395. Hard Times

As our children go through school, they’re bound to meet up with situations, teachers and/or children who, to put it mildly, aren’t quite right for them. Adults, too, sometimes have to spend a lot of time working with people they’d rather avoid altogether, and/or doing things they’d rather not do. We have more power over how we spend our free time (that’s why it’s called “free time”), but sometimes we don’t get much of that, and we don’t get to choose when we get it, either.
As adults, we try to cope with it all. If income or other factors depend on our putting up with hard times, we keep those factors in mind while we get through our days. Maybe we look forward to job changes, staffing changes, weekends, vacations, retirement. Maybe we have other adults who listen to our complaints; sometimes it helps just to have someone to talk to. One way or another, we hang in there.
To some degree, children have to do that, too. Try as we may, we can’t protect them from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. But we do try. We try to make sure our children’s teachers are aware of hard times children have. If the teachers themselves seem to be causing difficulties, we work to get the teachers to realize that. If certain other children are causing problems, we try to figure out how to stop that from happening. If the situation isn’t right, we try to find ways to make it right. Meanwhile, we try to get our children to learn how to put up with those teachers, children, and situations.
I’ve heard teachers, in the relative privacy of the teachers’ room, talk about parents who, in those teachers’ opinions, seem to be trying to make sure their children’s lives are perfect. Teachers get annoyed by that; they aren’t perfect, won’t give children perfect days, and they wish such parents would accept that. Teachers who deal with those parents are having hard times.
So are the parents. They’re trying to give their children happy childhoods, and they know that isn’t happening. Of course, there’s no such thing as a perfectly happy childhood; everything’s relative. But parents have a right to expect that people who affect their children will try to have mostly good effects. When that doesn’t seem to be happening, parents, who care about their children, have hard times.
While all this is going on, children are learning what life has to offer. They learn that the way they’re treated in school isn’t necessarily the way they’re treated at home. They may internalize a lot of what happens to them, or they may not.
As all these hard times happen, it really does help to listen. As a teacher, I tried to start out parent conferences by listening to parents. They often said important things. As both a parent and a teacher, I tried to listen to children. It’s amazing how many difficulties stem from people not listening to each other, and how hard times can get a little easier if they do listen.

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