In the blogosphere there’s a few bazillion posts about kids driving their parents crazy. Don’t believe me? Check out ‘Serenity Now’ at Mommy Mess, or my own post Bright and Early Wednesday Morning or the whole Kindergarten Chronicles section of my blog.
I Googled “blog posts kids drive me crazy” and got 42,300,000 results.
Why all the posts?
Because kids drive their parents crazy.
Because they are kids. That’s what they do.
(I sound like my five year old.)
Because they are kids. They are not grown-ups. They do weird and wonderful things in their quest to understand the world.
Baby Dunk’s latest game is biting my shoulder and laughing at my shriek of pain. Little Miss Adorable’s quest for independence involves saying ‘No” and trying to be naughty. This is particularly funny when she uses her hands to lift her leg up in an attempt to kick her brother. As the grown-up, it’s hard to keep a straight face when she’s fighting low muscle tone and her brothers at the same time.
My five year old, Mr. Sensitive just ran across the living room to say, “Mommy I love you,” then ran back to his toys. There is no logic or real intent to this action, he’s just expressing a feeling he had at that instant.
But what about the title?
Hold them means hold your children tight before they grow up too fast. Hold them when they cry. Hold them as you comfort them. Hold them when they laugh. Hold them when they do something amazing – like smile, paint, or build stuff. Hold them when the fall asleep and you marvel at how perfect they are.
But most of all hold them for all the kids that aren’t held.
I’m asking you to hold them for all the kids that aren’t held.
When I was teaching I worked with kids whose lives would make your hair stand on end. Truthfully, my dogs had better lives than the kids I taught. I taught high school kids with severe learning disabilities and some behaviour problems. These kids were abused, abandoned, homeless, under court orders, serving probation or house arrest. They were prostituted, pregnant, or drug, alcohol or gambling addicts. They were up on assault charges, car theft, drug charges and other stuff I did not want to hear about.
But they were still kids.
By the time I saw them these kids had 16 or 17 years of survival under their belts. A quick flip through their school records shows no one was holding onto them. No school, no agency, no teacher, no parents. Not even themselves.
At one point I had at least one kid involved in the law in every class I taught. I had one English class where I had one kid who was homeless (The Children’s Aid Society apprehended his younger brothers, and left him); one nearly homeless and in a court-ordered anger management program; another kid in court-ordered anger management and gambling programs, and he was nearly homeless too. Oh, and the other 15 kids with severe learning disabilities in that class.
And I was supposed to teach English to all these kids who couldn’t read.
What did I do? I fed them. I served breakfast every morning. I bought muffins and granola bars in bulk, taught a lesson then we had a ‘healthy snack’ while we worked. Those kids worked, learned, read, and wrote stories. Feeding them was my way of holding them. Because that’s what they needed.
I remember one student who was strip-searched regularly before my period 2 class by the school police officer. The student was a known drug dealer and suspected of carrying weapons to school. Due to his age he was going to the adult correctional system in June. He was court ordered to attend school until then.
That high school student worked at a grade 3 level. Yes, you read that right. This student (who says he was caught in a stolen car) could only read and write at a grade 3 level. If he misbehaved in my class (i.e. calling a peer an inappropriate name) he would copy out my ‘apology note’ and the misbehaviour stopped. This is the kind of discipline you would do with a grade 3. Not a hardened criminal.
In my class he was a good kid, just goofy. He would do the modified class work and joke around. He was as mature as a typical grade three student (insert flatulence joke here). He was not the kind of kid who should be sent to an adult correctional facility. If he tried to skip an afternoon class I’d round him up and walk him to class. He would pretend to complain, “Oh, Miss, Miss, I’m just on my way…” and walk with me, chatting all the way.
Making sure he got to class on time was my way of holding him.
Flipping through his school record showed no one was holding on to him since Kindergarten. Primary grade reports indicate social work services were offered to the mother (there was no father). He bounced around between family members and schools.
No one was holding onto him.
In June that year he went to the adult correctional facility. I haven’t heard of him since.
I could tell you hundreds of stories of others – how these kids fell into addiction, homelessness, early parenthood, prostitution, and the criminal justice system. No one is holding onto them. They are falling through the cracks.
This is not a third world issue. This is right in Ontario, Canada, a first world country known for health care and social services.
I’m not sure what the questions are, or what the answers should be. Maybe you can tell me and we can try to solve it together.
But, when you hold your child tonight, think of those kids who really need someone to hold them. And say a prayer for them, too.
This post is my way of remembering the many kids I taught and their heartwrenching stories. I know our paths are not likely to cross again, but I do think about you guys. I’m not naming names, but you know who you are.