Bone tired, bones aching, heart breaking

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Not sure if it’s work or kids, or both.

My work calendar has blown out to insane proportions. I had to reschedule a meeting and, looking through the whole week next week, was dismayed to find out that I had two, one hour spots left in the whole week. Here is a snap shot of the last month of my working life. One kid on his 15th school (he’s 13), one kid who has 15 “stakeholders” at his monthly review meetings, one kid who smashed 15 holes in our whiteboard with a chair, one kid plays Call of Duty for 15 hours straight and then turns up to school sculling Red Bull and one kid who sneaks away from home down to the local swimming hole (a disused open cut mine filled with skanky water) to leap off a 15 meter cliff into the murky unknown below.

There is a bit of a theme with these kids. I almost never meet Dad. Sometimes I do, yes, I must be honest, but mostly not. And when I meet Mum, it’s either a wild, desperate fire cracker who has been horribly judged as a Mum, mistreated and disrespected all her life, or a half empty shell of a woman, so tired, traumatised and hopeless that she doesn’t even raise an eyebrow when she sees the classroom that her 9 year old son has just destroyed. When I start getting to know her, chatting over a coffee, asking the right (but very unpleasant) questions, here is what I find: she’s alone, she’s disconnected from her family, she probably had post natal depression and nobody noticed (not even her), she had personal or family trauma to deal with while being pregnant and/or while the child was a baby and drugs, alcohol, crime or violence were involved by someone significant, somewhere along the line (it is usually not her). She’s also surrounded by equally desperate, equally sad friends, if she has any, and more often than not, she doesn’t go out anywhere as a family because she’s afraid of the behaviour of her child and the judging stares of others.

Oh and there’s poverty. Not just material poverty, but emotional, mental and spiritual poverty. The lack of such resources as language, knowledge of hidden social rules, support systems and good health. Dr Ruby Payne describes poverty as a lack of such resources to the extent that you are precluded from participating in life and accessing services at the same level as those around you who do not lack those resources. So this Mum, lacking in the language and knowledge of social rules required to navigate the mental health care system, lacking in money and motivational support, lacking in a car, health and energy has a kid who desperately needs to see a paediatrician, or a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, or a speech pathologist, or an OT…..where does she even start? She hears that there’s a two year waiting list for a public paediatrician, so why bother. So she doesn’t. And the cycle continues.

And then I hear a story in the news. About a kid. He’s done something. Then comes the vitriol. Where are the bloody parents? Why are the bloody kids allowed out at that hour of the night? Fine the parents! Take away their dole check! Lock ’em up! Bring back the cane! Let’s all get our pitchforks and placards. Becuse chucking these kids in Juvy is really going to solve the problem.

Ugh. End of rant.

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9 responses »

  1. Some people live in truely terrible situations and it’s often difficult to remember that. I know I have talked to you about this sort of stuff before and I still can’t see any solution to it all. But as a parent of the other kids in the class, it isn’t fair on them either. It isn’t fair that they have their hard work destroyed, it isn’t fair that they live in fear of these kids, let alone the teacher. In classes that are filled to the brim and now teaching a curriculum that seems quite difficult, it’s kids like mine that fall behind because of the time a teacher needs to spend on one or two difficult kids. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know and I don’t have a solution, but I don’t think it is right that other kids have to be subjected to and witness violence and bad behaviour at such young ages. School needs to be a safe place. I understand your frustration in peoples comments and attitudes towards these kids, but as a protective parent, I must admit that I have reached for the pitchfork at times, especially when it directly involves my child (to clarify, we haven’t had any issues since moving). I agree with things like simply moving schools does nothing apart from moving the problem. But at the same time I wonder if the school environment is the best place to be or just a matter of the only place for these kids to go. I remember someone telling me that when they leave or are removed from the school system is when they potentially go into the prision system, which is obviously worse for all. But is keeping them at school the right thing to do when it is at the expense of other children? Who is there helping the kids that get effected? Why do the ‘good kids’ get put next to the ‘naughty kids’? I think that is where some of the negative feelings come from because as you know, they did that to my kid. I don’t know enough about it all to be able to make non-judgemental comments, I just look at it through Mumma Bear eyes.

    I’m glad though that these parents and kids have someone like you in their corner, to offer some light and obviously desperately needed help. It makes me sad though that you are so busy and I’m guessing that you’re only scraping the surface. More power to you Pet.

    • Thanks so much for the very thoughtful and honest comment Pet. You articulate what all mothers would think when their child is threatened. I have heaps of thoughts in response to this, but don’t have time now. I just wanted to thank you for your heartfelt thoughts.

  2. I work with adults who were once kids just like this. I will be celebrating another graduation with them next month.

    Our work is thankless and tiresome at times, yet when I see the results of my believe in what society deemed a throwaway, donned in his or her commencement robe, beaming with pride of accomplishment, I realize how important my work truly is.

    We do lose some, however the ones that we do not lose makes the struggle so worthwhile.

    Thank you for what you do. You make such a difference.

  3. I think teaching is probably one of the most stressful jobs in the world. And especially when the kids go home and set foot in their other world with all the stresses and strains you’ve described. We can all only do what we can do. A big gold star for teachers with a roomful of delinquents!

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