Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Worst Mom Competition


       Tim's mother filled the doorway of my classroom. "Get in here, stupid! You're in this room every day. Are you getting dumber AND blinder?"
      I was about to meet the woman Tim called his 'mean ma'. I could be trite and call her a proverbial 'piece of work", but that would be too kind. She was the absolute worst mother I ever met. In the past twenty-two years, since she first crossed the threshold of my classroom, she has not been topped. I have met drug-addicted mothers, stripper mothers, prostitute mothers, and even two mothers who actually moved out of the state while their child was at school, but Tim's mother gets the prize.
      She was just plain mean. I am not going to dignify her by naming her...truly, I have forgotten her name. Any of my readers who know me also know that I pride myself on being able to 'forget bad things'. I have dragged this abomination of a human being out from the depths of my bad memories and shall recreate her here, only to serve as an example of how much damage a bad parent can do to a child.
       During this parent/teacher conference when I first met her, we discussed what the plans were for Tim's transition to adulthood; he was going to be eighteen in a few months. Her contribution to that conversation was simply, "I can't wait until he turns eighteen and I can be rid of him."
       So, it was shortly after I met Tim's mother that I started giving my students a standard message when they brought their parents to a school conference with me. I'd say, "You really need to be thankful you have parents (or a mom or a dad) who care so much about you." Over twenty years later, I continue to deliver this message at every parent conference, to every student I have. Sometimes, I really mean it.
      Before I reveal just how horrible she was, let me tell you that my daughter has a son with autism. I have always said that God knew what he was doing when he gave Emmett to Jenipher and Scot. They are the world's most perfect parents....for him.
       Tim's mother was at the opposite end of the parenting scale...she wasn't even on the scale. I have no idea what God was thinking. They say that some people are on this planet for the sole purpose of being a bad example for the rest of us. Tim's mother.
       Tim had just moved back home, from a residential mental health/medical center for youth. He had serious mental health issues, being bi-polar and depressed. He was mildly mentally challenged, and he was going blind. He had about a year of limited vision left, then he would be completely blind. With the cards stacked against him like that, the last thing he needed was a demeaning and loveless mother.
        When I called her to ask about putting clean clothes on Tim, her answer was, "He can't tell. The dummy is pretty much blind, don't you know?"
       When I mentioned he seriously needed some new shoes, her answer was, "What for? All the retard does is sit on his fat ass all day." Yes, she actually used the "r" word.
       When I called and asked what he might like for Christmas, her answer was, "Don't waste money on him. He ain't worth it."
         She fed him, but he was starved for affection. She clothed him, but he was stripped to his bare soul by her biting words. She put roof over his head, but sent him out into the world knowing there was no shelter for him in his mother's love.
         Shortly after his eighteenth birthday, his mother sent him to school with his packed suitcases.
         Blessedly, for Tim, Iowa Department of Human Services stepped in, and he found his way to an adult living situation where he was prepared for his sightless future, given appropriate rehabilitation services and counseling, and supported by caring staff.
         Let's fast forward twenty today's crop of parents. Some of my students' parents are quite young. Other "parents" turn out to actually be the students' grandparents. A majority of both categories of parents are single. Almost ninety percent of them live in poverty.
        The kids all have more expensive phones than mine. They have designer jeans and shoes, pricey weaves in their hair, and a sense of entitlement that makes me wonder if they are incognito children of politicians. I have heard them scream at their parents on their phones, and tell their grandparents to "shut up!" at our conferences. They use the free breakfast and lunch program, but have money to spend on cigarettes and drugs.
        They pretty much all say they hate their parents.
         I feel just as badly for these kids as I did for Tim. Their parents are abdicating their responsibilities and neglecting their children. Stylish possessions are no substitute for heartfelt affection and watchful parental oversight. Allowing teenagers to have unlimited privileges while having no responsibility is harmful and stunting to their normal development.  With no accountability for their self-indulgent choices, I see students hurtling towards adulthood with no idea of the reality wall they are about to hit.
        They are as blind as Tim and they don't even know it. Most of their parents and guardians have not given them the necessary tools to thrive, or even survive in the post-graduation world. A lot of their parents expect the schools to teach their children everything, while the same parents are too busy to be bothered with helping us. According to popular belief, that is supposed to be "our job", as educators.
       No, it isn't. Tim needed his mother to step up and be a decent mother. As a teacher, I could not also be his mother. Today's students also have parents who need to step up and be real parents, not pals.
        Tim's mother still is the worst one I have ever met, but there are some serious contenders out there for second prize. And their children are headed into your world.