Tuesday, March 15, 2016

SLICE #15- Children parenting children

I stand in the doorway of the first grade classroom, keeping one eye on the hall, and one eye on the scene unfolding on the rug behind me. One of our little first grade guys is having a hard day. He sits curled in a ball, in almost fetal position, with his coat over head head, in  a position he assumes every few weeks.

I am supposed to be on hall duty, but the first grade teacher has asked me if I will watch this little guy,  until someone, probably his eighth grade brother, comes to get him. She has to take the rest of her class outside for dismissal and C sits immobile, unwilling to move.

It isn't long before I see J coming down the hall. "Dr. Wilcox, do you know where my brother is?" I point to the rug and J comes into the room. We have played this scenario before.

He looks at me helplessly. I wonder how many times a day he wishes that he did not have to take care of his little brother every day after school. I wonder if he thinks about his friends, all headed outside to play basketball behind the school.

J stands over his little brother. "Come on C, let's go. It's time to go home now."

C does not move.

J drops to his knees, throws his backpack to the side, and tries again. "Come on C, let's go home and have snacks."

C still doesn't move. J lowers his head to the rug and tries to make contact with his little brother. He bends close to his little brother. "Hey, what's wrong? Let's go home."

I do not know how to support this man child, so regularly forced into the parental role. I go to my desk and grab a handful of candy from my PD stash. "You've won my big brother of the year award," I say, shoving chocolate into his hand.

"No, Miss, you don't have to. It's ok."

By this time, the first grade teacher has returned. I leave the two of them to deal with C, and head down the hall to do my duty.

About ten minutes later, J comes down the hall with C. C is running ahead, and J, now carrying two backpacks, C's coat, and a soccer ball, is trying to keep up.

I step in front of C to slow him down.

"He's really mad," says J.

"Yeah, I can see," I respond.

C darts around me takes off in a sprint. J follows behind, moving as quickly as he can. I wonder how far they have to go. I wonder how long J will have to wait before his parents come home. I wonder if he will cook dinner, and do homework, and put C to bed before his parents get there.

Somedays teaching in an urban school breaks my heart.


Unknown said...

Last year I had a boy in my class who was 10 and his mom was 25. She looked a lot older. Part way through the year she was arrested for a parole violation. He was such a sweet kid, but low skilled and really easily distracted. Anything could become a toy. I changed schools this year. I hope he's doing OK.

Kris Shrontz said...

Awe! Breaks my heart! Too bad there are so many families where youngsters have to grow up too fast!

Karen said...

And though I'm not seeing it in first person, having you share this story breaks my heart as well. How do we as educators and responsible adults help children in situations over which we can't control. So very sad.

b said...

Yes -- and rightfully so. I love that you wanted to encourage big brother in his unchosen role. We have no idea what he went home to tonight... Thanks for painting a hauntingly beautiful picture. It's why we do our job...

Linda B said...

It's not right, is it? I of course don't know the whole story, and perhaps should admire the parent or parents who are working hard to keep the family going. But no, the child shouldn't have to take care of the child. I hope your kindness helped a little, Carol.

Loralee said...

Oh my heart.

Loralee said...

Your writing and the story you were telling had me at every word.

elsie said...

Life isn't fair for too many children. They don't get to be kids. Urban teaching is hard, you have such love and strength for these kids. Thank you Carol for all you do.

Cathy said...

You have the ability to make me feel like I am right there watching the story unfold. You weave your tale in little details, dialogue, and snippets of moment that paint a picture for your reader.

Every year there are students I want to know, to understand, more of their story.


Ramona said...

What a heartbreaking slice and what a big brother! It is heartbreaking to see what some kids do and have to do. So glad C has a brother like J (even though it's so unfair).

Mary Lee said...

So hard. Both to see and to be.