The Whole Story

I wish I knew the whole story. How your life began. The circumstances surrounding your birth. How your big sister played with you. What you were like as a toddler.

When we first met, you were bossy and tall for your age. But you had a big smile and beautiful long, dark hair. You loved flying high on the playground swings. I’m glad for those moments of joy in your life.

Schoolwork did not come easy. You worked so hard. No matter what we tried, letters and numbers couldn’t find their way into your memory banks. Not long-term, anyway.

You enjoyed listening to stories and spending time playing pretend with your friends. Somehow, unphased by the lack of remembering academic details.

Traveling between Mexico and Oklahoma seemed to be the pattern. You, your mother, and your older sister. That must have been stressful and scary. Not knowing how long you would stay in one place or where you belonged.

I wish I knew the whole story. Why the older you grew, the less care you seemed to receive. Understanding there must have been challenges in raising a child with disabilities. But still, you deserved to be cared for and loved.

What love there was somehow faded with the birth of a new baby. Slowly turning to neglect and abuse. My heart breaks over what I do know.

You are unable to tell me your whole story. Only bits and pieces. Maybe I shouldn’t wish to know it. One thing I do know is you will always wear the scars. Yet, you still manage to smile. You give and receive love. And just maybe, that is the whole story. ❤️

Our sweet friend, Marie. So glad she is part of our lives.

Press Rewind

If only
It was
Possible
Press rewind
Go back in time
Prevent every
Unkind word
That left you
Confused
And alone
Block every
Raised hand
That left you
Hurt and afraid
Unable to defend
Yourself
From those charged
With your keeping-
But time cannot
Be rewound
Trauma cannot
Be erased
Does time heal all wounds?
I’m afraid some
Are too deep
If only
It was
Possible
Press rewind
Go back in time

There are stories of child abuse and neglect in the news daily. But one remains close to my heart. I have written about her before-my a former student. Here, I call her Marie out of respect for her privacy.

Marie recently turned eighteen. It seemed things were going well. Living in a good home with people who love her. And then something happened. Like a snap inside that could not be controlled.

There are no simple explanations. No simple solutions. And though this is something over which I have no control, I cannot give up hope. Hope for her future.

Simply Sunday

Need to Know

That you are
Safe
Well-fed
Healthy
Claim
Your own
Identity
With
Confidence
Have friends
Are a friend
But most
Of all
That you are
Loved
Just the way
You are

Our friend, Marie, visited this weekend. It is always good to see her. She has a hold on my heart. Continues to grow and mature. And though some level of support may always be needed, she has come so far.

Next year she will turn eighteen, graduate from high school. Today even mentioned getting a job.

She has come so far…after going through so much. Things I wish could be erased-no, had never happened.

I am thankful she lives in a loving home. She will remain there even after her birthday. And while we may not be her family, we will continue to be her people.

Face to Face with Child Abuse: Personal Reflections of a Teacher

Miss You Tomorrow

Miss You Tomorrow

Today I am where
I have not been
In quite a
Long, long time
Sitting here
Talking with you-
Nervousness fades as
Repeated questions
Are patiently met with
Repeated answers
Happiness grows
With each smile
With each laugh
Making new memories
For future questions
For future answers
Worth repeating-
Ready to go home now
I will miss you tomorrow-

I will miss you, too

We had a fun visit with our friend, Marie, this past weekend. She was nervous at first but settled in quickly. Pizza, movies, shopping-some things never change.

However, there were some noticeable changes. Most importantly, happiness and security thanks to love and consistency from her foster family.

Though she was ready to go home Sunday, she told me several times-I will miss you tomorrow. ❤

Fading Away

Fading Away

I can never unsee
The look
In your eyes
Or the bruises
On your legs
I can never unhear
Your response
When I asked,
What happened?
Little hand in a fist
Tearful words…
Me mommy
How was that possible?
I did not understand
But never doubted
Your brave declaration
Forever seared
In my memory
Words to be
Recalled years later
During the trial
I will never forget
But knowing you
Are happy now
Seeing you smiling
Your bright smile
Helps bad memories
Begin to fade
I hope they are
Fading for you

I have not written about our friend, Marie, in a long time. Face to Face with Child Abuse: Personal Reflections of a Teacher But she is coming to visit this weekend! I am both nervous and excited. Recent pictures show how much she has grown and changed. And her smile-bigger than ever! Hoping to add to her list of happy memories. ❤

A Letter to Foster Parents

Dear Foster Parent,

There are some things I want to share with you. Things I noticed while spending time with my young friend who is in foster care. Although my perceptions originate from one specific child, I hope they resonate with you and provide encouragement.

The following list represents what I want my friends foster mom to know:

  • She talks about you often.
  • Asks when you will be back to pick her up.
  • Easily refers to you as “Mom.”
  • Happily shares that you call her “daughter.”
  • Confidently includes herself when describing your children.
  • Refers to your parents as Memaw and Pawpaw.
  • Talks about how hard you work.
  • Likes helping you.
  • Proudly says that you help children.
  • Wants to help children when she grows up.
  • Is happy and secure, thanks to you.

So, in case you have not heard these things with your own ears, I thought you should know. What you are doing matters. Your sacrifices do not go unnoticed. There are difficult days, trauma-induced behaviors, and unanswered questions. Yet, in the midst of all this, you love. And love is the only thing which has the power to bring healing.

My Sincerest Thanks,

Kelley

The Right Question

A recent story on the local morning news involved someone being shot at an apartment complex. There were not many details. One adult shot another adult. While listening to the report I kept thinking, “I wonder if there were any children present?”

Had I heard the same story any morning previous, my reaction might have been different. That is what happens when we view our surroundings through a different lens. Gain a new perspective.

Why did this story have this effect on me on this particular day? Because the day before I attended a professional development workshop for educators entitled “The Trauma-Informed Classroom.” Dr. Barbara Sorrels, author of the book “Reaching and Teaching Children Exposed to Trauma,” was our presenter.

One of the most powerful moments of the day was listening to an actual 911 recording. The voice we heard was a six-year-old little girl named Lisa. Lisa was witnessing a violent attack on her mom and siblings by her stepfather. And it was not the first.

It is difficult for me to imagine the awful things this little girl witnessed. The fear in her voice was almost palpable. Her cries for help were interchanged with moments of extreme clarity. She provided crucial information and displayed incredible bravery.

The screams of this little girl caused a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Once the recording ended, the room remained silent. Dr. Sorrels then asked us to discuss how memories from this event might affect Lisa in the future. What images, smells, sounds, etc. might trigger negative responses from her?

All I could think was, “How can a child be expected to function at school after such a traumatic event?”

The workshop continued with stories of other trauma children, their caregivers, and teachers. We also explored ways to help promote healing.

By the end of the day, I felt emotionally and intellectually overwhelmed. How could I use this information to positively influence my classroom? How could it help me better connect with my students?

Dr. Sorrels encouraged us to start with one objective, helping one child at a time. And then another idea and another child, and so on. I reviewed my notes, and one thing stood out-a comparison of two questions. The questions represent two ways I might respond to a child’s behavior.

What is wrong with you?

What happened to you?

These questions have definitely been asked inside my teacher brain. And more often than not, I asked the first question. I should be asking the second.

So where do I begin?

  • Be mindful that a frustrating “behavior” might actually be a reaction to trauma.
  • Realize my perspective in approaching a child has the power to foster healing.
  • Be willing to ask the right question.

Little Ones

They used to come as a shock. News stories of missing children. Parents crying on the news, begging for their child to be found. Putting on an innocent face. Declaring they have no idea what might have happened to their precious child. But in the end, they are responsible.

I remember clearly the first of these stories that stuck with me, and that was over 20 years ago. I won’t mention the details. I don’t believe it would help. But I remember sitting in a Subway with Gart, hearing the breaking news. I cried, thinking, “How could a parent do this to their own children?”

Now when I hear one of these stories (one was recently in the national news) my heart breaks. My first thought? The parents are responsible, the ending will be tragic, and my heartbreak will turn to anger.

This recent story was no different. A child was reported missing. Past reports of abuse and horrible living conditions surfaced. There were years when the child was removed from the home. And now? The parents have been arrested…this precious child found dead not far from his home.

This could have easily been the story of my sweet friend, Marie. Thankfully, she got out. But only after many years in an abusive home. Read more about her story here. https://pianogirlthoughts.com/2019/04/01/child-abuse-awareness/

Why am I writing about this now? Because I continue to see and hear the stories of abuse. I have no answers but acknowledge the need for diligence in reporting and supporting survivors.

Check out this personal story from a survivor. Tressa bravely shares her story in hopes of helping others. https://alifeofabuse.home.blog/

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:10

Child Abuse Awareness

April is National Child Abuse Prevention month.  A difficult subject, but I could not let the first day of the month pass by without recognition.  As a teacher, I’ve witnessed the heartache and devastation which accompanies this kind of abuse.  Documented, reported, testified-all things I hope I never have to do again. 

I continue to have contact with my former student, Marie.  Today I will share the link to her story.  But first, a brief update.  She continues to thrive in her foster home.  I’m amazed with each new photo.  They show a different child.  And the events she has attended?  School dances, church events, even a Tim Tebow Night to Shine prom.  She looked like a princess!

Marie is happy and well-adjusted.  She laughs and jokes.  Her personality is funny, sassy, and sweet.  Although I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like, phone calls are treasured.  She continues to ask, “Do you miss me?”  My answer will never change. “Yes, sweet girl. I miss you.” 

https://pianogirlthoughts.com/2018/08/13/face-to-face-with-child-abuse-personal-reflections-of-a-teacher/

Right Where We Left Off

I love the way certain friendships seem to transcend time and space. Life’s circumstances may take us far away from each other. Yet when our paths cross again, we pick up right where we left off. When reunited, it feels like nothing has changed and no time has passed.

Today I realized how much I take this phenomenon for granted. I always thought of it as a natural occurrence. Something you simply experience over time, not something you are taught. Maybe that comes from growing up in a loving home, having friends from an early age.

But what happens when a child grows up in the opposite?

Rachel and I took a little road trip to visit our sweet friend, Marie. Our short visit was well worth the almost three-hour drive. We had Christmas presents to deliver and it had been several months since we’d seen her. The year prior to her foster home placement, Rachel and I saw her almost weekly, so we were very excited about this visit! (See earlier post for more of Marie’s story.) https://pianogirlthoughts.wordpress.com/2018/08/13/face-to-face-with-child-abuse-personal-reflections-of-a-teacher/

Marie had requested Braum’s for our meeting place. You can’t go wrong with ice cream! We arrived, all smiles and ready for hugs. Her initial reaction was interesting. Lots of eye rolls and shoulder shrugs in response to our questions and attempts at conversation.

Her foster mom reassured us she had been really excited to see us. We trusted this was true, she was just not quite ready to show it. With patience and persistence (about 10-15 minutes worth) Marie was smiling, holding Rachel’s hand and laying her head on my shoulder. Finally, we were right where we left off.

On the drive home I was thinking about our visit, trying not to cry. Those goodbye hugs do it every time. Not to mention my daughter saying things like, “You’re doing really good, Mom.” 😉

As Rachel and I talked about the day, it suddenly hit me. Of course Marie would have reacted that way. This child has never had a secure home, was abused for years, tossed from one facility to another. And on top of all that, she has developmental disabilities. Before she was finally placed in this amazing foster home, the uncertainty of her future was difficult for her to understand.

We often had the following conversation:

Marie: What if I go someplace else?
Me: What are we?
Marie: My friends.
Me: Yes. And wherever you go, we will see you.
Marie: Ok.

Then she would smile. And that explanation would suffice for maybe a week…or a day. Now that she is in a loving home, our conversations have changed. She laughs as she tells me about her mom, dad, siblings, and extended family when we talk on the phone. She enjoys going to school and is making new friends. She is happy.

Marie knows we love her, but we cannot expect her to understand this idea of “picking up where you left off” just yet. She will need to experience it many times. Hopefully, time will continue to heal. And maybe one day she will be able to trust that we are true friends. Friends who pick up right where they left off, no matter the miles apart or the time gone by.