Working as a Parent Aide is a mixture of supervising visits between parents and children and providing families with needed supportive services. I have quickly learned that each family and their circumstances and challenges are different. This also means that even when I think I know how a family visit may go, I need to also expect the unexpected.
Sometimes the goals of a visit are fairly straightforward. I work with one couple and their two children, Nahla, age 3, and Miley, age 1. (All names have been changed.) The girls are fun, funny and outgoing, but they were not getting enough opportunities to interact with other kids their age. I found a community playgroup to take them to. Mary, the mom, knew that this was a great idea, but was very anxious about the unknowns of a playgroup. She bombarded me with many questions: How many kids would be there, was she supposed to talk with other parents, how would Nahla and Miley do?
When we arrived, I introduced us to the organizing mom and picked up the paperwork for Mary to complete. Without any prompting, Mary encouraged Nahla to start playing. Nahla quickly hopped in line for the slide and joined in the fun with other kids her age. Miley is very small for her age, in part because she was awaiting an upcoming cleft lip palate surgery. Most of the other babies her age were on the floor playing, other babies her size were dozing in car seat carriers. After a few minutes, I put her on the floor so she could crawl and grab to her heart’s content. Soon she was surrounded by other kids who seemed to want to try out their early baby-sitting skills on the newest addition. They tickled her toes, presented her with toys to play with and gave her hugs. Miley spent the rest of the hour with a small crew of eager caretakers.
As I sat with Mary watching her girls have a great time, she started to seem a lot less anxious. At one point, though, she turned to me and commented that every parent had a ring on their finger. I laughed and pointed out that she was probably the only parent there who was noticing everyone’s marital status. As the playgroup wound down, Mary held off on pulling Nahla out of the fun she was having. When there were only about 2 other kids left, Mary tried to coax her to the car. This did not make Nahla happy at all. Even the temptation of a snack was not going to pull her away. I quickly pointed out that it was beautiful outside so there was no need to force her into shoes. Rather, Mary could carry her to the car.
When we drove away, I reminded Mary that Nahla’s sadness at leaving was just a very real reminder of how great playtime with other kids was for her and Miley. Mary nodded and we added this to our weekly routine.
R.B. Austen lives in New England and is enjoying her new job.
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