The Hostile Child

In the holidays, children come out to play. Big children, small children. Lots of vibrant little minds. Red haired children, black haired children. Blue eyes, green eyes, grey eyes, brown eyes. Tall, short. Fat, thin.

Mean…. and kind.

Today I walked past some kids, and I said, ‘I hate kids.’

I did hate those kids. They were loud and obnoxious. And they sniggered rude things about me as I walked past. I smiled in a way that I know was patronising.

I love kids. Small kids. Even rude, small kids. I eventually won their respect when I was a teacher. I loved to teach them, even when they did not love to learn. There was a ten year old boy who all the teachers complained about. He was honestly a handful and a half. I found him hilarious. He had a quick wit, and if I wasn’t supposed to manage a class of thirty children, I would have probably laughed at his witty comebacks. However, I kept my face stony and told him to save it for the playground. He was always in trouble in my classes, in all classes, but I made sure it was fair, and I made sure he got his work done.

On my last day at school, I was walking by with a colleague and saw that naughty kid where stood beside his mother.

‘Hey, miss!’ he called, and I turned. He ran up to me and slipped a small wrapped easter egg into my hand, ‘This is because you’re leaving.’ He looked so shy and ran back to his mother without looking at me. I was so touched. I thought, sometimes teaching is worth it.

Then I moved to this crappy town. Where I smell weed everywhere. Where the glass windows of bus stop shelters are shattered. Where children swear at you as you pass. Where they hang around smoking and talking about things children shouldn’t think about until they are much older.

And as I walked, I thought, ‘I hate kids.’

I am a supply teacher here, though. I will have to deal with kids like these, and worse. It won’t be a little witty joke in class or a disrespectful stare anymore.

And I can’t think, ‘I hate kids,’ and just walk on by. I will have to deal with these kids. And you know, it isn’t always their faults.

Today a small girl was screaming into the wind, and I saw the ecstatic joy on her face because she was probably having a moment of freedom. Her shout was cut short suddenly, harshly, when her mother whacked her around her face and said, ‘Shut your mouth you stupid cow.’

Now I am not one to judge parenting, honestly. Maybe the mum was having a bad day. But the look of complete humiliation on that little girl’s face made me feel awful for her. Honestly, though, in this town, this is not the first nor the tenth time I have seen incidents like this. A mother shoving her face right into a toddler’s face and screaming at her to ‘bloody keep up or I’ll kick you one’. Kids who are brought up in a hostile environment tend to become hostile too. They become hostile adolescents and then hostile adults.

And teachers don’t really change much, but they can do their best to teach that hostility towards others is wrong. Who knows. Maybe a kid will realise as it gets older and change its ways? Who knows.

I am not looking forward to teaching the kids in this town, after what I’ve seen these past five months. On a daily basis. However, I am gong to try. I am going to enter with a positive attitude and good intentions. I am going to go in thinking, ‘I love kids.’

Kids need love, to give love. And I was given so much love as a kid. So it’s time to give it back out into the world.

Child’s Play

The small boys were in the field. Their naked backs glistening in the sunlight, panting. The sun was climbing in the sky, the haze of noon accentuated here and there by the buzz of insects and the mournful calls of tired birdsong. Still, they worked, rivulets pouring down their backs, scrabbling hungrily into the earth. The sun rose ever higher, and their bodies sunk deeper into the ground, grunts emanating from the caverns they created, feverishly digging, fingers turning into claws, breath shooting from dripping nostrils until, finally, one of them rose with a strangled shout.

‘I found the corpse!’

Blog Share

So, I noticed that some other bloggers do this, notably Diana from Myths of the Mirror. I thought it was a wonderful way to share some of my favourite posts by bloggers – to share the lovely work of other people.

SO, without further ado, this week’s share is a beautiful little piece written by Judy Dykstra-Brown – Scraps of Her. A lovely poem about the trail of glitter children leave in our lives.

Scraps of Her

 

She was the glitter
in our all-too-literal lives.
She left a trail of it,
our littlest fairy.
It was the dust of her,
like that perfume half
school glue and half strawberries…..

Continue reading: Scraps of Her.

Spreading Some Joy

I don’t have many words to use anymore. I am spent. So I leave you with a photograph of a snippet of happiness. Children and bubbles, long summer evenings. And a man spreading joy.

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Image Credit: Yours truly

Jasmine

I knew a girl once, at primary school, who told me one afternoon while we were having lunch that if I visited her one day, we could go to Japan for a day and visit her father.

She was insistent that you could do that, so easily.

‘Easy,’ she said. She was half Japanese, and her name was Jasmine.

‘I don’t think you can do that,’ I said, cautiously. ‘Don’t you think you would have to fly there on a plane? And it’s terribly far away.’

At that time, at the age of nine, Japan was far off and oriental to me. A land of mystery and romance. It was not mentioned in any of the books I devoured, which, at the time, were all 1940s-50s classics about Western children who dressed well and had adventures, and a charming Canadian girl with Titian red hair. Japan, to me, was unknown, therefore un-interesting.

‘Oh, but you can!’ she was nodding wildly, her mane of thick black glossy hair falling over her smooth caramel skin.

‘My father is from there. He always says I should go and see him for a day, and we can have so many adventures. And they put up red dragon flags everywhere and we can eat dumplings. And I can give you a red silk gown so you won’t feel out of place. Tell your mom, she will drop you off at my place and we will be back in no time.’

I half believed her, because she was so earnest. After all, why shouldn’t it be true? There was nothing to suggest its implausibility. And Jasmine was so adamant that she had done this several times. The idea appealed to me; I stared up at the copy of leaves above the school playground and dreamed I could go with her. How exciting. And her father sounded so child friendly and accommodating.

When I told my mother about it later, I heard my voice sound just as adamant as Jasmine’s; it was my dream just as much as hers now, and I would not let my mother dampen it for me by telling me it wasn’t real.

‘But you can go and visit her, of course. I shall certainly want to see her mother again.’

We never did go. I don’t know why. I heard on the grapevine, and by grapevine I mean the chatter of adults unaware of childish ears eavesdropping, that her parents were divorced and her father had deserted his children.

As an adult, that explained Jasmine’s sad eagerness to visit him in Japan for an afternoon.

But you know, I will never forget that magic in her black eyes, dancing and alive, truly believing in what she was saying. So strong I believed it too, and hoped so hard for her. We all need coping mechanisms.

 

Love Letters #19

She was laid up in bed when I went in to see her, ducking my head under the low beam arching her doorway.

She was dressed in the largest nightgown you ever saw – she had completely vanished beneath it. And her face under the fringe of thick, ropy curls was pale.

‘I’ve got a broken heart,’ she said softly, looking up at me with her large, dark blue eyes. So dark they could be black.

‘Well, now.’ I told her, standing a little back so I could get a more complete picture, ‘Is that so?’

‘Yes it is so.’ she folded her arms like she expected to be in this for the long run.

I put my notepad away, and folded my stethoscope. I then sat on the chair next to her bed.

‘Well, then. What’s this about?’

She looked at me for a long time, her eyes piercing me. Then she smoothed the covers before her with small fingers, and took a deep breath.

‘Nobody believes me at all’ she said, ‘everybody thinks I am exaggerating. But I am not. I really, really do have a broken heart.’

She clutched her chest, and I saw in her frightened little face that she genuinely believed it.

‘And why is your heart broken, my dear?’

The tears filled her eyes almost immediately. She picked at the embroidery on her bedclothes, and her mouth trembled.

‘I – I don’t..’

She stopped, and the tears leaked from beneath her drooped lids. She wiped them furiously away.

I sat solemn and still, waiting for her to finish.

‘They said,’ her shoulders heaved, ‘they said they took her to the hospital because she was feeling poorly, but then,’ a tragic sob escaped her, ‘they said – they said – they say-aii-dd..’

She couldn’t stop her tears. I could see her small fists bunching up the bedsheets, and her hair, straw coloured, obscured her wet face.

‘What did they say?’

‘They said she went on holidday-aay-ayyyy’ her voice rose to a wail, and her face was turned up to the ceiling, and the pain on her face made me feel, for the first time, a stab of pity for the poor little thing.

‘Ah,’ I sat a little straighter on my seat, ‘and why does this break your heart, my child?’

She looked incredulously at me, wiping her eyes, glaring.

‘They won’t listen to me, Mister Doctor. They say I am being silly, and that Lucy went on holiday because she was getting old now and needed to relax.’

‘Well perhaps that is exactly what she did do.’ I said, raising my eyebrows a little.

‘She didn’t, Mister Doctor. That is utter – utter poppycock.’ She was firm and resolute.

‘Oh?’

‘She — she died, is what she did, Mister. She died, and my heart is broken, and nobody thought nicely that they could tell me about it. And my Lucy is gone, and I didn’t – even – get to say goodby-yy-yye.’

I looked at the five year old child for a long, long time.

‘You are a very astute little person,’ I said, finally.

‘I think,’ I said, carefully, ‘I think you are right. You do have a broken heart. We must find a way to fix it as soon as possible.’

She pointed at my folded stethoscope, ‘Aren’t you going to use that?’

‘Not for this, I’m afraid. I think a broken heart needs quite a different fix.’ I stood up, ‘It needs first for you to get your little feet out of bed.’

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Children of North West Africa

Children with bare legs and flip flops race through fields of white beans.

Skin so brown it’s almost ebony, under the heat of the blazing sun, and hair bleached all shades of glinting gold.

Shy smiles and giggles behind motherly skirts.

Yesterday one such child sat on my lap as I braided her hair. It was thick, and rough to touch, and her strands were coloured all the way from stark black to auburn to bright yellow at the tips. I let her hair run through my fingers as I wound it together and marvelled at such beauty. Her face was small and heart shaped, and so beautifully dark brown. Her mouth a small rosebud, her eyes large and doe-like, framed with magnificent lashes. Under the short sleeves of her top she had a completely different skin tone. Olive meeting dark brown. I thought it was beautiful.

At first she wouldn’t smile at me. She was trying to smooth her hair like another little girl opposite her, with a tidy braid. Her small chubby hands couldn’t make sense of it so finally I beckoned her over to me and undid her hair tie. She let me, happily snuggling into me as I plaited her curls.

When I finished she giggled shyly at me, her whole face brightening up, and sidled back to her mother, all dimples and bright eyes, glancing over at the pristine girl opposite and touching her own tidy hair.

I think children are the same everywhere. Children, after all, are children. They are all cute and sweet and some are devils, of course. But here they have a special charm. Something cultural certainly impacts how people bring up their children. Here there solid sturdiness about them. They cry, yes, and a lot, but they are hardy. A tiny three year old falls over and picks himself right up, brushing dirt and blood off his knees. A five year old in slippers chases massive cockroaches down the street and stamps on them hard, a triumphant glint in her dark eyes as her tiny chubby legs kick the squashed insect so it flies to the other end of the road, and she carries on running.

A six year old boy with the face of a much older child. I don’t know what it is about him. He has those soft baby cheeks but his eyes are hard, his small mouth set firmly. He knows what he wants, and gets it. I watched as he stared at several other children his age before getting up and walking amongst them, like a lion among his pride. They scattered around him, these tiny tots, as though he was their leader. I see him clamber up trees with the agility of a monkey, his face streaked with dirt and tan. He watches all below him with eyes like an eagle. He doesn’t say much, but still manages to convey volumes. When he came indoors crying for his mother after tumbling off a log, I was surprised. Yes, he might be a strong little king among his baby peers but he was still a child. I watched as his mother took him in her arms, wiped his tears away, kissed his face and then pushed him outdoors again.

They are different here, else I wouldn’t have noticed.

Treasure

Down, down under

In the dark, snaking rut

where the rats roam free

And the filth runs amok

Deep deep down,

in dank, glistening tunnels,

eerie silence

through slimy funnels,

There lies a glinting rock,

Shining in the dark

Reflecting,

Gleaming,

Lost.

While its owner runs wild above.

‘Hank, have you seen it?’

‘Hank?’

‘HANK?!’

‘Yes, dear,’

Far, far away,

When the grimy, grey sludge,

Is belched onto shore;

A small, tan child

Reaches down,

And lifts his treasure from the mud.

 

Love Letters #7

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Dear Mama,

We don’t always get along. Sometimes I am very rude to you. Like yesterday, when I walked in from work, exhausted and thirsty, and you said ‘where have you been, missy!’ and I got irritated and said, ‘Where do you think I’ve been?! You know I go to work. See, you always ask me this because you never remember because you don’t care about me.’

That was cruel of me. I know you care about me. I know you are tired and overworked, and nobody helps you at home. Ellie stays in her room all the time, and moans about doing a pile of dishes. She never cleans anything, and you go to work and come home and cook and clean after four kids aged between 21 and 10. And not one of them lifts a finger for you, except maybe sometimes. Very rarely, though. And you call them until your voice is hoarse and that is so wrong. If i had the time, Mama, I would help you. I would clean up for you and cook dinners for you and make sure the boys behave.

I know I should make time, but it’s so hard. There is not a moment where I am not teaching or studying for the imminent exam. But when it is over, I will help you. I will take you places so you can relax.

I want you to know that I am sorry. I am sorry for all the pain I have ever caused you, and I know I have caused you a lot of it, and much of it you haven’t forgiven. I don’t want to bring it up again with you because you will make me relive it again and again. You have this habit, you see, of going into all the grainy details. Details which are painful for me. And it was all five years ago. And I am so sorry but I can’t say it without feeling so awful and painful and scared. So I just try to silently show you by doing the best I can for you.

I say, jokingly, that your mother was a mumsy mother, unlike you. But you don’t have to be ‘mumsy’ to be a good mother. It’s not the hugs and the cuddles we want. We see your love in the way you make our breakfasts before school, and the way you listen to all our woes, even though you have plenty of your own to worry about, and which you never speak of. We see it in the encouragement you give us, in the way you push us to be better people. In the way you have sacrificed everything, even your sight, for us. You were so unhappy for so many years and it was all for us.

Us ungrateful, wretched children, most of whom do nothing to help and don’t appreciate anything. But they will. Oh, they will, when you aren’t around them anymore. I hope they do and I hope they feel pain because you don’t deserve to be treated the way they treat you. You are their mother and you deserve to be respected highly, for all you have done and continue to do for those lazy, selfish louts.

I don’t always agree with the things you do, but you made me who I am today. You helped me become more confident in myself, and love myself for who I am. You told me I was beautiful when my bald patch shone bright like a star on top of my head. You made me read from the age of three, and if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have found my true calling.

You are not soppy at all, and saying these things to you would result in a ‘Ohh, shurrup’ in that no nonsense way of yours. We aren’t a touchy feely family at all. Mostly because you aren’t, but that is okay. It is just the way it is. I just want you to know you are appreciated, and you are a great mother, just like your mother before you, who you never stop remembering to us.

And I wish nothing but the best for you, Mama. I will take care of you, even if you bat me away and tell me to stop mothering you. Who will take care of you, if not your own children?

A Mother's Love

School Trip

The week has come to an end, and so has my thunder cloud mood.

We went on a school trip today with Year 1 and 2, and despite going through four seasons of weather in one afternoon, it was an enjoyable trip. Kids are sweet, and they do come out with the funniest things.

We hiked through a forest, and mounted a summit. Some children were being blown away by the wind at the top of the hill, and their terror combined with the way they were reaching out to the teacher, but being pushed further and further away, was a pile of hilarity for me and my sister in law.

Obviously we kept our laughter in check at the time, but my oh my what laughs we had later.

I have to say, though, that I think the trip should have been cancelled, and it wasn’t such a good idea to take a bunch of six year olds on a hike because they aren’t going to appreciate that. They just want to play.

I did try to engage them by pointing out different kinds of trees and how you can tell an oak apart from a birch. We also examined animal droppings (once we got over the toilet humour!) to see which animal might have passed by before us.

All my knowledge of nature has come from books. I grew up in the desert, and walks like these were few and far between (every ten months when we came back to the UK for summer holidays and to see our family and grandparents, obviously), so I relished things like oak leaves and pine cones and rabbit poops. The kids in books did all the things I could only dream of. These kids sure are lucky, I tell you that much.

I think they were interested, because they kept bringing me dead leaves saying ‘Miss, this is an oak leaf, see, look at all its ridges!’

They are a bunch of cuties.

I have to say, though, that I didn’t get to sit down all day and am only just sitting down to catch up on internet stuff. In fact, I have been so busy all week that I haven’t been able to wash my clothes and I am travelling to Shropshire tomorrow to have a look at the place where they filmed Narnia (Hail C.S. Lewis!), and then to Birmingham to see the places where Tolkien grew up! Who knew he grew up in Birmingham? I don’t particularly like Birmingham but after finding out about that little Tolkien tidbit I might have to change my mind. We’ll see.

I hope those clothes dry overnight outside. You know, it’s too cold for April! We have been hailed upon and snowed down on, and the sky looks mighty troubled tonight, and breath is coming out thick and fast and hanging in the air as though it was too cold to dissipate.

Which it is.

Have a great weekend and bank holiday!