“My mom and dad said I hafta pick who I wanna live with.” The ten-year-old boy sobbed to his Grade 4 teacher, my mother.
Mom described the scene to me. The youngster, usually full of enthusiasm, had been sitting with downcast eyes, not turning pages with the rest of the class. While the others were engrossed in an exercise, she knelt down and quietly asked if he would stay a few minutes after school. “I won’t keep you long, but I have a question to ask.” Hesitantly, he nodded.
Once the classroom cleared, she asked him, “Is there something going on that you can talk about?”
Through choking sobs, mom learned that his parents were separating. His father was moving to an apartment and they asked him to choose where he wanted to live.
“Can you imagine?” Mom’s voice rose to a higher pitch, each word enunciated with the energy of an enraged advocate. “The burden they have dropped on this youngster! Do they really believe a child could possibly make such a threatening decision? Choose between a mother and a father?”
She paced the kitchen unable to sit. She shook her head and extended her arms out front, fingers formed into claws, “I’d like to take each of those parents by the ear and make them choose who was going to promise to never see that child again! If that didn’t penetrate their selfish hearts, it might at least penetrate their thick skulls.”
“Wow…” I didn’t know what to say.
“To top it all off, they probably don’t realize that most children automatically believe they caused their parents’ decision to separate. A child’s universe spins on self-centeredness. Children usually believe any negative outcome is their doing! My gawd!”
“I’ll make you a coffee. Just the way you like it. I’ll add a glug of brandy.” Serendipity surely motivated my decision to visit my mother after work.
Mom disappeared while I put the kettle on. As the water boiled, I found the ceramic, two-cup mug that she favoured. I half-filled the mug with milk, added a healthy measure of brandy and measured two heaping teaspoons of instant coffee. As I poured the boiling water, she returned and sat at the kitchen table. After taking an approving sip of the coffee, she wrapped both hands around the warm mug and said, “Ah…God bless Brazil!”
‘God’, I thought, ‘right now the brandy’s just as important as Brazil. Just bless it all….’
“So, Mom, what did you say to this little guy?”
“Well, as a teacher, I had to be careful. First I assured him that adults make these kinds of decisions and it has nothing to do with the children – what they have done or not done. I gave him the chance to speak his feelings. I reassured him that his feelings were completely valid…that what he felt was important.”
“You mean he made a decision?”
“He made a decision, but not a choice. He was upset because choosing one parent would mean hurting the other. He wants to be with both. He wants them to stay together.”
“But that won’t change the parents’ decision,” I said.
“No, but he said he would tell his parents what he told me. I trust that his honesty will encourage them to reconsider how they arrange the separation details.”
Weeks later, I asked Mom if she knew the outcome of this dilemma.
“Yes, his mother came to see me. They worked out a much better plan, in my opinion, and then discussed it with their son. They all agreed this would be a trial approach, but they would do it for the duration of the school year. The husband has moved into an apartment and his son can visit on weekends. The lad is okay with the plan. He did not have to make the decision to stay with his mom and it means he still has his own room and all his school friends.”
“Were you scared when you knew his mother wanted to see you?”
“I hoped it was because she was a diligent parent. I wasn’t disappointed.”
Thanks to my blogger friend, Poch, at Plato On-line, I learned that The New York Times presented an article about the value of teachers. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/opinion/kristof-the-value-of-teachers.html?_r=2 The article claims that quality teachers can raise the earning power of people.
I’d far rather consider how it raises the quality power of people.
Listening to anyone describing their favourite teacher means hearing a story that includes at least one profound lesson of threaded backbone-building significance. The teacher who lives in my heart repeatedly gave me the joy of discovery over the doldrums of pedagogy. She profoundly affected my approach to managing, facilitating and sharing life with loved ones.
I hope that one little boy became a man who is unafraid to speak up and share the goodness that resides naturally in his heart.
I hope our planet contains enough quality teachers to incite that brand of courage.