I live in an area that is quite impoverished. Most of the students in my school are on ‘free and reduced lunch’ and we send food bags home to a few families on the weekends so the kids have something to eat. Poverty’s not pretty. Someone once told me that there’s no shame in being poor; it’s just mighty inconvenient. However, that’s not what has me furious. It’s what often comes with poverty (at least around here it does) that has me upset. Addiction.
It took me five attempts just to write that word. I hate that word. I just feel like…it’s…an excuse. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been a drug user, or an alcohol abuser. Maybe it’s because over the years I turned to food for my feelings in stead of crack. And again, that was an excuse. I was sad-I ate. I was happy-I ate. I was stressed-I ate. All just excuses to get to the Double Stuff Oreos in the closet. I’ve managed to put a stop to that, for the most part.
The reason addiction bothers me so much, and the reason I have no sympathy for those in addiction, is because I see what it does to the children. Mostly it’s the youngest children. They haven’t learned to cover anything up yet. They come out with whatever is on their minds. Older kids know what so say, and how to deflect.
The other day was an emotional one. After a pretty good reading intervention group with my Kindergarten kids, one of the 5 year olds told me his dad was in Florida. When I asked if Dad was visiting Disney, the child told me in the most matter-of-fact tone that dad gets high and had to go to Florida to get the dope that comes in the little blue baggies. Holy shit. He’s talking to me about this like his dad is going to WalMart to get bread. Holy shit.
Thankfully the three other boys were unaware of the meaning of this conversation, and calmly and cheerfully I escorted them back to their classes. The other two adults in the room could barely contain their astonishment. I had to contain mine.
I don’t know why this affected me so much. I’ve heard similar conversations from kids in the past. So I found our in-house DSS worker (yeh. In-house.), broke down in tears, and let her know the conversation. She was very understanding, told me she’d look into it right away (she did), and said, “This is addiction.” I understand where she’s coming from and why she said that. I don’t understand that as a reason. I don’t accept that as a reason.
I don’t care if you want to do that shit on your own. Go ahead and destroy your life. Please leave my kids out of it. Don’t use, deal, discuss, snort, sniff, shoot, beat, hit, punch, scream, bleed, tie-off, or otherwise put my kids in the vicinity of this shit. That five year old kid, who doesn’t know his letters, letter sounds, or how to spell his name after a year and a half of school deserves so much better than what you’re giving him.
I mention the “beat, hit, punch, scream, bleed” in the previous paragraph because later that same day, I had an IEP screening meeting with a woman who is raising her four great-grandchildren, ages four and under. Why? Because of addiction and the violence that seems to stem from it. The little boy we discussed will turn 4 in March. He throws raging tantrums, hits, throws things, screams obscenities..and has seen his mother and two year old brother beaten to a pulp. Any wonder why he acts out?
So many stories like this (like the first grade child put in foster care because they found coke in his system, and not the good kind) occur not just at my school, by at many others across the country. How do we stop this? It’s not enough to have our yearly Red Ribbon Week when we educate the kids about drugs and alcohol. Do we make the parents watch that God-awful Intervention show? Force tough love down people’s throats? “Sober up, or else” doesn’t deter people. We need to find something that does. Maybe a harsher “or else.”
Here’s a thought: don’t start using drugs and you won’t become addicted. Sure, some may have experimented with a few things in college and they haven’t turned it into an addiction. That’s great. But that’s not everyone. Why tempt it? This is why I have no pity or sympathy. You did it to yourself. No one held a gun to you and said, “Do this or else I’ll kill you.” OK. In the rare instance that this actually happened, I’m sorry. Otherwise, just say, “no”.
Say NO to a life of poverty, to a life where you’re scraping for money for your next fix, but ignoring the fact your kids have no food or clothes. Say NO to living in fear of sickness and death. Say NO to a life of lies, a life of not knowing who to trust, a life of alienating those that would help you if you’d let them. Say NO to the violence and the heartbreak and the self-loathing. Say NO to putting your kids in an intolerable environment.
Get help. If not for you, then for your family, your children. Ultimately, it should be for you, but if you aren’t there yet, do it for the most important people in your life. Parents, talk to your kids. Not just in a passing way, but in a serious, meaningful way. Be vigilant. Get the message through. I am so blessed with the family I have. They made it a point to drive this home.
Get help. I don’t want to have anymore of these conversations with my five year olds. Thank you.