A Humbling and Thought Provoking Day
As much as I tell people that I don't want to have kids of my own, that's probably a lie. Right now I have no intention of having kids at this stage in my life, but deep down I do like kids. While my friends walk by cute dogs and "ooh" and "ahh", I just turn my cheek to these adorable furry creatures (no, I don't hate animals...I'm just highly allergic to most of them, so really what's the point?). However, when a cute baby in a stroller rolls by I can't help but "awww" and remark at how sweet they look. While living in Italy, my male friends were concerned that I would start asking to hold random babies on the street, just like our canine-loving friends would simply ask someone to pet their puppy.
In September a large number of teachers in the Surat, Nakon and Khanom got together to volunteer at an orphan's day in Khanom. Being teachers, we spend five days a week with little ones - molding, shaping...scolding, yelling - but we couldn't say no to a day of fun activities on the beach with less fortunate kids.
In the morning we greeted busloads of orphaned boys and were separated into teams. Each team was in charge of a certain number of boys and was given a schedule of activities for the day. My team, the grey team, was given the youngest group of boys around the ages of 3-5. Immediately one little guy grabbed my hand, terrified of the swarm of people he had just encountered, and slowly walked with me down to the beach. He was by far one of the youngest ones there, still in a diaper and (from what I could tell) still getting a grasp on talking. Naturally, I feel in love with this munchkin and we would be inseparable the rest of the day.
After an opening ceremony of fighters, smoke shows and dancing it was time to Let the Games Begin! Our schedule included a carefully planned itinerary of soccer, long tail boat rides, face painting, banana boats, bouncy castles, and swimming. But once that little man saw the ocean that was it. The plan was out the window and no one cared. When he first saw the ocean his eyes got bigger, he motioned for me to put him down and he started to walk towards the shore. As the water would come up the beach he would run away terrified and then follow it back in as it retreated. This game lasted a few minutes until he started to understand the gist of this "ocean" thing. Soon his shoes and shirt were off and he was running full speed into the water.
An initial face plant was anticipated and boy did he follow through. Face first into the water he went and I pulled him up as fast as I could...once a lifeguard, always a lifeguard. There was no time to change out of my clothes, that was it. Wet clothes would be that days fashion and it seemed to trend pretty quickly as I looked around at my fellow "Super Nannies".
All of the boys were adorable and you could definitely see the bond they had with each other. Everyone looked out for everyone else, whether it was the older boys making sure the young ones had eaten or the younger ones picking up their friend's t-shirt so they didn't leave it behind. It made me feel a little better knowing that they all had each other, if no one else.
Not only was it great to see how these kids interacted with one another, but it was strange/cool/funny to see all of my friends with their kid for the day. Yes, we all work with children throughout the week so we know how we all act with them. But there is a big difference from teaching in a controlled setting to running around a beach with a kid for one day. Everyone stepped into "parent-mode". Was this because we knew they wouldn't be going home to a mom or dad later on? Or were we subconsciously prepping for what lies down the road for us in a few years?
Either way, the guys had everyone on their shoulders, the girls all made sure no one was drowning and if one of us needed a break the rest of us watched over their kid. We fed them, made sure they stayed safe and spoiled them. If my kid didn't want to go to the bouncy castle at 1:00 like we were scheduled to, then god damnit we weren't moving!
Since I learned early on that my munchkin couldn't swim or hold himself up in an inner tube, Haley and I started to stand inside the tube while the smaller guys swam around in the shallow section. Notice Haley in total mom stance below.
A few of us hung out by the water just chatting about the day, watching the boys swim. I was holding Mick as he gnawed at a chicken wing and we all started to laugh at how weird it will be when 10 years from now we all could be doing this for real. It was like a glimpse into the future to see what kind of parent would be - over protective, over indulgent, passive, or just having a good time. The "AHHH! We're growing up" feeling set in.
Now if you're wondering why I keep referring to my kid as "little guy, munchkin, kid" it's because 1. he doesn't speak English 2. my Thai is terrible 3. he didn't talk much anyway, even to other kids. However, after asking him in multiple languages and having others ask him, one guy swam by him and said, "Hello, Mick!" Mick!! He had a name! Granted I immediately thought of how it related to my Irish roots (in an un-PC kind of way) but still it was a cute name.
Mick had an obsession with my shades that day and clearly needed to wear them to complete this ensemble. I mean, oversized life jackets crave accessories, it says, "I'm a badass, but I still care about my life".
It's safe to say, Mick was the cutest kid at Orphan's Day...look at that smile! He was also one of the happiest kids I've met. There was never a tear, just looks of sarcasm throughout the day that made me laugh.
With the day coming to a close, I started to feel a little choked up that I would never see this kid again and that he wasn't going home to a family that loved him. But I was glad to see how nice the orphanage staff seemed to be and how great these boys all were. I definitely felt grateful for the family I have and how lucky I am. I also started to think about down the road and how I've always said adoption is a really nice thing. This definitely sealed the deal for me. If "a family" is something I'm going to have then I want to adopt at some point...just not yet.