So, the first time a group of preschoolers rejected the dessert I offered them, I was a trifle confused. There were 5 children playing dress up in my living room, but my 2 were the only ones eagerly stuffing their faces with chocolate chip cookies. I watched a pirate with a cape, a cowgirl in high heels and a princess all look at the plate, furrow their foreheads and go back to playing. Then it hit me. These are Franklinton kids, looking at a motley assortment of lumps with the chocolate barely discernible amidst the oatmeal and whole wheat flour. These are not your uniform, predictable oreos, perfect, unnaturally black circles, with equally perfect circles of icing inside, eaten from a plastic wrapper. Also, these are warm. Weird. I think the only times I’ve seen any of these kids with snacks they were an electric neon color in BPA containers. Pretty sure they’ve never seen fresh, homemade cookies before.
I’m not part of any of the organizations in Fton that are really working for justice. I’m not growing veggies in a food desert or teaching bike maintenance to low income cyclists. I’m not starting shelters for abused women or investigating sex slavery. And aside from a protest here and there, I’m not doing much in the way of renters’ rights. I’m a stay-at-home mom. So many days I’m too knee deep in diapers, school lunches, homework, preschool “experiments,” keeping the dog from eating the baby’s food and keeping the baby from eating the dog food to even think much about the reasons we moved to this neighborhood in the first place.
And when, in the middle of all that, the kids next door want to come in and play, I start getting crazy eye. Last time, I turned them away. The house was an explosion of kid/dog/baby fun times and I was all, “I can’t even be civil to my own kids with all this cleaning to do, no way I can handle other people’s kids!” But I kept thinking about that the rest of the day. And even though I don’t really know what their home lives are like, I do have an inkling. I know that Jonathan mostly lives off of junk food and that his dad is in jail. I know Barbara and Maya have a very confusing patchwork of families they live with. I know that Junior has a lot of bruises and an almost manic, hungry way that he plays. And I’m pretty sure that even when I am stressed and the house is messy, I still have something I can offer to these small, fragile pieces of Franklinton.
So today, while I was hanging diapers to dry in the living room, pulling the baby out of the dog kennel (again!), and trying to get a pie in the oven, the 2 little girls from next door came in to play. And I welcomed them in. Maybe all I can offer is a story on the couch or a reminder to take turns. But really, I’m offering a safe place to play. And a cookie. And guess what? Last time I offered, Barbara finally tried one. Success!