“The system really is messed up. We are failing the kids. It can’t come back,” says LS to me in response to my inquiry about her being an educator long term. During my best friend’s last three years of University she taught at an inner city school. The system from her view is broken. With constant budget cuts the system is limited and the result is failed children. She expressed to me how a student actually has failed second grade already and really should stay behind again. He has not learned what he needs to move on to third grade yet his teacher is going to pass him on anyway. There seemed to be a sense of loss and disconnection in our conversation between what our educational system provides versus what she (LS) wants to give to these children. With a heart ready to love yet so hurt herself she is one of those teachers that would probably fund the school supplies for her class if the school failed to.
The other day during my run I heard on K-Love about a teacher who brings a snack for her student every day to school because she knows the child has not had breakfast yet. My heart ached as I ran and the tears seemed to swell within my heart. I felt broken, sad, hurt for these kids.
Children truly don’t deserve pain. They are innocent and the adults around them break their spirits. Adults who are fairly broken and have not given themselves time to heal yet life happened and little ones became entrusted to them only the adults have not taken proper care of that trust. When will we realize that the cycle that we are creating? It is a full circle and if we stopped to ask the adult why they mistreated a child I bet eventually they will speak of their own brokenness.
My friend tells me stories of her encounters with children and one had me fighting back tears all weekend. She knows a child who is severely neglected at home. The child doesn’t get enough to eat and when he does he stuffs himself full. She thinks it is because he feels that he has to not knowing when he will get food again. The child feels shamed and when he asks for more food he hides his face with his arms so that you can’t see him. Despite the fact that I am a health freak and I fear that allowing a child to eat past the point of being full only promotes gluttony and one day issues of being overweight I could not bring myself to tell him no. So when he asked me for more food my head started to say no and my heart said yes. Then I would take my knife and fork gently holding the two utensils as I cut my Italian Toast with berries and I fed him. Bite after bite we alternated until the toast that was going to be my midnight snack was gone. We were at brunch and he had already finished his portion and then ate off nearly everyone’s plate at the table. There were six of us. Four of us shared our plates with him until he helped us finish. He is not overweight. He is only three years old.
I am learning that as much as people want to help they find it difficult to figure out how to help. They are leery of phoning Child Protective Services. They are unsure if that will make their situation better or worse. Sometimes those who want to help need help themselves. They may not have the financial means yet they do what they can. They buy the child clothes, they spend as much time with them as they can, they build a familial relationship with the child. They become their “home away from home.” The child bounces around but that helper becomes consistent in their life. It is the one thing they know and sooner or later they recognize that person and their actions into a developed relationship. Then one day, they call them mom. The child knows that they have a mom but that “mom” is not playing the role well so there becomes a disconnect. Children are very perceptive and we cannot continue to assume that children that are young do not share wisdom to decipher situations that are impressionable for a lifetime.
We are failing our children and I want us to recognize the ways that we do that. Every day we could fail them and we cannot continue to undermine our behaviors. Even with the small things. Some of you right now are reading that article and discounting yourself. You are saying, “I don’t have kids,” or “I provide well for my children. They are fed, clothed, they have a roof over their heads, and they have both parents,” so you cross yourself off. Don’t forget that children also need to hear that they are loved daily, they need to hear words of affirmation daily. Husbands and wives our children are watching the way we interact with each other. It is building their perceptions of what they think a man and a father is and what they perceive of a woman and her role as a wife and a mother. We cannot assume that our actions will make up for what we don’t say. Our children need us. Whether it is a sister, a brother, a niece, a nephew, a stepchild, or a neighbor. We need to do better; I need to do better for our children. We are failing them just like someone failed us.
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