Polar Bear Post
Babies. Toddlers. Pre-teens. Teens
2342 of them!
Polar Bear Post

A Perspective
article by Don Cooley, AKA dbciii Grumpy Old Man @frogcycle on Twitter
(This was written when the separation and caging of accompanied children first started; indications are it continues and numbers are much greater)

I see some refugee youngsters up close and personal. I see how fragile they are. I am friends with five refugee families. 2 teen girls, boys 13, 10,7, 6 girls from 1 to 9. I am a surrogate grandpa to all. I know how tough coming here as refugees was. I've watched learning English, making friends, socializing. It's hard. They have wonderful parents. I watch mom, dad with toddlers, getting them over fear, teaching, nurturing.

I think about those 2342 in cages, no parents, not understanding why, and I want to scream. I can picture every one of "my" kids in there. I can picture my adult friends if I had to tell them their children were somewhere else, don't know where, don't know if getting tucked in, don't know if have their precious raggedy stuffed animal. They all LIVE for their children. They CAME HERE for their children.

I have had several personal experiences with one 2-1/2 year old. Back when she was just a year old and had just completed a journey halfway around the world from the only home she had ever known, she (a) clung to a parent all the time and (b) screamed in fear when I entered the room.

More recently, she, her mother, and I were returning from shopping. Mom and I were both carrying boxes of food and as we started up a staircase I inadvertently blocked her view of her mother. She stopped in her tracks and started crying. I stepped aside and said 'Mommy's right here'; she stopped crying, smiled, and enthusiastically climbed the stairs as I let her pass to catch up to mom. And yet more recently, as we were preparing to embark on another shopping trip, mom was talking to dad in the parking lot and I decided to push a little, very gently. I opened the truck door (she LOVES my truck), bent down, and said 'come on R, let's go shopping'. She came over, climbed in, and walked across to the child seat mounted in the crew cab laterally-facing jump seat. I helped her in to it and buckled it up. Suddenly she looked all around and said 'Mommy!' I pointed out the back window, which was right next to her, and said 'Mommy's there; she's coming.' which she was. She relaxed.

It has been a 1.5 year 'getting to know you' process. Many, many tentative overtures, gradual acceptance of this stranger with a strange complexion. I don't know how much her fragile self-confidence differs from any child of that age. I do know that her experience up to arrival in the new apartment is similar to that of asylum-seekers who travel on foot vs. airplane.

I cannot begin to imagine the trauma and permanent psychological scarring had she been separated from them at that first visit when she was terrified of me. I have observations of others ranging in age up to 17. Being uprooted from the only home you have ever known, especially if there is violence and fear associated with the departure has already created a PTSD-like condition. Adding the separation then from the ONLY remnant of the world as you knew it (your parent) is beyond cruelty; it is torture.

My Muslim friends fled their home when bombing reached their street. Four years in refugee camp, then here.Their youngest was an infant. Now he's 7. The older two boys are gaining confidence, socializing. 7 is clearly more delicate psychologically. Mom gives appropriate extra attention. If I had to tell them the three were being shipped to parts unknown and 6 would not even be with 10 and 13 I can't imagine their distress. And of course he for sure would be irreparably damaged.

2342 - probably more. Every one of them similar to one of "my" eleven.

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