I only have three students right now. Inevitably, more students will be added to my classroom as some kids grow tired of learning and other kids commit “zero tolerance offenses” (like bringing weapons to school or stashing drugs in their lockers). But for now, it’s paradise, and paradise comes in the form of Felicia, Gabriella, and Carlos. Just three kids, which is good; but they all know each other, which is bad; and they are all connected in some way, which is even worse. Birds of a feather, flock together, right?
It goes like this…Gabriella and Carlos are cousins (their mothers are sisters), and Carlos’s mom is “dating” Felicia’s dad—at least, “dating” is the label that I put on it because it’s too awkward/creepy/gross/inappropriate to call it what it really is. Sometimes you call a spade a spade, but in this case we’ll opt to call a spade a heart. A very messed up heart.
At various times, Carlos and Felicia have dropped some lines that have given me insight to what’s going on with their parents: (1) Their parents argue like an old married couple and will not talk for two or three days, but then they start talking again and are fine. (2) Carlos and Felicia often spend all evening at each other’s houses. (3) Sometimes, when they do go to each other’s houses, their parents will disappear into the back bedroom for a while before they come out. (4) One time, Felicia opened the door to the back bedroom and saw something she shouldn’t have, and that something was her dad and Carlos’s mom. (5) Felicia’s dad is 55 but looks 65 while Carlos’s mom is 35 but looks 25. (6) Felicia’s dad is a pimp. (I know this, because one day Felicia looked at me and said, “My dad is a pimp.”)
This morning Felicia walked into school wearing yoga pants, which is out of dress code. When we called her out on it, she immediately grew defensive and said that she didn’t care and to write her up for it, whatever, because it wasn’t her fault, it was her dad’s fault. But her defense wasn’t defending herself. Her defense was deeper. I took her into the hallway and asked very calmly, “What are you really upset about?” She instantly grew angry, and her voice rose in a long string of venting frustrations…
“I’m mad because my dad went to Carlos’s house last night and never came home and left my little sisters and me at our house by ourselves. I kept trying to call him the whole night, but every time I called him he would pick up and hang up. Then, instead of making sure his own daughters got to school this morning, he gives Carlos and his brothers a ride to school. And I didn’t have any clean clothes, and the clothes that he had bought us were in his car, so I couldn’t get them. That’s why I’m out of dress code, and I don’t care. I hate my dad. That’s messed up.”
I get that.
Because abandonment is not a very complicated thing to understand. When you think that your dad cares more about his “on the side” family than he does his own, dress code suddenly takes a back seat. And even though you know that your ability to stay out of jail depends on how well you obey the rules, if you don’t feel like your name is written on your father’s heart, then somehow it doesn’t matter what you wear to school that day. Sometimes, we all just need to know that we are important. That we are loved. That we are worth coming home for.
I’m sorry, Felicia.
That’s definitely a very messed up spade. A very messed up heart.