A recent post by my friend Sadie at www.sadielouwho.blogspot.com
, 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.