Civic Soapbox
7:20 am
Fri March 2, 2012

Essay: Hosting a Child

On WMRA's occasional series, The Civic Soapbox, Jennifer Murch shares her thoughts about hosting a child through New York City’s Fresh Air Fund.

Music: "Until The Summer Comes" by Trent Wagler & The Steel Wheels

Civic Sopabox listener essays essays represent only the opinion of the writer and do not represent WMRA or any other entity. More essays including opposing views are welcome.  Email essays (around 3 minutes long please) to WMRA "at" JMU "dot" EDU.

Totally Worth It: Hosting a Child

Getting off the bus, Dante, age 7, looked terrified. When I went up to greet him, he barely glanced at me, instead turning to the pile of luggage in an almost desperate search to find his bag. My children, who had moments before been bouncing around the inside of our van in nervous anticipation, were suddenly bashful, and when my five-year-old daughter realized that she was supposed to sit beside this dark-skinned, curly-headed little boy from New York City, she panicked. I did a quick reshuffle of car seats, chattering cheerfully all the while in an attempt to cover up the mountains of tension and anxiety.                       
                                   
The first several days with our little Fresh Air boy were the toughest. Dante scarcely talked for the first 24 hours but he gradually thawed. Soon he was begging, giggling, squealing, and arguing along with the rest of the pack. He relished hot sauce and often wandered outside to run around the yard with the dog.                                 

We didn’t do anything extra-special while he was visiting. Just the ordinary day-to-day cooking, gardening, and outside playing was entertaining enough. We made a trip to my parents’ house in West Virginia—the real country—and back at our house we went swimming at both the pool and the creek. Dante had never been near a creek, and despite the fishy, muddy smells, he loved it.

Lest you be deceived, hosting a complete stranger from the inner city—practically another country—is not without its difficulties. When Dante struggled with homesickness, complained about the too-quiet nights, and missed his TV and video games, my kids felt usurped. This kid was taking up their bedroom space. He was using their bikes. He was playing with their toys. Playing referee to a bigger group of kids exhausted me.
                                                           
So, year after year, why do I invite a Fresh Air child when I know it will invariably lead to conflict, extra work, and stress? I do it for the Fresh Air Child that he may get a taste of the sky, dirt, and green we are so steeped in. Also, I do it for my children so they may relate to someone completely different, and hopefully make a new friend. And I do it for myself, as well. Life can get routine and sometimes I need a kick in the pants to jolt me out of my complacency. And when you look at it that way, it’s us, the host family, that’s getting a breath of fresh air.

By the end of Dante’s week-and-a-half visit, he was itching to see his family again and we were ready to get back to our routines. But what if we never saw this little friend ever again? My five-year-old daughter especially, the one who refused to sit next to him when he first came, was the least excited to see him go.
                                                                                               
“We’ll do it again next year,” I promised. Because this is one summer adventure I’m not going to miss.
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Civic Sopabox listener essays essays represent only the opinion of the writer and do not represent WMRA or any other entity. More essays including opposing views are welcome.  Email essays (around 3 minutes long please) to WMRA "at" JMU "dot" EDU.

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