Columnist: Mean Jean the Butter Bean

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 5, 2016

When my son was 2, he and his sisters stayed with a wonderful woman for a summer while I worked. She had a garden to the side of her house where strawberries were nestled amid the butter beans and okra.

She would allow these small folks to pick some of the things they loved and they loved her for letting them.

One day, my little boy decided to put a butter bean up his nose. After a visit to the pediatrician and then to a specialist, the butter bean was finally extracted.

As much as he loves butter beans to eat, the fear of the butter bean was still very much a part of our lives.

Such a silly little story, and the only reason I am telling you this is so you will understand the title of this article as you read on.

Unfortunately, the summer of great child care ended the day we said goodbye to the garden.

Being a single mother and having to work was a difficult thing to do. Making it even harder was finding good child care. There was no family to help since they all lived in other states. During the better part of my children’s growing years, unfortunately, they experienced some precarious moments of care.

After-school care was almost nonexistent where we lived. There were a couple of overcrowded daycare centers, but they were so expensive I could not afford them.

I finally found a woman I could afford to care for my children. She would come to the house to be there after school each day.

“Horrible” is the word I would use to describe this woman named Jean. In my heart, I knew that she was, but would somehow make it OK in my mind because there was no other alternative.

Years would pass before my adult children told me the story of Mean Jean and how one day she took them for a ride in her beat up car with bad doors. She was never supposed to leave with the children.

She turned the corner too fast and my son leaned against the bad door and started to fall to the earth when his sisters grabbed him and pulled him back into the car. Jean never stopped the car.

“Guilt” is the word that completely consumed me when they told me the story and will for the rest of my life.

So, “Mean Jean the Butter Bean” is our family name for that period of child care in our lives. It is sad that the butter bean means “fear.”

Children are our most precious commodity and the hope for the future of this country and the world. We all know that, but I am not sure we understand what we need to do to create a safer environment for the priceless and innocent little ones we bring into this world.

It has been 39 years since Corey put the butter bean up his nose, and I would have hoped that affordable care for these precious little folks would have improved. Has it?

Sixty-five percent of children under 6 have both parents in the workforce today. The average cost is about $10,000 per year per child for care. Wages are stagnant and the state of child care conditions has not improved as it should have. Plus, most facilities are under even the government standards.

I am not usually for more “government” in our lives, but what if we did help the child at the beginning? Maybe then we would not have to spend so much during the adult years. Remember, the formative years are the beginning. Isn’t it easier to form than to reform?

Children need access to nurturing and enriching environments from birth to achieve a healthy development. They need family to support their fragile beginnings.

When we see people that have fallen through the cracks of life and we decide to judge them harshly, remember they were once the child who may have been left alone or in miserable situations while they were too small to defend themselves.

We have to value the mind of the child. We have to put money into things that will improve their lives and existence. Social workers, teachers and child care workers are still some of the most underpaid professions in our society. We want these folks to have educations, but do we pay them well enough to make sure we have the best people to care for the ones who cannot care for themselves? Again, invest in the beginning.

We must – as a nation, as a family – put our children first. Every day, all day, in every situation.

If you want the world to be a better place, then give it a future through an investment in a child.

I have one biological granddaughter. I did not know how I would feel about my two new step-grandchildren. You know what? It is the same. Those little ones are just as precious whether they have your blood or not. Doesn’t make a bit of difference. Love doesn’t come from blood; it always comes from the heart.

My stepdaughter had to go back to work and I decided to keep her 2 month old for a month so that she would have the one on one she needed for a bit longer. She goes into a church day care in two weeks.

Yes, my back hurts at the end of the day but, because I can, I will help. I talk to her all day long. I kiss her a hundred times. I make sure her bottle is warm just the way she likes it. I make her smile and try to get her to reach and play and love life.

I hope and pray there will never be a Mean Jean the Butter Bean in her life ever. She doesn’t deserve it, does she?

Does any child?

Lynn Walker Gendusa

Contributing columnist

Lynn Walker Gendusa is a former LaGrange resident who currently resides in Roswell. She may be reached at