Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An Unconventional Love Story

"She looks like she's checked out doesn't she?" a mother in the throws of a Mother Bear moment said.

I wasn't so sure. The mom she was referring to doesn't have a vacant, checked out look on her face. What I see is fear in her eyes. She looks like the stress of every aspect of her life has taken a toll on her. Besides an aged appearance from stress and the fear in her eyes, I see a woman who has tried everything and doesn't know what else to do.

I saw her today. It was out of the corner of my eye as I interracted with her son. The realization that she was there made my heart skip a beat. I had to remind myself I was kind with her son when I explained he couldn't cut in line and I took him by the shoulders pointing him to the back of the line. She didn't say anything. I have seen the silent desperation in her face enough times to know she probably never would.

My heart goes out to her. Seeing her makes me think of Judas Iscariot's mother. No mother cradles her newborn son, looks deeply into his eyes, and imagines he will be a troublemaker. My heart aches for her. Today more than ever I wanted to hug her. I wanted to hold her while she sobbed out her story. I know nothing of her circumstances. All I know is her son is the token black sheep. That one student every class seems to have. The one who has a chip on his shoulder and is always in trouble.

Of all the students I student taught I felt the strongest bond with my "behavior boys" as I called them. One of those boys had a probation officer. He was 11 years old and in the 6th grade. I will never forget the day my mom came in to teach the class about the human heart.

She had heard my stories but didn't know which faces matched my stories. He volunteered and she chose him. A miracle in and of itself since he had been labeled early on and his only interaction since was of a negative nature. She hooked him up to the leads on the monitor. The class witnessed his normal heart rhythms. The heart rate was projected on the screen while she talked some more. Suddenly, without any warning, she kissed his cheek. His face turned purple and his heart raced. The class whooped and hollered as their own reaction to the surprise. The teachers looked confused. Should they get angry? Then their looks softened as they realized no harm was done. My mom didn't know any better and she definitely illustrated her point. They chose to laugh with the rest of the students.

I thanked my mom later for making a young juvenile delinquent's day. That was the first she realized who he was.

The other day Gavin was acting strangely. His behavior was so similar to last year on the days he had been singled out in front of the class.  I asked him what was going on. No response. I asked if he got in trouble.
No, he answered quietly.
Did anyone get in trouble? (It was a shot in the dark but he is very sensitive, often reacting to situations beyond his maturity.)
Yes, was the response.

Did your class get in trouble?
Not all of them.
Who? (Now why did I ask that?)
The boy's name I was expecting to hear. I hated myself for knowing it was him. Then the words just spilled out of my mouth. I didn't even know they were in my head.
He has a hard time making good choices doesn't he? He's still a good boy. No matter what anyone says he is a good boy. Are you his friend?
Good. He needs good friends to help him make good choices. You keep being his friend.

This little boy has the odds of the world stacked against him. He has already been suspended this year. He's in first grade. Parents misjudge him. The teachers are frustrated by his actions. The principal has even spoken coldly to him with a tone I have never seen used by this principal with any other student.

All I can do is kindly correct him when my child is involved and teach my child to love him. This is a family parched for love. He is a good boy. He just hasn't had a fair shake at life. His mom doesn't know what to do and she is scared.

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