He was bawling his little lungs out when they handed him to me. I was on my first visit to the Thai Red Cross Children Home in Bangkok and when a staff member handed little Phop over to me, I was immediately nervous.
I carried him to the play room, following the other volunteers that had come with the Church of Sweden. Every one else had a quiet, obedient child in their arms. I had landed the vocal 3 year-old.
“Phop always cries,” explained Mimi, one of the other volunteers. I tried bouncing him up and down as I carried him around the play room. No luck, he was still screaming. I tried to distract him with a stuffed toy. Even worse. “I’m on to your tricks!” it seemed he was saying.
“It’s OK buddy,” I tried. “Here, how about this toy?” The action figure I held up drew a brief flicker of interest (he was wearing action figure PJs) and then it was back to bawling. Just as I started despairing that I would be the only volunteer who could not handle a kid, Phop, calmed down and stopped screaming. A miracle!
I tried putting him down. Maybe he wanted to play? Nope. He was clearly not interested. He just wanted to be carried around. So we walked around the play room looking at the other volunteers and toddlers, me talking to him and him content to have an adult all to himself.
And that’s how it went for two whole hours, with a break where he let me feed him chicken noodles and an obsession with standing on the windowsill for the last five minutes. Then it was all over, I handed Phop back to the staff, I saw him run over to his crib and jump in.
“It’s always hardest for us to say goodbye at the end,” offered another volunteer. Indeed it was. I hope to see you again, Phop.