On my pathway to and from work, I drive past an old brick home. It has been empty for as long as I have lived in the area, which, while not that long, has been almost 10 years. A few years back, the home had been cleared out of all items and the windows removed. It looked like some long needed renovations were going to start taking place.
The other day, driving home from work, I saw a school bus stop on the road in front of the house, and saw a girl in her mid-teens get out, walk up the gravel walk way to a beat up mobile home that had been installed behind the house. Now, maybe the girl had had a bad day. Maybe there were issues at school. Or maybe she was once again facing a home she could/should be living in and not in a janky trailer set up next to it. And I imagined how horrible her life at school must be. It’s one thing to live in a mobile home. I did it for 9 years in a mobile home park. it’s another to live in one parked outside a home that could otherwise be habitable.
Since then, the lawns have been mowed, and a for sale sign for it to be sold as a commercial property has been put up. It is possible the zoning has been changed to not allow residential spaces, but the fact remains, the house could have been renovated and people could have lived there. Instead, it is listed with a $6,600,000 price tag while the people live in a rundown trailer. The current owner bought it for $250,000 in 2005. That’s quite the increase in price for any land out in rural America, especially when it is down the street from a small county airport, a FedEx Depot and a Pods storage yard.
But I constantly go back to that poor girl who is dealing with the situation her parents put her in. She didn’t ask to be land rich, money poor. She didn’t ask to have to walk past a home that could be warm and inviting as opposed to decaying and empty to live in another decaying home behind it. She didn’t ask for the ridicule and embarrassment she may be getting at school because of her parents’ decisions. But I could see from the way she carried herself, it was difficult for her to walk one more day up past the old brick home and to the trailer. It wore on her like a huge weight as she walked. She wanted to be anywhere than there. You could see the dreams of something better in her expression even as it was covered with a mask of disappointment of one more day.
The scene reminded me of a young adult book written in the late 60’s early 70’s about poverty, growing up poor, and all the emotional and personal issues it created by the poor decisions of parents. Reading as the main character struggled with defending their parents while being acutely aware how much social stigmatism and instant dislike one faced because their parents are poor. Maybe I read too much into the scene I was witnessing. I hope so, for the sake of that girl and her future. I never had to grow up in the same situation as she was, but I did know something about what it is like to be treated because one is perceived as poor. It’s not good.
I wish I could have told her it will get better. She will find a way to be better. That she will rise above whatever traumas this part of her life is creating. that she will eventually stop being bitter and angry at how she was held hostage due to her parents’ decisions. But I’m not all entirely sure it would have been just encouragement to keep going than truth.
I realize as adults, we ask our children to take on way too many burdens that we shouldn’t be putting them into. From poor financial choices, emotional traumas we have refused to work through or even acknowledge, to distancing ourselves from how our actions, decisions, and behaviors affect our children. I can’t help but think of how badly we, as adults, have let these kids down. Not just individually, but more broad reaching, from school shootings to the criminalization and banning of care that would improve their lives. Adults are constantly enforcing all their poor decisions on kids so that the adults can feel better while sacrificing our kids. All so we, as adults, can feel better in our own skins. We make bold claims that we do all this for the betterment of our children, but we don’t. We do it to assuage our own minds that we are good parents so we don’t have to be held accountable for our actions. “We had the best intentions”.
All we are doing is showing our children that they don’t matter. Their feelings aren’t important. Their lived experiences are disposable and irrelevant. That their lives have no meaning, purpose, or merit when it comes to adults. We show them constantly how little we regard them as human beings, from the decisions we make on where we live and how we live to how we treat them within a community, county, state. We show them thousands of times a day they have no meaning or relevancy in our society. Who could withstand that kind of constant and continual oppression without breaking?
Why haven’t we learned compassion, empathy, and understanding as adults? We don’t suddenly forget how horrible it was growing up with our own parents’ bad decisions and treatment of others. We don’t forget how often we raged, cried, or despaired. So why do we discredit our own kids? Why do we remove the things we so desperately wanted and needed when we were their age? Why have we not become better? We know that the phrase “it was good enough for me” is utter bullshit, so why do we continue that line of thinking that we hated from our parents? Why do we resort to treating them less than when we wanted to matter back then, too?
We always said we would grow up to make the world a better place, but apparently, we meant only for us. We really need to do better. We are now the adults in the room the kids are looking to for help, hope, and protection. We are failing them the same way our parents failed us.