I have a child in my class who sometimes breaks my heart. (Yes, I am back after a long hiatus. Hi!) This little one is quite resilient and usually happy, but I still want to take him home. His mother has cognitive disabilities, started having babies when she was 14, and is homeless. She loves her children so much, she really does, but she doesn’t know how to take care of them. And she doesn’t know that she’s not taking good care of them!
If he had to do it, my 10th grader (let’s call him Ten for the purpose of this post) would know how to take care of and raise a 4 year old. He was raised (is still being raised) by two parents who are college-educated, still together, and financially/emotionally/mentally stable. He knows what parents do for their little ones, because he pays attention, and because of what we did for him when he was little.
He would put the little guy in a coat, hat, boots, and mittens every day, before putting him on the bus. Ten would never send his preschooler to the bus in only a hoodie on a day that is 20 degrees or colder. Ten would never send his preschooler to school without socks. And Ten would never make his preschooler walk 40 minutes to school in the cold, or ride the city bus, but would put him on the school bus that the school set up for him. Ten would send him to school every day, unless he was sick.
Ten would talk to his preschooler, and listen to him, and read to him daily, and teach him things. Ten would know that kids need baths, and that laundry needs to be washed. Ten would be helping his preschooler learn to use the potty independently, and would not leave his clothes soaked in urine if there were accidents. If his preschooler got lice, Ten would ask people who know how one gets rid of them, and would follow all those directions diligently, and would eventually get rid of the lice, probably sooner rather than later.
Ten would teach his child how to speak up for himself, and how to say “No,” or “I don’t like that,” or “Stop,” or “That’s mine, give it back.” Ten would notice when his child’s feet were bleeding, or there were live lice in his hair, or when he was so cold he was shivering.
Okay, Ten might not make the greatest parent, because he is only 15, and he would be trying to do homework, and make it to basketball practice, and study for the SAT, and have fun with his friends. But his basic knowledge of parenting is already way ahead of this particular mother’s.
The good news is that after many different adults affiliated with the school called Child Protective Services over a long period of time, for many different things, CPS finally responded. They didn’t take the kids away, which is good, but instead gave Mom a social worker to help and support her. And my goodness, have things changed.
In the past few weeks since the social worker (haven’t met her, but she’s my hero) entered their lives, the little guy hasn’t had lice (after two months straight of lice on and off), has been talking up a storm, has started to recognize when he has to pee, has been smiling ear to ear, has been paying attention in class, and coming to school clean. It’s an incredible difference, and it makes me so happy to see it.
But I talked to Mom today, and said, “have you noticed all the changes in the last few weeks?!” and she replied, “No.”