old friends easily and spontaneously