One (or more) of the students in your classroom full of 12-year-old prepubescent, pubescent, or even post-pubescent darlings is flunking. Said child hasn’t turned in work since God was a boy and considers it a personal affront that you are even bringing it up. This after being suspended for a fistfight and spending time in ISS for throwing food in the cafeteria. You’ve already checked the grades, and this child has six F’s and a D+ in PE. Blazing eyes that look you up and down like you’re a leper, the smirk that pings off your patience like a rubber ball, and the words, “You don’t tell me what to do,” make you want to shove two fingers up those flared nostrils and drag that child by the head just to test whether or not you actually have the strength in your upper arm to chuck this impertinent, ill-mannered little biscuit clean over the balcony.
Instead you decide on a phone call home and while you’re looking up the student’s phone numbers, the situation you’ve seen a thousand times repeated, presents itself yet again: no parents listed.
I would say that 90% of the parents who send their kids to us every day are amazing. Their devotion to their children is appreciated as well as very evident. But in the 18 years that Sean-Martin and I have been teaching, we have seen countless children who are abandoned by their parents in some form or another. Kids whose parents are divorced and one is no longer present in their lives. Kids whose parents are divorced and neither wants to take the responsibility so they bounce the child back and forth. Kids who have had a parent commit suicide. Kids whose parents are incarcerated. Kids whose parents are more interested in their newest romantic relationship than they are in raising their own child. Kids whose parents are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Kids whose parents suffer from depression and can’t get out of bed. The scenarios are endless, and many parents lay somewhere on the spectrum between sympathy and blame.
And, yet, if we continue to pass judgment on those broken parents, nothing will change. This is a dicey one for me. I'm the first to jump up on my platform and scream, "PARENTS! DO YOUR JOB!" But the truth of the matter is, there are so many broken people out there, and those people have children, and those children often end up being broken too. I've been getting this sense of urgency lately that I need to put the blame and judgment aside for these broken parents and remember that they're broken and, no matter how angry and indignant I get, I have to lock it into my brain that all that anger and indignance and blame does nothing to fix anything. So, by continuing to be frustrated, I am perpetuating the problem and I, myself, get caught up in generational brokenness. It just has to be a decision—that the judgment can't enter into the equation.
Tough one, huh?
I’m going to start praying that God shows me how to move forward from here. It’s not like we, as teachers, can say to a parent, “Hey, your kid says you’re a raging alcoholic which is why you are completely absent at home… that’s not really an option you have as a parent. What can I do to help?”
But something needs to be done. The abandoned children we see don’t think they’re being seen at all. And sometimes all those fistfights and bad grades and smirks are just a whole lot of pain coming out in their last ditch efforts for somebody to take notice that they exist. Sometimes I think I’m running an ICU.
Which makes me want to say to those precious children… I see you.
* Daisy Rain Martin is the Author of Juxtaposed: Finding Sanctuary on the Outside, a comedic spiritual memoir. Please connect with Daisy on Facebook/Twitter and visit her website: www.daisyrainmartin.com. If you have ever been the victim of abuse, contact her to receive her free book, If It's Happened to You.