Prejudice, the Absence of Love

To end prejudice, I believe it takes more than teaching our children not to hate.

We really need to teach them to love.

Love, especially those who hate you.

But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! – Matthew 5:44

I never taught my children to hate. I never taught them to be prejudice, but they have learned it just the same.

Due to circumstances of a divorce, three of my boys went to an inner city school where they were of the minority who were targets of prejudice. I’ve written about their experience before.

And although my daughter never went to the same school, she too, has similar experiences at another one.

My biggest regret in that whole season of our lives, is I never taught my boys to love; to love those who hate, to love those who are hard to love.

My daughter on the other hand, I taught her to pray for those who teased her and called her names.

After trying to fix the injustice for my boys by talking to their teachers and going to the principal, I learned nothing was going to change. I felt helpless and hopeless. And even though they were getting a great education, I transferred them to a lower performing school so they could feel safe.

But they never did feel safe again. They had already learned fear. They had already learned not everyone supports them. Not everyone cares for them. And in fact, there are those who are out to get them and mean them harm.

All of that has followed them into their new schools even though the threats are gone and have been gone for a long time.

So when I learned of my daughter experiencing something similar, I became heartbroken. I immediately felt helpless and hopeless all over again. I knew there was nothing I was going to be able to do to fix this, to make her feel safe.

I told her we’re going to have to take this to God. We were going to have to pray for those who hurt us, because we know those who hurt, are hurting too.

Since then my daughter has shared stories with me of her classmates; horrible stories. Stories of pain and suffering no child should hear, much less experience. Stories of neglect, and abuse. Stories of children living without a home. Stories of children living without a mom or a dad. Stories of homicide and of suicide.

Stories that I would never allow my child to watch on TV or see in a movie are being lived out in real life by my child’s classmates. These are eight, nine, and ten year olds sweet children of God.

My heart hurts.

These children are hurting. These children are lashing out. These children need to be loved on, not punished. These children need a hope for their future.

Maybe that’s why my boys didn’t receive much sympathy when I tried to address the issue. In light of what other children were experiencing, our concerns were small in comparison. And to resolve our present situation would require the situations of other children to be addressed as well. And for that, they had no answer, no solution.

But in school, there is no hope of a solution because there is no God there.

So I taught my daughter to pray.

If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. – Luke 6:29

One day I was sitting in the principals office talking about a little girl who was threatening to cause my daughter physical harm and two weeks later, as I was driving up to the school to drop her off, she was yelling this little girl’s name out the car window, implying for her to wait for her.

I was surprised. I was confused.

In the matter of two weeks of prayer from my little girl for this little girl, God revealed a story that softened my daughters heart to show love instead of hate, and from that love grew an unlikely friendship.

I’m so proud of my daughter. Her strength amazes me. It is not easy to pray for someone who hurts you, and yet she still does. Every night at prayers, I listen to a long list of names she has asked God to share his grace and mercy with.

I know there is not a lot we can do as individuals, but maybe some little girl or boy who is living a nightmare right now, can see a glimpse of Jesus’ love through the prayer and actions of my little girl. What if through a little girl, who looks different than them, showed them genuine love, like no one who looked like her, ever did before?

What if there were more little boys and girls like her? What if we all showed more love instead of the absence of hate?

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End of Year Expectations

I have struggled with expectations I have put on my kids and their education, their entire lives.

I was a child who never earned straight A’s, but I strive for them like nobody’s business. I graduated at the top 10% of my class, and I received a scholarship to a community college.

Don’t be too impressed. I lost it after my first year and my friends were in the top five and received scholarships and acceptance letters to universities.

Not doing homework, was unheard of. The amount of stress I put on myself led to migraines and breakdowns. Getting good grades was what defined me.

So, to have children who constantly do not turn in their homework, routinely bring home C’s and lower and just do the bare minimum to pass a class, has just about driven me over the edge. I have been disappointed and heartbroken time and time again.

However, things are changing. I have changed. Instead of comparing my children to me and what I was capable of as a child, I am learning to accept them for who they are and what they are truly capable of doing. I am no longer allowing their success or failure define who I am.

We may not have had any kiddos who have received any scholarships, acceptance letters into their favorite University or even applied for community college, this year.

We don’t have anyone with straight A’s or perfect attendance.

But we do have…

A kiddo who stuck it out and graduated, after losing his privilege to live in our house, two months before the end of school. He may not be going college anywhere right yet, but he’s working and paying rent somewhere and has bought his own form of transportation; as unconventional as it may be. It’s his and he’s the one who purchased it!

We have a kiddo, after struggling with his grades all year, and especially his last semester; who looks like he was able to pull a minimum grade up at the very end to avoid summer school!

We have a kiddo who after years of being suspended once a year, has managed to not only keep his nose out of the front office for the whole year, but has also avoided D’s and F’s, for the first time since third grade. And is coming off his IEP in time for him to start high school!

We have a kiddo who has transferred schools last year. Not once this year has he been sent home for fighting, crying or leaving his classroom or campus. He also has not been a target for any bullying and the kicker…made Honor Roll for the first time ever, this last quarter!

Oh I’m not done!

We have a kiddo who struggled all year with D’s and F’s. We were concerned he wasn’t going to pass the fifth grade. Even being grounded from the Internet and video games for over half the school year, didn’t seem to be helping. Although, his last quarter grades may not have been all A’s and B’s, he still got all his F’s up to passing and will be entering the sixth grade next year!

Finally, we have a kiddo who may have never have struggled with any of her grades, ever. But has proven herself once again just how versatile and capable she really is. Last year she transferred schools with her brother to a much smaller classroom. I was actually concerned it would hurt her socially, however she made new friends, both inside and outside her class and has still made Honor Roll three out of the four quarters!

We don’t have any rocket scientists, obviously, when it comes to their education. But I still feel these kids have ROCKED the 2015-2016 school year!

And I don’t feel I have lowered my expectations for any of them at all, but have certainly changed them to match who they are.

It is amazing the amount of love that blooms and heart that swells, with just accepting who my kids are and what they are capable of doing.

I think we’re all looking forward to what next year can bring and to see how much farther they can go!

My Son, the One with a Broad Future

Two and a half years ago I found myself at a child’s advocate organization, trying to get help for my kiddo.

He was failing.

Life for him, and with him, had always been hard. That was something he had struggled with much longer than two and a half years.

But now he was failing at school. He hated school. He hated his teachers. He hated his classmates. He hated homework. He hated school work.

I knew something was terribly wrong and couldn’t understand why he was in a remedial reading class, when two years prior, he was his class’ top reader.

I also couldn’t understand why the school didn’t see there was a problem, and it wasn’t just with his reading.

I wanted him to have an IEP, Individualized Educational Plan. It would allow him extra supports that was personalized to his needs in order for him to succeed in class.

I had to fight for it because although he had a disability, it wasn’t a learning disability.

At first, his school flat out refused to evaluate him even though his disability qualified him for at least testing, and he was failing.

It is true his behavior had just started to change. He hadn’t been failing for years, but I could see him spinning quickly in a direction I didn’t want him to go.

The short time frame, may have been their reason for not wanting to test him. I was told if there was anything I should be concerned with, they would be able to identify it before I could. They thought it was too soon. They didn’t want to label him.

I could appreciate that, I didn’t want to label him either, but my son needed help.

The organization helped educate me as to what my rights were and more importantly, how to let the school know I knew my rights.

After I was dismissed by the school psychologist and refused testing, I promptly emailed the school psychologist, school principal, and the school district stating I wanted an independent evaluator for my son.

Before the end of the day, someone from the school district had called to apologize and informed me their school psychologist had misrepresented their school and they would be more than happy to proceed with the evaluations, if that was still something I was interested in pursuing.

It was.

It was hard for me to go to that next meeting. I felt like the squeaky wheel, and I don’t like being the squeaky wheel. I’ve never been one who liked to rock the boat. I’m a people-pleaser, a recovering codependent.

So to sit in that meeting with all those school representatives looking at me like I was wasting their time, was all I could do from drowning in my own puddle of tears. Keep it together, Kim. One person even asked why were meeting again; wasn’t the decision to not test already made?

I knew it would be a slow process. It took time. It took a lot of time. It took a lot of people’s time. That was made perfectly clear.

But my son was struggling! He was growing more and more impatient. He was being suspended frequently. He was caring less and less. His self-esteem was crumbling. He was becoming more violent and more threatening. He was more out of control.

I was scared.

Days before the results meeting, the school psychologist had called for me to come in. They weren’t able to get all the evaluations completed. My son had refused to do some of the tests.

She wanted to make sure I understood, in the next meeting we would be determining if my son qualified for an IEP based on ED, an emotional disability or emotionally disturbed. She wanted to make sure I understood if we go through with this determination, that it would affect the rest of his life. It would mean he could never be in the military or any public service position like that of a police officer or fire fighter.

I turned to face her, my hands clutching a tear filled tissue with black eyeliner smudges, and told her my son has a mental illness that I don’t understand.

How our society deals with people with a mental illness is by putting them in jail or putting them on the street. I was aware of the broad range of jobs between being a police officer and living on the street, and I’m completely ok with it.

I would be thrilled for him to have the opportunity to pursue any one of them. But my son needs help. If he doesn’t get help, I’m afraid we won’t have to worry about whether or not he would be able to serve his country in the future; he won’t have a future to worry about.

He will be dead. Because that, unfortunately is the third option for people with an untreated mental illness. I’m asking you to help me, help my son.

That was almost three years ago. We got his IEP as well as counseling and other treatment.

As a sixth grader, I felt his future was very bleak. People worried about their teens graduating high school, I wasn’t sure if my son would make it to eighth grade.

But here I was tonight! Looking at my son standing with his class as they were being promoted on to high school.

I caught a smile from time to time, too. He stood tall. He had on a tie and his shirt tucked in. He took pictures. He cracked jokes. He said goodbye to his friends for the summer.

I saw him.

I could see him standing there somewhere in that broad range of excelling and failing, and I was ok with it. Just like I knew I would be.

I’m so proud of him. I’m so proud of us.

YOU DID IT!