Wednesday, October 8, 2008

like little children

An ongoing conversation among the staff at work is the fact that in many ways we feel like we are working in a daycare though we are in fact working with adults. There are many reasons for this, but in some cases it is just the pure immaturity that we see on a daily basis and the inability to accept delayed gratification.

Take this example. One person is trying to read the newspaper, another person is talking. Newspaper person slaps the hand of the other person. This other person happens to have an infected finger which starts bleeding. Infected person comes to the counter cradling their bleeding hand saying "she hit me", "kick her out", "if you don't do something I will". I get them to run their hand underwater, they try and convince me that the slap created a huge problem for their hand and refuse to listen to the fact that if pus is draining out now that it was preexisting and the slap didn't make that happen. Yeah right. Eventually, after we refuse to do anything except tell the two to work out their own problems (they're on again off again dating), infection man goes off to sulk in the back and newspaper girl goes on to insult someone else. We do eventually wind up kicking out newspaper girl, but only because she was antagonizing everyone.

Scenario two: The heating system. People are sitting in the drop in playing cards...directly under the fan. Complainer starts whining that it's too cold, and that they'll get pneumonia from the fan being on. I look at the fans, they're all on low and the temperature is set above room temperature so I don't do anything. Complainers asks to talk to my boss. I tell her no. I mean for goodness sakes, it's the fans. Person two starts saying how moving air is bad for people with diabetes... umm? Then my boss walks through and complainer starts freaking out going on and on about how horrible I am and how horrible the fans are. My boss doesn't even look at the fan settings, he just listens to their complaints and leaves again.

Scenario three: Multiple times each day I wind up giving out clothes to people who wet themselves while drunk. Sometimes I don't have time at right that moment, sometimes I simply don't have any pants to fit them. This can lead to screaming, yelling and temper tantrums. Because somehow, it is my responsibility to provide for their lack of planning.

See the thing is though, in many ways this immaturity actually makes a great deal of sense. Many of the people in our shelter had really crappy childhoods. Things did not go well for them. They often spent a lot of time hoping in and out of the foster care system, living in a variety of settings including residential schools for some of them. They often lacked consistent, loving, parenting. In some ways, the staff at the shelter become like parents for these people, or at least like family. They look to us for support, guidance and help, and get frustrated when we don't meet their needs the way they want or expect us to. It's a sad reality, but it is a reality. If you never had a childhood, did you get past those childhood challenges?


cb said...

I agree with a lot of what you say. A lot of adults though - even those who don't have a lot of childhood difficulties - can behave in an exceptionally childlike manner at times and I think it comes out all the more under stress. You revert to a comfortable pattern when there is someone to listen to you and to respond to you.. possibly.

Caroline said...

I buy your theory for clients but can you explain why staff are just as bad? I regularly have carers saying they do not want to go back to a client because that client was "horrid" - i.e. didn't speak to them or criticised them in some way. Don't even get me started on how they behave with each other...After twenty odd years in this game I am still constantly awmazed by how FRAGILE some supposedly ok people are and how little sense of self esteem they have. Still, I suppose bad childhood experiences are a universal thing eh?