When I reflect back as my week as a School Counselor, I barely know where to begin. Our weeks aren’t all fun, guidance classes and simple friendship issues. What stands out most this week? Is it the 2 suicide assessments I conducted, the DCS referral, the allegations of inappropriate touching, the conflicts, the panic attack, or the tearful 3rd grade girl who feels abandoned? Honestly, they all hurt to hear about but usually I am able to separate and sleep at night because I am truly exhausted.
This morning as I sit here in the comfort of my home with both of my precious kids awake and awaiting a breakfast menu they will choose, a moment keeps coming back to me. It’s a sad moment that brought tears to my eyes, which is unusual. It’s a sad situation with a good lesson, though, so this morning I want to tell you a little about a girl my own daughter’s age. She’s precious and usually wears a sweet smile on her face while facing a painful reality day to day.
We will call her J. I see both J. and her brother once a week. They ask to see me every time I am there. Why? Because they’ve been removed from their home. Just this summer when they were going into 3rd and 4th grade, the court decided to take away their parent’s rights. I don’t even know what happened as I serve as a support and not a nosey-body.; I’ve never asked and they’ve never told me. I assume it was drugs but they are still living with aunt and uncle now, months later. And, that isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Unlike many other children I know, they aren’t living with complete strangers. They have 2 caring adults who are taking care of their needs. Sure, they lost the comfort of their familiar surroundings and now are dealing with sharing space, time, and conflicts with their cousins. That’s a challenging shift but one I listen to them vent about. They are the fortunate ones who have adults actively caring for them. I always notice how pretty J.’s hair looks when her aunt french braids it.
To see these kids in class, you probably wouldn’t guess they’ve been through this recent trauma. They are the UNusual suspects, not acting out and often flying under the radar. But, deep down when I visit with the kids, I feel their hurt. The very first time the boy, just a little bit younger than my son, asked to see me, he burst into tears and sobbed about missing his mom. We sat on a bench in the garden while I rubbed his back.
Yesterday when J. asked to see me, we talked about her week as usual. No friendship problems and everything is normal, except that it was the family Thanksgiving lunch at school. This is when many parents and grandparents come to eat Thanksgiving dinner with their child. Those who don’t have a family member coming eat in the classroom with their teacher. J. seemed sad yesterday before lunch and I knew why. I felt why. As she got teary so did I because she has a right to feel sad . So, we sat in the hallway with this feeling for a moment and accepted it.
Just last week, there was a court date. She had talked about it in our small group of girls. They were choosing pictures with various emotions and sharing an example in which they experience that emotion. J. drew the card “HOPEFUL”. She was hopeful that her parents would get weekend visits with her. She went to school on the day of court (can you imagine sitting in class, being expected to stay on task and learn, while a judge is making decisions about who you’ll live with!?)….The parents “didn’t show up”. She told me yesterday with tears brimming that maybe mom is out of the state. Neither mom nor dad showed up so there is no change in custody or visitation.
On a day when children are all hyped up because they’re eating with their mom in the cafeteria and then going to the book fair, J. and many other children will think about their parents, not knowing where they are.
The holidays are a joyous time for many of us…but not all. The holiday season with time off from school and work can be extremely lonely , unsettling, and disappointing for some. While the moral of this story may seem sad at first, I’d want you to know that these kids are resilient. They are cute, thoughtful, and normal kids on the outside. They put a smile on their face and remain hopeful in the face of a tough reality. That is inspiring. If you are fortunate to be able to spend time with family over the holidays, be grateful. Others are craving that one simple thing.
And also, these kids remind me something else. Don’t judge from the outside. Many children and adults may look like things are perfectly normal. They may wear smiles and pretty hair styles on the outside but be hurting on the inside. It reminds me to treat everyone with empathy and kindness because you never know what’s going on in their home and in their lives.
And lastly, and always, it reminds me to be grateful for what I have. Instead of thinking about what we don’t have, we should count our blessings, for they are many. It’s sweet children like these whom remind me to give thanks for those around me every day.