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  • Writer's picturePatricia Saylor

Learning to Trust Good-bye with Mami and Papi

Watching the presidential debate last night moved me to share something I wrote just over two years ago. You can read about my experience below, and contrast it with the federal government child separation policy here and here.

From August 30, 2018

Today, I was in a PreK Head Start classroom in Chapel Hill NC, supporting 4 little Hispanic children who were starting a new school. Some spoke English, some didn't. All of them had been well-prepared for the day. The teacher and I had visited with them in their homes. They knew their parents trusted us.

All the parents had done the right things. Those sweet babies arrived clean and well-rested and fed. They put their personal belongings in cubbies that had been labeled with their pictures. Moms and dads gave kisses and hugs, promised to be back to get them before lunch, and took their leave.

The day was short- only 3 hours- and there were 5 adults present for the 7 children. (The rest of the class will be coming for an orientation day tomorrow.)

And the children were devastated. One got the pillow from his house out of his cubby and carried it for 3 hours, crying most of the time. One three-year-old attached himself to the teacher and wouldn't move more than two feet from her. When she sat down on the floor for circle time, he curled into a nursing position on her lap and lay his head against her chest.

These children will be fine. They will learn a nice lesson; their parents keep their promises, and home and family are still there, even if you leave for a little while. Good things can happen when your parents move you gently and temporarily out of the nest and are there to welcome you back and support you.

We took good care of those children today. We made sure we knew who was supposed to get them at the end of the day. The classroom teacher checked and double-checked to make sure children and parents and tias and abuelos and phone numbers and addresses all matched up. We knew who belonged to whom.

But (I'm sure you see where I'm going) I just couldn't stop thinking about all those other sweet babies, as well-loved as the ones I saw today. The ones who were already exhausted from weeks or months of travel. The ones who needed a bath. The ones whose parents were more scared than they were. The ones who were ripped away and whose parents didn't come back. The ones who were passed around among strangers and who landed in places their mothers had never seen. The ones whose transition objects didn't transition with them. The ones who don't know their mothers' names. The ones who have forgotten what Mami looks like. They learned a very different lesson about trust, and it will impact them for the rest of their lives.

I can't stop thinking about it.

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