What’s the difference between 4 and 14?
Mathematically, 10 years.
Physically, anywhere from 3-5 feet with a few more pimples and unwanted hairs.
Emotionally and mentally? Well that’s when life’s rollercoaster really starts throwing those lemons at you and those lemons ,when we were 4, seem so much more sweet and manageable than those lemons we got dealt with at 14.
By day I am a professional nap-time supervisor, number counting queen, painting guru, toy sharing master and kindness regulator. By night I am a cell phone provider, 8 ball question answerer, chastity belt fastener, and kleenex giver for weepy eyes. Are you jealous of my job yet? It can be a bit of a whiplash going from teaching Reception (4-5 yrs) to being Girl’s Head of Hostel (14-17 yrs).
One evening, however, both those worlds collided when one of my Hostel girls confessed to me that she was really depressed. She dived into her horrific world of verbal and emotional abuse from adults she should have been able to trust as well as sexual abuse from her older sister starting when she was just four years old. She explains her parents divorce, when she was seven, stopped the sexual abuse but then brought on her moms threats of killing her in order to get back at her dad. Stage left, a few years later enters Step-mom, who basically sounds like the horrible step-mom from Cinderella and pushes her away while giving her son everything, pushing her further away from her dad. Fast forward, I’m staring at this beautiful girl who becomes blurry as I continue to listen to her story of not feeling wanted because she never talks to her murderous mother or abusive sister, and she hardly talks to her dad who can’t be bothered with her problems (hence why she’s a boarding school) which brings the final act…
“I took some pills yesterday to just end it.”
Keeping calm, I asked her more specific questions. What kind of pills did you take? Allergy. How many did you take? 19. How did you feel? Well I felt a bit weird but I’m not sure my body didn’t really seem to care and bounced back. So then I took some pain killers, about 5.
Twice. She tried twice.
I don’t think I’ve every shot up the God-line faster in my life – “Dear God, give me the right words she needs to hear. Help me comfort her and make sure she knows she’s loved. It’s in your hands.”
No matter how much training I may have in working with older students, phrases such as, “I think I’m pregnant” or “I lost my virginity last night and I didn’t really want to” or “I feel worthless, like life’s not worth living” still rattle me to my core. All I can see are sweet, young faces who have barely scraped this adventure we call life and yet their experiences are so deep and myserteous, they have no idea how to navigate them.
At this point, I look at her, grab her soft hands and tell her, “I’m so glad that it didn’t work and you are still here with us so that I can tell you that I care about you.” I have tears streaming down my face, I continue, “You are wanted here.”
She looked at me and asked, “But why would my sister do those things to me? Why? I didn’t even know what she was doing was sexual. Why would she do that?”
Thank God for training because my initial answer would have been something along the rated R lines cussing out the sister but I’m a professional and I know better now, so I simply say, “I don’t know why and we may never know why but what I can say is that it’s not your fault. None of that is your fault, you didn’t deserve any of that, not one bit.”
We continued to talk for a little bit and I ended by giving her a big hug and telling her that if she ever needed to feel wanted, she should come into my Reception class because they are forever calling and wanting someone to look at what they have drawn, built, written or to give you a hug.
I immediately went up to find Wes and gave him a big hug as I burst into tears. I explained to him my recent conversation and with pain and frustration at how at the tender age of four this girl has been tossed into a sh*t storm. In that moment, I realized how Jesus must have felt when he died for all of our sins so that we could be saved because I wanted nothing more than to take my poor girls crappy life story and wipe it clean for her. Lucky for her, someone more qualified already beat me to it.
Needless to say, the next day, instead of having my kids run up to me to give me morning hugs, I quickly went to them and made sure they knew they were loved by me.