“…it’s going to have diamonds, rubies, and emeralds….” I’d tell my mother, according to my childhood fantasy. Beyond that, there is a certain image I attach to my ship. But, I’ll get back to that.
When I was young, When My Ship Comes In is a game my mother played with us. There were plenty of card and board games, but this was one of my favorites. Mom’s eyes would light up and she’d start by saying, “When my ship comes in, it’s going to have….” and then list all the things she would love to have. Then it was our turn, and we’d tell her what our ship was going to contain.
It was always fun to hear what would arrive on someone else’s ship. Sometimes it was kittens and puppies. Other times it was chocolate bars, pickles, or some load of silliness. Beyond that, it called for imagination, a slice of fantasy, for what may come. I suppose it helped me to envision the future, that there was one. It gave me a sense of possibility, that one never knows what life will bring. The sense of surprise was delightful.
My daughter works in a grade school where, lately, each day is a challenge. She’s been placed in charge of a young student whose home life has been disrupted. We’ll call said student Quinn, a non-gender specific name. From what we can gather, Quinn sleeps on a couch (does not have a personal bed). There appears to be no regular bed time, nutrition appears to be a non-issue, and the food that does come from home is sugar-laden, processed, or both. Quinn arrives each day with bags under the eyes, and has enormous trouble focusing. Flying off the handle and yelling and screaming are the norm. Having said that, there has been no diagnosis of any condition; therefore, there are no “services.” Attempts at academics have fizzled; Quinn is not allowed to sit among the other children due to disruptive behavior. A typical activity is throwing other children’s lunches on the ground, stealing items from a teacher’s desk, running out of class, throwing items at teachers and staff, breaking anything in sight. Quinn destroys; others clean up after.
Maybe due to school policy, personal preference, or just getting through the day, it has been left to my daughter to hold Quinn accountable. No one else makes Quinn say please and thank you or right a wrong; indeed, others walk away (for whatever reason). My daughter is the only one setting boundaries.
When the family is called to retrieve Quinn it’s often at the beginning of the day: it can be at zero minutes in class to an hour or more. Currently, Quinn is allowed in school only three hours on any given day unless a full week passes without incident. If so, more time for the following week is earned. This has yet to happen.
I sigh, and recall fondly a mother who played games with us, someone who genuinely cared and wanted to spend time with us. We were well fed, clothed, and loved, every single day.
When I remember that game we played long ago, I recall my ship out at sea, slowly making its way to shore. It was filled with goodies just for me. The images I associate with my ship–and mom’s for that matter–are all of a certain type:
The type of ship in my childhood fantasy was irrelevant; I recall images with still waters, clear skies, the bluest of sunny skies, and very little wind. It was calm. Peaceful. Serene. Beautiful.
What I did not imagine was this:
Never did my ship have to navigate dark skies, rolling waves, rough waters and the threat of death in a stormy sea. My ship sailed in still waters.
I imagine Quinn must feel tossed about on a regular basis.
- There are no rules.
- There are no boundaries.
- There is improper nutrition.
- It appears there is a diet of sugar and processed food.
- There are no friends in Quinn’s world.
- There is no discipline.
- This child appears to be neglected (and is acting out for attention).
Did I mention Quinn is six years old? My heart breaks for this child (and mine who is tested to her limit every day and comes home exhausted). None of what I’ve described is Quinn’s fault; indeed, it appears to be a breakdown of the family unit. Mother is young and distracted, father is absent, grandpa picks up Quinn and helps when he can, mother’s boyfriend does what he can. It truly breaks my heart.
I lunched this past week with a college friend, a retired teacher who’d been in the system for over 30 years. As I described my daughter’s job, my friend looked at me squarely and said, “You’d be surprised how many Quinns there are.” I feel for teachers as well whose hands are tied.
Now, when I think back on my long ago childhood game with my mother, and as I recall her bright eyes at the start of our game, I create a new list for my ship.
When my ship comes in, I want it to head for Quinn’s harbor. I want it to have games, play dates, friends, and sleep overs. I want it to include special time with mom, dad, and grandparents. I want there to be vacations and holidays, filled with togetherness and love. I wish there to be nutritious meals, every single day. I wish for regular sleep, so the next day can be met with sufficient energy to learn and grow. I wish that the adults in Quinn’s life realize what this child is in need of and be able to meet that need. More than anything: I wish for Quinn to have barrels of time and attention and love.
I wish for the gift of time so that one day, Quinn can look back on the early days and recall a mother/father/aunt/uncle/grandparent who took the time, who made time, because nothing is worth more to our future than a child.
What’s on your ship?
Featured Image: Big photo dot com. Others: Internet, free images.