Sunday, January 08, 2006

SME's Friends

A recent post by my friend Sadie at, got me thinking of our daughter's childhood friends. Sadie's post was about a couple that left their two small children home ALONE, while they went to Vegas! This expanded into a discussion on child neglect. I don't know the statistics, but I'm positive that more children die and are injured from neglect, than from outright physical abuse.

SME had many different friends while growing up. As with all of us, many of them drifted away when they reached high school age. SME was very fortunate to have 4 steadfast friends through these difficult years. AG, AC, R, T and SME kept each other sane during the turbulent years of elementary and middle school. AC, R, and SME all came from traditional families who stayed married, worked hard, protected their children, and LOVED them like crazy. AG and T had tragically different childhoods.

AG's mother grew up in a tiny rental house, across the alley from my childhood home. Her parents were alcoholics and would leave her home alone from the age of 6, to go bar-hopping. AG's mom was 16 when she had her. By the time she was 20, she had 3 small children. AG's father came from a shiftless family and made most of his money dealing drugs. AG's parents divorced when she was 6. Mom and the 3 kids moved in with her parents. AG quickly became the parent in this household.

AG often missed school to care for her siblings while her grandparents were at work and her mother was out partying or sleeping off the effects. Her mother managed to convince the school that her absences were due to respiratory problems.

AG is exceptionally bright and managed to keep up with her schoolwork through elementary and middle school. During high school, her mom decided to marry an older man who didn't want kids around; so she abandoned her kids with her parents. AG's little sister got pregnant at 13. Her little brother turned to drugs. AG dropped out of high school and moved in with a relative in Nebraska. She is now married, with a home of her own and 2 beautiful little girls. She and SME have renewed their friendship through IM and email.

T moved here when she was in 3rd grade. Her parents had recently divorced and she and her mother moved here to live with an aunt. T's mom feels incomplete without a man, so she married the first drunk that would have her. This man made my skin crawl every time I saw him with T. My gut instinct tells me, L, SME, AND her other friends that T was being sexually molested. Unfortunately, we could never prove this. On 2 separate occassions, he pulled a gun on T's minister AND the youth group leader from her church, when they came to pick T up for church activities. One night T called SME in a panic when her stepdad was outside the house, threatening to burn it down with T and her mother inside.

T's mother IS Mommie Dearest! T was a virtual prisoner in her home. I had to negotiate with her twisted mother for weeks to get her to let T spend the night at our house. Several times SME and her other friends went to school authorities to get help for T. NOTHING ever came of this, as T would deny everything when questioned. After T turned 18, we and a family from T's church, moved her out of her home twice. The other family took her into their home for T's senior year. We took her in for the summer, while she was in college, to get her on her feet. At the time, she was suffering from bulemia. AC shared an apartment with T for as long as she could handle it. T is NOT an easy person to live with. The quirks she acquired from her mother drive everyone over the edge. All 3 times T returned to her abusive mother. She has since cut all ties with her 4 best friends. T graduated from college with a degree in psychology, but she has no clue how to apply this knowledge to her own life.

The statistics in SME's close circle of friends appalls me! 50% of her closest friends suffered from tragic abuse and/or neglect! In addition to this, are the stories of 2 of her elementary school friends.

K was part of all of SME's grade school slumber parties. She LOVED to sit and talk with L and I. She frequently commented about how cool it was that L wasn't drunk. Comments like: "Gee, my Dad would be drunk by now." and "Dad makes us bring him beers, and he always has a BIG pile of bottle tops next to his chair." disconcerted us. K gradually drifted away from the group. We later discovered that her father had been sexually molesting both her and her older sister. She is now divorced and lost custody of her 3 children due to her abuse of them.

N is our shining success story. N's mother and stepdad are totally shiftless! Her mom has NEVER worked and her stepdad only works when he's forced to. They are both brilliant at "playing the system"! N's mom is a dog lover and has always had at least 4 dogs sharing whatever hovel they're living in. These dogs are NEVER housebroken or trained in ANY way. Mom doesn't want to abuse the dogs by properly training them. Unfortunately her softheartedness never extended to her only child. She thought nothing of frequently slapping N around. N was an outcast in school. Her only clothing was hand-me-downs from sympathetic friends and relatives. N was a tall gawky child, so her clothing rarely fit properly. She also reeked of dog urine. N also came to all of SME's slumber parties. Birthday slumber parties were heartbreaking. N would wrap up one of her few possessions to give to SME. SME and her friends always felt bad about this practice. N started working to support herself in high school. She no longer had the time to devote to her friends.

N is now happily married and the mother of 2 beautiful and well-adjusted little girls. She stops in to visit with us every time they are in town, and frequently emails us pictures and stories about her girls. She credits us and another family with showing her how "real" families function. Her fondest childhood memories are of the times she spent in our home. N makes our failures a lot easier to bear!

The moral of this post is simple....
BE THERE for the children in your lives. You never know what a difference you have made until years later. Sometimes you'll never know. Despite the heartaches, it's ALWAYS worth trying to make a difference.


At 1/08/2006 12:06 PM, Blogger Notta Wallflower said...

Your post makes me think of my friends through school. Unfortunately, I've not kept up with them. My own family was not exactly a shining example of how a family should work, but it could have been way worse. I credit the fact that I'm halfway normal to both sets of my grandparents, who were my "constants" growing up. I'm glad that there were at least a couple of success stories out of your daughter's friends. All of them should have been success stories, ideally. The thing I thought about most though, is how annoyed I get when the kids I work with are absent for the millionth time (not literally). I'm not annoyed at the kids, but when I call home to talk to the parent, no one in fact is sick. School is not a choice, in my opinion, and it's the only way some of my kids have a "constant". Like Sadie, I saw that story too. I'd like to say that I was horrified, but I am not. I have seen a lot of abuse and neglect of children and, while I hate it, this sort of thing occurs more than people realize because many of the stories are not made public.

At 1/08/2006 12:46 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Working in the system, I shudder to think how many of these cases you've seen, Notta! I'm sure a lot of the cases haunt you.
Your grandparents are the moral lesson I was talking about. They were willing to fill in where they were needed. You appreciated this and have spent your life "paying it forward" to the kids you work with and K.

My kids weren't allowed to stay home unless they were running a temp or vomiting.
Our school system had such a huge problem with absenteeism that they enacted a 5 day/semester limit on absences. This policy made our lives next to impossible when we were dealing with our daughter's severe depression in high school. It took a year to get her on the right meds. She missed more school than the quota allowed, so we were forced to spend a LOT of valuable time getting her reinstated in her classes.

I always tell my kids that they're lucky if they wind up having ONE lifelong friend. SME has been blessed with 3!
I have been lucky enough to maintain a close friendship with my best friend from kindergarten, even though she's 800 miles away.

At 1/08/2006 3:24 PM, Anonymous tamara and jacinta said...

were up earlythis morning gp and gm are asleep so is unc chris and we readyour story gp might tell us off if he finds out but know is password. we are on holiday and stayin with gr/pts we realy love our parents who are divorced and we love our g/ps ever somuch they so nice , this is our longest story weve wrote

At 1/08/2006 3:49 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Hi girls; nice to meet you! Grandma and Grandpa REALLY love you too. Grandpa has told me all about you and sent pictures too.

I hate to tell you girls, but Grandpa will read your message when HE visits here. ;)

At 1/08/2006 5:27 PM, Blogger Notta Wallflower said...

TSHS - It's very hard for me to see children mistreated. I'm not sure this is a good thing, but it doesn't haunt me like it used to. I just do the best I can for my kids I work with while they are in my care. On attendance, I have been a little more lenient with my son, probably because my parents/grandparents were lenient with me. Neither K nor I have ever had attendance issues. Mostly, he does have to be sick in order to stay home. Once in a great while, I make an exception. :-P

Our district doesn't have the "five days" rule, but does send notices home if kids are absent an average of one day per week. I take a different approach - I talk to the kids about attending school and that, when they grow up and have jobs, attendance is not a choice. Also, I call home and talk to the parents and see why the kid is absent so much and offer my help, if needed. I worked with a principal last year who would drive to the kid's house and bring them to school if they were "ditching". There's a big difference between that and staying home for medical reasons. Incidentally, I wonder, with the increase in daily stressors, how much more school/work is missed due to "mental stress" versus actual physical illness. I take about one day off every other month (if during months with no vacation) for "mental health" day. I find taking preventative measures like that greatly reduces the number of times I get sick with flu or colds.

At 1/08/2006 5:38 PM, Blogger Vest said...

My password has been changed, the reference I received lets them off the hook.
R & I will be taking the two young ladies to see the Narnia movie tomorrow.

At 1/08/2006 6:40 PM, Blogger Bridget Jones said...

Vest be prepared, that movie really upset ME and I"m not a little kid!

Incredible post, tshsmom. And very upsetting. We moved so much that we didn't really have many childhood friends (moving every 12 months or less will do that to you) but I have stayed/re-established contact with one or two.

I'm so glad for the pill and birth control in general. But then folks like the ones you're describing usually don't see anything wrong with what they're doing and feel that 'family', however they twist and turn them, is the rule.

Has been said many times before, but why do we have to have a license for dogs/pets and not kids? This is just sooo wrong.


At 1/08/2006 10:19 PM, Blogger Sadie Lou said...

I never will understand the mentality that children are to revolve around the lives of the parents--as if no sacrifice is to be made when you decide to bring children into your lives.
Having children is a HUGE sacrifice.
Yes, you give up certain freedoms but the rewards are worth the cost.
I think so much can go wrong with irresponsible parenting--just like you said, if the kids don't wind up dead, they suffer pschological damage and long term distorted versions of "healthy" home life.
We can't make people parent their children. It drives me crazy to see even my friends dragging their children to late night poker parties with their friends, putting the kids to bed in dark, unfamilier back bedrooms, in port-a-cribs--just a pet peeve of mine. Dan and I waited a long time before we felt our kids were old enough to stay out late like that. Now that we have a new baby--we're home bodies again. It's just the way I feel comfortable.

At 1/09/2006 12:38 AM, Blogger MonicaR said...

Amazing and heartbreaking stories. Some of the kids my daughters know have issues as you said. It's very sad and you can see the effects already on a 5,6,7 y/old kid. Our house seems to be the place to congregate - which is fine with me. Some of the girls will just sit and talk and talk with me. I am fine with providing a safe place to hang out.

I had a pretty tough childhood too. There are several people in my life who basically cared enough to save my behind. I will never forget them and I will always be grateful to them. One of my Aunts and her friend and husband, my Sergeant in the Army. They all helped me through some very difficult times as a young girl AND a young adult.

We had a hard time having our kids. I get VERY angry to hear about people mistreating their kids.

At 1/09/2006 11:54 AM, Blogger Vancouver Voyeur said...

Wow, I can totally relate to that story. My maternal grandmother used to barhop and leave my mother in the car. She was lucky if they brought her popcorn or something to eat. My mom was molested and beaten regularly. My mom ended up having seven kids, I think mostly from poor self-esteem and trying to find someone to love her. She believed every man who told her that. She did the best she could raising us, considering her emotional state and lack of education. My older siblings pretty much were mom, did the cooking and cleaning. When my mom wasn't working 2-3 jobs, she was "out." When life would get to be too much for her, she would run away, but take all us kids with her. As a result, I missed a lot of school. I was also beaten by one of my mom's many boyfriends. My mother, bless her heart, tried so hard. When she found out the guy had beaten me, she tossed him out immediately. She was a little more careful about what happened in her house after that. We all survived our childhood, which was sometimes stable and good, when mom was in control of her depression and her life, and sometimes horrible when the drinking and running away got out of hand. My mom always had quirks that were hard to explain to others, they stemmed from her abusive childhood. We couldn't have overnights (fears of molestation), we couldn't be on team sports or be around lots of guys after school (we might get raped), my mom was gang raped. When I was ready to start my own family, I read every book I could find on how to be a good parent. I also talked to everyone I knew who had good, stable families. I credit my "success" in life from a few well-placed teachers who went above and beyond to make sure I had what I needed (emotional support, one-on-one attention), neighbors, church members and friends who all assured me that no family is perfect, there's no such thing as normal, and anyone can overcome just about anything. I learned not to be upset with my mother for any shortcomings, but rather to be impressed with how well she managed with too many kids, too little money, too little education, and too many scars from her own childhood. I think we should all reach out to kids near us, our own and others, and just put our two cents in where we can, you'll never know how much that two cents can add up for a kid. I just wish people had stepped in for my mom when she was a kid, who knows all she could have done with her life if they had.

At 1/09/2006 3:58 PM, Blogger Squirl said...

These stories are all heart-breaking. I feel pretty sheltered. One of my friends was the reason her mother married when she was 16. My friend always was treated like crap. She had food, shelter, etc. But she'd be left to serve dinner to her siblings while the mother went to visit with neighbors. Sure, she wasn't going to the bar, but was still tough on my friend. Her father was a surly jerk, too.

To her credit, my friend decided to become a nurse and made a great life for herself.

I still can't get over how selfish some people are. Children are a good reason for self-sacrifice. I'm afraid I'm to the point of rambling now, but this whole conversation (and this whole side of life) is extremely upsetting.

How many lives have been wasted by the neglect?

At 1/09/2006 4:46 PM, Blogger Davey said...

We can only pray that many more people will begin to live and love as if there is no tomorow. Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.
P.S. It's taking FOREVER for my Wife to grow my baby!!!!

At 1/09/2006 7:16 PM, Blogger Bridget Jones said...

p.s. You know, come to think of it, my maternal grandmother did horrible things to my Mom and her sister. And they are two of the most loving, loveable people you'd ever want to meet.

Would not call my Dad loveable. But he had horrid parents too.

This parent thing isn't new, unfortunately. Maybe just more of us are on the alert...

At 1/09/2006 11:32 PM, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

You've inspired me. I think I'll do a post inspired by this. Wonderful writing. Unfortunately it's a true story, but good that some made the right choices. It's a testament of free will.

You've done a heroic job teaching what a functional family is like. I've always believed in teaching by setting a good example.

I think you are right about the neglect part. Really sick.

At 1/10/2006 2:24 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Bridg, I think a lot of these people have children so that someone will love them. They don't realize that it's their job to do the loving. Raising kids is, more often than not, a thankless job. Many parents give up when they realize that it's not all sunshine.

I don't understand this mentality either, Sadie. The really tragic thing is that this becomes such a circle of neglect that passes from parent to child. It's so hard for children of abuse and neglect to break the circle without guidance. They just don't know any better!

Our house has always been full of kids too Monica. Parents that don't have time for their own kids certainly don't want other people's kids hanging around.
It's so sad how many of them crave the adult attention that we give to them. You can actually see them light up inside when you spend time with them.

Congratulations on breaking the circle VV!! You leaped a LOT of obstacles to make it to where you are today. My hat's off to you!!
I don't know how your mother held things together as well as she did, considering her background. NO CHILD should have to live that way!! If only there had been someone to intervene for her.

Squirl, I too led a sheltered life before I met my husband. Other than a mentally and sexually abusive maternal grandfather, my family was comprised of loving, kid oriented people. ALL of my childhood friends were very much loved and sheltered as well.
My husband's family was the exact opposite. I've seen and learned a LOT in the last 28 years. I see sooo much of this now. I think it's like Notta said; publicity has made us a lot more aware of what is actually going on in a lot of families.

That's my prayer too Davey!! You'll find that the two of you will have a lot of contact with your children's friends. Remember what I said here. Sometimes we CAN make a big difference in a child's life!
I can't wait to see your ultrasound pics! Bring kleenex, you'll be crying your eyes out!!

Thanks ZS. Your compliment means a lot to me.
All we did was make our home a kid friendly place, where they knew they were always welcome. That and have LOTS of food on hand. ;)
I think L and I have received more joy from all the kids than they ever received from us.

At 1/10/2006 4:57 PM, Blogger Miranda said...

:( Most of your post was pretty depressing, but thanks for posting anyway. Kids do need good parents.
I had wonderful ones and it's made all the difference in the world.

At 1/10/2006 6:29 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Miranda, just remember to pass wonderful parenting on to your kids someday. ;)
Not all my posts are depressing. This one depresses me too.

At 1/11/2006 4:53 PM, Blogger Davey said...

Sorry it's off topic folks but BABY PICS ARE HERE!!!!


At 1/11/2006 5:46 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Already commented Davey. Saw her; LOVED her!! You're gonna be such a great Daddy!

At 1/11/2006 8:35 PM, Blogger FunkyB said...

Being there is the best thing you can do. You can talk to them, buy them stuff, and give them rides to the mall...

But if you don't sit in their room while they play their favorite songs, they won't remember you when they grow up.

At 1/12/2006 2:03 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

That's the truth Robin! It's always the silly little things that they remember. I think it's memorable to the kids because they didn't think we'd take time to do it. ;)

At 1/12/2006 8:37 PM, Blogger Davey said...

I would like to ask a question that has sparked many many passionate arguments for me. Why is it as North Americans it is so easy to send money to third world countries to "sponser" children. When there are so many children and young adults in our own "backyards" who are just as deserving. I do not mean monetary only. But being givin the skills to thrive, laugh, celebrate and most of all have a chance. These commercials that prey on your feelings are played on the same TV stations that constantly bombard impressionable young minds with the message that if you do not "have" you MUST "get". Gone are the days of seasamie street (witch lead me to have a 30 second attention to only be replaced with garbage fads. Anyway I'm rambaling. And yes I am aware that my spelling ect. is terrible but I'm very tired.

At 1/13/2006 12:29 PM, Blogger greatwhitebear said...

Your post makes me realize just how lucky I was to be raised by the "greatest generation". Sure, our neighborhood families had their share of problems. Some had alcohol, problems, some anger management issues, a lot of genreation gap problems.

But virtully all these surviors of the depression and WWII were devoted parents. Everyone looked out for everyone elses kids. Everyone chipped in when the softball diamond needed work, or the beach needed a new diving raft, or steps, or breakwater. It was truely a neighborhood. And while I am not one who believes in the "good old days", this is one area where I think the old days were actually better.

At 1/14/2006 12:08 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

You're so right Davey! The "ME generation" has done a lot to destroy our family values. A lot of the families of today only care about getting more things and neglect their children while they work 18 hrs/day.
If we took care of our own FIRST, we'd have a greater number of productive adults who would be able to help 3rd world children. Compassion starts in our own back yard.

GWB, neighborhoods are another thing that have been destroyed by the "ME generation"! Our parents would buy a home to raise a family in. They got to know their neighbors, and took pride in their neighborhoods. Today, people have HOUSES rather than HOMES. They rarely live in a house longer than 5 yrs. They constantly have to trade up to the next higher level of house.
Nobody is ever home in their houses. They're too busy working to earn their way to the next level and taking their kids to all the paid activities that every well-balanced yuppie child MUST belong to!
Kids don't get a chance to PLAY anymore. Neighborhood baseball, touch football, and boot hockey games are a thing of the past. Sports must now be coached, and our children MUST have the latest equipment, sports camps, and personal sports trainers in order to play a sport. Adults have taken all the FUN out of our children's sports!

At 1/17/2006 6:52 PM, Blogger Vest said...

hi K. I have read all of the comments, good stuff.
Just a point of interest, there is only one occasion where a common English spoken two letter word has been used all the way through the comments. Bet you cant find it.

At 1/20/2006 7:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

very clever, and I think your elusive word is 'AT' smarty.


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