Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Children Are Not Accessories, or a Tale of Some Real SAP's.

Children are not accessories.

That seems pretty obvious, doesn't it?

Apparently a lot of people haven't quite figured this out. I've had this discussion before, on this blog, and with others in the field of education, but there are times I feel like we need to shout this from the highest mountain top, or perhaps take an ad out during a showing of Survivor or American Idol, because, apparently, that's all some parents are interested in these days.

Children are not accessories.

They are not something you have because everyone else has one, or because your parents are pressuring you into giving them a grandkid, or because you think it will save a relationship, or because you want something to call your own, or because you think it will give you a weapon to wield over someone, or because you were too damn stupid to say no when you were drunk one night and you weren't thinking clearly. They aren't something you can dump on others to raise while you cavort and carry on, pursue a career, or get yourself together. They aren't something you can hide away, neglect, or ignore. They are work, they require time and patience, and if you aren't going to provide them with this, you are going to be in for a world of misery, heartache, and anger.

We have a student I'll call Neglected Boy. Neglected Boy is actually a charming kid, with a big smile, and an outgoing personality. He apparently was a bit of a handful last year, and was non-academically promoted to the seventh grade. He is definitely capable of being successful.

If someone cared enough to see that he was, that is.

See, Neglected Boy has a father who has a successful job and who travels a lot on business and is rarely home. His mother also has a job that takes her away, often overnight and for extended periods of time as well. This family is not hurting financially. At the beginning of the year there was a nanny who signed some of the paperwork that we sent home to be signed for a parent. In short, the parents aren't home. A thirteen-year old and a five year old younger brother are, essentially, raising themselves.

Earlier in the fall we began to notice things - Neglected Boy would often wear the same clothes for days in a row, and in fact, many of his clothes were ill-fitting, torn, and too small. We sent him to guidance to get some clothes from our donation closet. Neglected Boy would also
come to school in need of a bath and a haircut. He would also occasionally ask us to borrow money for lunch as his parents forgot to give him any to put into his account. His behavior could be good, often times was not, and he never, ever did any school work. If he brought a pencil, we considered it a good day. He has, all year, failed all five academic classes. He was s-teamed and the gist of it was that he was a good kid, capable, but who was getting no support at home.

It was apparent to us that this was a kid crying out for attention, and one who wasn't getting it at home. Mr. Social Studies tried numerous times to call home. He left messages, none of which were returned. I did the same. We sent home letters. We never got a response. We never could get them to provide us with a parent email so we could at least communicate that way.

One day Mr. Social Studies knocked on my door, said he'd watch my class because Neglected Boy was being dismissed so someone must be in the front office to pick him up. The idea was that I'd try to set up a parent meeting at that time. I went up, met Mr. Neglected Boy, introduced myself and tried to set up a meeting.

"I'm too busy to come by," he said.

"You do realize that he's in danger of failing again this year, don't you?" I asked him.

He stared at the ceiling, obviously bored with this conversation. "Yeah, whatever, I just don't have the time," he said again - in front of his son, who was kicking at the tiles, and looking at the floor.

"Can you set up an appointment when you return from your business trip?" I asked. "Any time or day would work."

"Yeah, maybe. I'll call when I get back," he said as he turned to go to the door. Needless to say, he never called.

Mrs. Language did get him on the phone a few months later, when she was filling in as an administrator and working on a suspension for Neglected Boy who had done something stupid (I can't even remember what) and he was less than excited to be talking with her. "Look, he said, "I don't care about meeting with you because I don't care about his academics. That's not my problem." Mrs. Language decided that this father was a perfect example of a SAP - a Stupid Assed Parent. We all agreed.

One day Neglected Boy actually started talking a bit about his home life with Mr. Social Studies and Mrs. Math and we put a few more facts together and realized that the nanny was gone and there was no adult home with Neglected Boy and his little brother. We made a DCS call, they responded (promptly, which surprised us), and they had the same problems we had trying to get into contact with an adult. Neglected Boy was assigned a caseworker, and his mother went nuts, and set up a meeting with the Guidance Goober....and never showed.

Today, at lunch, Neglected Boy walked by The Enforcer and the Enforcer's radar went up. He smelled alcohol. Deputy Smooth and The Enforcer pulled Neglected Boy aside, and he admitted to drinking. He had a water bottle in his locker but it wasn't full of water. Rumor has it he confessed to not only having the alcohol, but also some pot in his locker as well. I'm not sure what the outcome will be on this, but he's gone for the rest of the school year.

This is a kid who has been crying out for attention all year. We have tried, and tried, and tried to get the parents to talk to us, to show that they care, to realize that they have a great kid here, but one who needs guidance, attention, love and support - and they shut us out. They are not interested. I have seen people lavish more attention and care on their pets than these people spend on their child. All of us have tried to counsel this child, to make him realize that he would have to make the decisions to change his life, but we couldn't follow him home, make sure he had a hot meal, or got to bed on time, or did his homework, or even had a hug.

So now these parents have a kid with an alcohol problem, a kid who's failed all his classes - again-, and a kid who's going to be up in front of a judge for, at the minimum, a citation for having alcohol in school. If something doesn't happen, and fast, this is a kid who's looking at a lifetime of misery, and all of it, in my opinion, is the result of being nothing more than an accessory for the people who brought him into this world.

And I can't begin to tell you how angry this makes me.


Ms M. said...

This kind of story is so heartbreaking. One of my students this year also has terribly neglectful parents and he continues to act out to get some sort of attention. His parents are at home but he has only one set of uniform clothing and often hasn't bathed or had the clothing washed. It's terrible to feel so powerless to do something that will make a significant difference in their after-school reality.

SOUL said...

i am sorry that you have to be one of the feeling ones in this boys life. it's hard to be a person who cares so much , and be able to do so little.
parents such as his make me see red as well. they are the people who turn "neglected boys" into the Columbine and VA tech "rage boys". it is all very sad. and it's only the beginning for him.
people who truely want to have children often, for whatever reason can't, or they miscarry, or the child dies some other tragic sudden way. when parents like this go on and neglect the children that God has blessed them with, and they honestly do not see them. sad. very sad.
i'm sure you do, and will touch lives of other children, and i know that "neglected boy" will someday remember something that you have said or done, and it will make a difference.
thank you for the job you do... above and beyond for our children. there aren't enough like you. so thanks.

Mrs. T said...

Doesn't it just stink that we can't fix it?
Those parents are not parents. How can they live with themselves?

Unknown said...

I have the same thing in my class. The child was taken from mom and given to dad by CPS, who promptly left him at grandma's and moved into an apartment with his girlfriend and new baby. As a result of years of neglect of his academics and lack of behavior intervention on the part of any family member, the child is now labeled mentally retarded. What a waste of what could have been. It will be hard to have our yearly meeting (if we can even get dad to come) without grabbing him by the shirt and telling him what I really think. These people don't deserve what they have been given.

EHT said...

...and some want to tell us the reason we can't reach kids like this is our teaching styles are incorrect.

Mrs. T, they can live with themselves because they are selfish....they don't even stop to think about what they are doing to their Mrs. Bluebird stated they are simply accessories.

Bravo for posting this. I have too many of these types of children.

HappyChyck said...

Wow! That's so heartbreaking. And what SoulMange said, too. I have a close teacher friend who has been trying for have a baby for years, and this kind of stuff just kills her.

And it's not that they're accessories--they seem to be last year's accessories, too.

Miss Cellania said...

My mother (a former state social worker) would sometimes tell me stories that made me cry. This one did, too. It took twenty years of trying for me to become a parent, and these people have no idea of the gift they've been given. Poor kid.

Darren said...

I only wish that I thought you were exaggerating, in even the smallest detail.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

Too bad the parents can't be outed so that they would at least suffer in the precious careers. I know parents like this. There oughta be a law.

It's that sense of entitlement to a child as accessory that kills me, too.

Jessica said...

That is completely heart breaking, and I wish I could say that I didn't see it every day of every year that I have taught. I have seen everything from outright abuse (physical and sexual) to simple neglect. In fact many of my children are merely neglected. I did have one boy whose dad worked out of town during the week and left him home alone from Monday-Friday. That boy has since been expelled from school due to gang activity.

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