My #1

1Every child deserves to someone’s number one. Every child needs to hear they are loved, feel adored, and be given hugs before bed. Every child deserves to have someone read them a bedtime story. Every child wants to hear they are good at something. Every child not only wants these things; they need it. It’s something many of us take for grated. It’s something many of us do for our children without thought.

“You’re my favorite boy in the world. You’re so smart. You’re such a good girl. You are so responsible. I love you…..”

These are things I say to my children every day because I mean it, and they need to hear it. They need to feel it. And, many, many children are not feeling like they are anyone’s number one.

The list of children that I spent time with this week is long. And when I think of a commonalities, there is one depressing theme. Many, if not most, of the children who had angry outbursts, who had a conflict or made a bad choice, or asked to spend time with me are lacking one or both parents. They are abandoned and feel unwanted. Their parents have different priorities.

They’re in jail. They’re on drugs. They have a new boyfriend. I’ve even had children tell me that they have new kids now. They have a new family. How does that make a child feel to have their parent care about something or someone more than them? It leaves a void. They feel incomplete. They feel insecure. And, they are longing for attention.

And, they look for attention wherever they can find it. In PAC (in-school suspension), in conflicts, in rebellion, and even within themselves. I had a boy tell me at the end of the day that “he would never earn a reward from me” when he saw another girl picking her toy from my ‘joy jar’. “I’m stupid and I never do anything right.” This is not how children are supposed to feel when they are nine.

But, when your mom has left you, you rarely see your dad, and you’re scared of your caretaker, you feel lost. When your mom tells you that you won’t be seeing your dad anymore, you feel sad. When your dad is in jail and you haven’t seen him since you were three, you feel disappointed. When your mother chose drugs over you, you feel angry. Children are hurting everywhere.

But, we can’t give up. We have to be the ones to love them. Maybe they aren’t our number one, but we can try to find them a number one. Today I checked in with a friend who is being raised by her aunt and uncle. She’s been with them for years now while some of her other many siblings are living with a drug-addicted mom and other family members. In fact, one of her brothers now attends the same school yet lives with step-mom and father. He was born addicted to drugs and the impact is huge. He is so delayed and almost incapable of functioning in school. Today, he didn’t want to leave his sister when he saw her this morning. Since they don’t live together and hardly see each other, he gets so excited to see her. He became so upset upon her leaving for class that he began screaming, “I want to kill myself” over and over and over again down the hallway. It was a blood-curdling scream. It was so painful to listen to so I cannot imagine how he feels. He’s in first grade.

But, this girl who shares the same mother and doesn’t have a relationship with a different father is doing great. It was her birthday today. And while she was understandably upset by the morning incident, her ‘Big Sister’ from the Big Brothers Big Sister’s program surprised her for her birthday. She’s been matched with this girl since first grade. Her Big Sister comes to eat lunch with her often. She takes her to do fun things outside of school. And, she delivers wonderful, fancy birthday presents to this one girl. She has made her her number one! She even asked her ‘little’ to be in her wedding this winter!

So when there are children who have had bad luck and received the short-end-of-the-stick, we have to find them a number one. A mentor, a school friend, a family member who steps in….someone who will treat them like they are the most important thing in the world. And even if we can’t actually find them a mentor, we make the time we spend with ‘our’ kids meaningful. When I spend time with a child, even if it’s 5 minutes, I really try to make them feel loved. They aren’t always the most loving kids but they can be when we show them how to.

At the end of the day today, I invited a boy who’s been abandoned by his mother to come help me with my kindergarten leadership class. I had to conduct a suicide assessment on him yesterday. But today, he wanted to come with me as I taught the sweet kindergarten students about ‘filling buckets’. He was so well-behaved in this class as he served as my assistant. A boy who is desperate to be loved and is feeling really depressed chose to spend his afternoon explaining to other children how to fill buckets and make other people feel loved.

Fill someone’s bucket today, and make a child feel loved. They all deserve it.

 

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The voices of knowledge, and of reason: TEACHERS

Sometimes, I wonder what’s happening and what will become of public schools.  With all the rapid changes, underfunding, and stressed and dissatisfied teachers, it’s a wonder we still have people who sign up for this demanding job. I know parents value and even give the extra little flowers and gifts during thank-a-teacher-week, but if they only knew the battle teachers are up against daily….

After school yesterday, I had to say to a young teacher, ‘I am sorry’. I spent 15 minutes with a student from her class who talked and whined non-stop and I could not imagine dealing with him all day. She does it all day, every day. She told me this was a rough week with him. What about a rough week for her!?

Within those 15 minutes I had with the boy, the student (age 9) enthusiastically told me about his dad getting a new machine gun for his birthday to add to his weapon collection. When I asked what (on earth!?) his dad is going to do with the machine gun, he told me they would have it to break into houses, shoot, and kill people during the Apocalypse. Then, I asked where dad keeps this machine gun and he told me beside his bb gun where the other guns lay. Lovely. So, of course, I immediately told my friend that he should never touch a weapon without his father right there with him. Silence. (Lovely).

This student then jumps ahead to his next blurb of conscientious which is the Freddy movies. (Lovely). When I ask where he watches these movies, I find out that it’s not at dad’s, as one would expect. It’s at Granny’s. He rambles rapidly and I cannot even follow this story because I don’t watch Freddy movies (but of course, he wants to tell me more violent stories and about how much he loves this). At this point, I have to interrupt him to tell him to stop telling me about the details of the Freddy movies because a. I am not interested in Freddy movies and b. he shouldn’t be watching them either.

Moving onto the ‘real’ reason or problem at hand, the reason he really asked to see me, he’s fighting with his friendemy again. He started talking incessantly about this on-off-again friend and how he’s broken the friendship contract we made a couple weeks ago. He proceeds to tell me all the mean things this boy is doing to him, like telling other people not be be his friend. See, now we are getting to the ‘real’ problem, obviously!… After bashing this other boy that he was best friends with 2 week ago and me listening patiently, we come to the conclusion that they really need  a break from each other. We will meet next week, again, to have a mediation.

Later in the day, I hear from other boys in his class that it’s actually this boy, the one who came to speak to me, that is telling others not be his friendemy’s friend. He spent that small amount of time we had together turning the story around and lying about who said what. (Lovely). In reality and the bottom line is that these boys do need a break from each other and both are untrustworthy. They are both in the same class and whine, lie, and complain a lot.

Getting to my point: Thank you, Mrs.(Teacher), for being a role model for these kids, for dealing with the drama every day while trying to teach your standards and stay on track. What would kids like this do if they were homeschooled?! With some of the role models and norms the children in this country have, thank goodness that we have dedicated adults that can show them a different perspective! Thank goodness we have patient, educated, and rational adults that expose these kids to different values. Thanks goodness there are teachers to teach about positive paths for the future, while encouraging their students to become productive members of our society every day.

What if we didn’t!? This country would come unglued, talk about Apocalypse Now! Teachers have an incredibly difficult job and it’s an uphill battle every day, on so many levels. Thank you, teachers, for not only being the voice of knowledge but also a voice of reason for so many kids. Teachers really help shape our future, and thank goodness so!

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