What’s Possible for the Little Ones?

When I was about 7 years old, I looked around my house and I looked into the smiling beautiful faces of two babies and a 3-year-old toddler and I was awestruck with the possibilities.

I could see these three little ones having great little lives where they were cared for, dressed appropriately every day, not just for Sundays and parties, where they had their stories’ heard, where they felt listened to and had their experiences validated. Things that had not happened for me frequently enough or recently enough for me. I was already aware of these missing components of my own life, even at 7 years old.

I wanted so much for each of them. They were so little and cute. Their eyes were wide with anticipation and their faces were filled with hope and love. I could see, almost like a movie playing in my head, how their lives could be; how they could be cared for, listened to. How they could have an experience of being loved. I imagined them getting their needs met in ways that I, at this point in the life of our family, could barely remember having been met for me.

John was only 3 and half years old and, being the middle child in a family of five, was the most reserved and shy. He didn’t express any needs and never asked for anything, except from our Grandmother, Grandma Jean. He was her favorite because he was named John F. Halpin, IV and she had been married to John F. Halpin, Jr. She doted on John. Although she was a recluse, she would order anything from the Spiegel catalogue that he wanted, including cowboy boots for a 4-year-old. John became very self-sufficient at a very early age; if he was hungry he would peel an orange to eat. He realized early on that he needed to manage his own food sources and, given that he was too young to do much food preparation or use knives, he learned to peel oranges. By the time he was 10 years old, he could peel and consume an entire bag of oranges in one sitting.

Willie had the face of an angel. His dark complexion, soft curly brown hair and big beautiful brown eyes were breathtaking. He was born with a lot of allergic reactions so he didn’t really thrive as an infant or toddler. He was really small until he started the 2nd grade. He got spoiled because he was so sickly. He was such a handful for our parents because he would often feel bad with migraine like headaches from his allergies but not be able to express how bad he really felt. Instead, he would act out and throw temper tantrums. He would routinely, at the age of 3, insert the key into the ignition of one of our two Volkswagen buses and break they key off. Instead of questioning how a three-year old would even be able to figure out this ‘trick’ or why a 3-year-old could be so desperate for attention, my parents just wrung their hands and spent 6-8 hours getting all kinds of friends and neighbors involved in extricating the half of the key from the ignition. This was often done, in the end, by Willie himself with used chewing gum.

Lucy was a beautiful baby and toddler with soft blond, wispy hair who was always up for an adventure. She would go anywhere and do anything with her older siblings and her Mutha. She often spoke her mind to of us or anyone else who would listen. She was about two years old when a very large golfer from out-of-town who was at the Vicksburg Country Club for a tournament, bent over one day at the swimming pool to pat her on the head and admire her great smile. She smiled brightly and remarked, “You sure are fat” to the golfer who backed away sheepishly.

Seeing how special these three young children were and how much of a gap there would be in their lives around care, attention, affection and even food and safety, I stepped boldly in at 7 years old to fill the gap. I confidently assumed that this movie that was being played in my head could be written, directed, and produced magnificently by me even though I had no authority, resources, or accountability.

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