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Columnists

Like All Proud Mothers

May 15, 2020
Phyllis ‘Kiki’ Sembos

Like all proud mothers, may I tell you folks about my daughter, Ellen, a social worker in the Board of Education system, working in an elementary school for many years? Teachers send their wayward, disobedient, troublesome kids to her office where she has to deal with their behavioral and emotional problems. They range from five to eleven years old.

Some social workers reprimand, talk down to or punish the troubled child, a child who often, is the product of wayward, troublesome parents. Ellen, who has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, a certificate for treating children with minor mental disabilities, treats those children far different from the usual methods mentioned above.

Instead, she has collected a number of toys and games that are now outdated but completely wins over the children’s imagination and helps them to calm down, laugh and learn about fairness while having fun. Among the games and toys she’s introduced are toys and games like Slinky, Pick-up-Sticks, Jacks, marbles, Old Maid, and Kinetic Sand. I recall all those games and toys that were played with my own kids. But, Kinetic Sand, I didn’t recognize. Ellen explained that she places a marble inside a large box containing the sand that is flexible. Children then take turns searching for the marble as if digging for a diamond. They get excited and hopeful as they all gather round to watch whoever does the digging, finds the marble and then trades in the ‘diamond’ for a cookie.

When the weather is sunny and comfortable they usually all go outdoors where some jump rope, others play marbles or the slinky that is maneuvered down the numerous stairs in front of the school. Indoors, they’ll play Old Maid, Pick-up Sticks or whatever game Ellen finds fun, calming, and educational and which encourages the child to be friendlier. The results are usually very good. There were times when the troubled child will open up to her without reservations, some of them trusting her enough to talk about something personal, something usually too difficult to admit to anyone else and Ellen has to deal with it accordingly.

Today, many children are engrossed with computers and phones that involve isolation and long hours in one place. Video games often display violent killings or chasing someone until they are blasted into oblivion, then, a false sense of victory or satisfaction follows. In some cases, it encourages petty aggression as in traditional football. Some parents purchase video games as a means of keeping them out of the way. Perhaps, it’s one of the reasons why Ellen’s office is busy.

One particular boy, a very bright ten years old, a product of the Syrian War, had trouble sleeping, waking up from nightmares of the killings he’d witnessed, the bombings of neighbor’s homes, panicked people running for safety from the destruction. His family landed in Turkey where they lived in an awful, unsanitary camp before coming to the United States having had a relative who sponsored them. In her office, Ellen has a little tent with a blanket and pillow where he or other children nap when necessary. He’s napped there a few times. The family is extremely poor. He was given clothing and school supplies by neighborhood charities. But how can one heal his troubled mind? A mind full of dark shadows. He became more trusting when Ellen confided that they had something in common, that she, too, is Christian Orthodox. She introduced him to another boy who spoke Arabic. They’ve become like brothers. It’s just a drop in a bucket of water. And, there are a lot of buckets out there and growing. I guess you can understand why I’m proud of her. In fact, both daughters have given me many reasons to be proud. My youngest daughter, Sophia has formed a society that has successfully helped adopt over 100 cats and kittens to responsible families after having them treated by a vet. She’s rescued many abandoned or neglected cats and several dogs from Greece’s streets, two landed in her own neighborhood. I hope that their children, my grandchildren, absorb their parent’s compassion, learn to stand up and speak out when they see evil, war-loving culprits who will severely damage yet another generation and cause more little victims like the Syrian boy.

I don’t usually talk about sad things. I loathe doing so. I’d rather laugh and love all things. But, there are times….

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This article is part of a continuing series dealing with reports of Greek POWs in Asia Minor in the Thessaloniki newspaper, Makedonia in July 1936.

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