Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Grandparents become the parents...

I take my elementary school age kids to school most mornings and pick them up a good number as well. This morning I saw a familiar sight. A good natured grandfather pulled up and dropped off two kids, smiling as he watched them run into school.

What caught my attention was that the second one was doing a quasi-"Home Alone" scream as he ran in. At first I thought he might be crying. Nope, grandpa was smiling, although with a look of curiosity on his face. "Why is he yelling?" the look said.

Yesterday when I picked my kids up, I watched a girl who had been talking to one of my children get in the back seat of an old car with two other siblings and, again, grandpa drove them off. There's nothing unusual about this scene I've seen repeated over and over--except that the parents are often in their early twenties, meaning they had these children in high school, sometimes middle school. They're 25; their child is 10. The grandparents become the parents.

Some of the parents are back on track. The girl eventually dumped the loser who got her pregnant. She got an education. She married a winner. Now in her early thirties she's beginning the life she might have had ten years earlier.

Some of the parents aren't on track. They're strung out on drugs, unemployed, living off of welfare, making more money from the government by far than she could earn with a minimum wage job. Their children are on meds... except when mom or dad have sold their meds for money. They might barely hold it together at school when they're on their meds.

But you can be sure no one in their class is going to learn anything if they haven't had their meds. And chances are the school has cut from their budget some of the key people who used to help deal with the out-of-control so that the teacher can at least try to teach the rest.

Where is the shining light? The shining light are the lives that emerge from the abyss. The shining light are the children whose brains are redeemable (some of these children's brains will never be anything close to normal because of what the mother was doing during pregnancy).

The hope are the many volunteers who come to these schools from local churches and the community to work one-on-one with these kids. The hope are the teachers and social workers who for some reason stick with this incredibly difficult job, only to be told by politicians (and here I refer both to Bush and Obama) that they are the problem rather than the broken homes and the society from which these children have emerged.

The hope are the grandparents, who are picking up the pieces for their grandchildren. Sometimes they are redeeming themselves for their own mistakes...

1 comment:

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I was just talking to Wim this morning about this very subject, but from a different standpoint. I had thought about entering a blog entry about it.

A choatic view of the world is what these children find represents more their "realities". "Chance" was the reason for the failings around them, not relational and personal failures.

Societal norms are not the prevailing "world" of these children. Problem is, the children can't distinguish between themselves and their world. So many of them end up "blaming themselves" or coming "not to care", because no one else does.

But, I also would balance this observation with the fact, that when Wim has taught in the schools our children have attended, he did not find that some of the young people cared either. So, is behavior totally the parent's problem? Or a combination of many factors?

I found it interesting that you said the grandparent didn't have a clue as to why the child was screaming as in "Home Alone". Do you relly think all grandparents are this clueless, or indulgent? I don't, but many of them cannot fill the gaps in the hearts of the children. No one can. And I don't know the answer to this one.

Today's discussion on NPR was about the problems of schools in general and the "solution' of Charter schools, pro and con. But, the discussion on public and private education is not an easily resolved problem, either in a society that values choice foremost. Again, the problem is, these children don't have a choice, or a voice.