“At least yours is nice. This one here’s nothing but trouble,” said the woman indicating a young girl sitting next to her. This girl couldn’t have been older than 10. The girl’s eyes flashed and her face hardened. Her lips tightened into a line and her body tensed.
I mumbled something about how hard it is to grow up and that kids mature over time, putting on my best parent/teacher conference face– the one that helps me get out of conferences where the parent starts yelling at their child. My daughter and I moved forward in the line; my eyes avoiding any contact with hers.
“This one has had everything handed to her. She doesn’t know how to work for anything.”
“Hmmm.” And because I can’t keep my mouth shut when I see a child being torn down instead of built up, I said, “They usually outgrow it. I teach high school and I see it all the time.”
“Oh, really,” the woman said and asked me what school I taught at. “You won’t want this one in your class. She’s 11 and she never goes to school. We can’t get her to. She’s rude and hard to deal with.”
I could see the girl’s body language go back and forth. She cycled through anger, dejection, frustration, and despair. I wanted to gather her in my arms and tell her that she *is* good inside and that she could find it if someone helped her. Instead, I just held on to my daughter tightly. Stealing other people’s children is frowned upon, even if you don’t think they’re getting treated correctly.
I was rescued from further interaction with the unfortunate family by the person behind the counter asking me if I wanted rice or lo mein. We got our food (which was delicious, btw) and sat down to eat. I listened to my daughter ramble on about her day, making appropriate noises when necessary and enjoying her company.
I couldn’t get the little girl out of my head. One of the comments that the woman made– that they couldn’t get her to go to school — hit that part of me that hates it when parents don’t take responsibility for their children. I understand that it can be difficult. I really do. I’ve seen some really good parents struggling with their children. The difference is that they take responsibility.
I don’t understand how adults can’t get an 11 year old to school. It baffles me.
My mom was a single mom and we were latch-key kids. We went to school. There was no question about it. Even though she had to work hard to make sure that we had food to eat, raising us was always her first priority. If we got into trouble at school, she made sure that she was there. She built us up without making us arrogant. We knew how to behave appropriately. My mom was a responsible parent and she raised me to be a responsible adult.
I know I don’t know the whole story behind what is happening with this little girl and her family. I try really hard not to be judgmental (and fail sometimes), but I don’t think the answer lies in humiliating a child in a public place by talking badly about her.
When will people learn that shaming doesn’t help? It builds resentment and destroys trust.