13 Nov 2007

Broken Dreams

I have very few friends from my childhood, which I mostly blame on my family's frequent moves, combined with an underdeveloped desire to write letters as a teenager.

One of my oldest friends is an American girl I met in high school, who eventually settled in Norway. Throughout my time abroad, we've stayed in regular contact, and I'd counted on seeing her frequently during my year here. But after a month of visitors in August, followed by slightly stressful weeks of helping the boys settle into Norwegian school and life, time just passed by without me picking up the phone to reconnect.

Then I began to feel awkward about calling her, unsure of how to explain why I hadn't called sooner. More time passed, laced with more guilt and anguish. Eventually, I pushed my guilt to the back of my mind, and tried to ignore the occasional nagging.

Wait a minute...[thinking, thinking...]. Let's start this post over again:

I only have a few friends from childhood, because I do a crappy job of staying in touch with them. Until last Sunday when the phone rang, and a chirpy voice sounded: "Hey, chicky, where've you been?"

There's a good friend for you! Ingrid finally made the decision for me, without any harsh words about my utter pathetic-ness. We ended up spending a lovely afternoon and evening together yesterday, languishing for hours over plates of steaming noodles and curried mushrooms, catching up on what was new in each other's lives. She hadn't seen our boys for a few years and was politely impressed by their growth. Which just goes to show what a kind heart she has, since B boy is, well, vertically challenged.

But mostly, we talked about Ingrid's job. She works for the municipality of Drammen as a social worker in a daycare with a high percentage of foreigners. The demographics in this daycare make her job both rewarding and extremely difficult, since children of new immigrants and refugees are often lost in their own little worlds as they try to adjust to a Norwegian daycare miles away from what they've been used to. Everything from the games that are played, to the food that's eaten, to the language spoken is new for them.

Their own families are under extreme pressure as they try to establish a new life with very little money and a non-existent social network, juggling new societal expectations with values from their homeland. Sometimes a parent has been left behind, occasionally with unknown whereabouts. In other cases, one or both parents struggle with mental illnesses caused by horrific experiences in the country they came from.

And out from these families, and into Ingrid's daycare, come new little boys and girls on a daily basis, trying to cope as only children can.

My friend's job consists of identifying children with special needs within the daycare, and instructing and aiding employees in their care of these children. Given the population makeup, the percentage of special needs cases in her daycare is much higher than what you'd see elsewhere. And while her success stories are beautiful to hear, she has tales that will keep you up at night with an aching heart.

Like the one about the 3-year-old boy who started at the daycare a year ago, joining his 4-year-old brother. The older brother had already been pegged as a troublemaker who'd get into physical altercations with other children, but once his little brother joined him, these sessions turned into outright group bully behaviour against other children. On more than one occasion, they were caught standing on either side of a playmate, kicking that child as hard as they could.

I can't imagine a 3 or 4-year-old with that much rage in his heart.

The older brother left to start school this fall, leaving the youngster alone at the daycare. A few weeks ago, the boy asked the one daycare teacher whom he'd grown ever so slightly attached to, and who also had a son at the centre, if she ever hit her child,

"Like my dad hits me?"

After replying that she did not, she noticed an immediate and striking change in his attitude, as if she no longer warranted his respect.

"You can just leave. I don't want you here."

Only a few days later, Ingrid played a linguistic game with the boy to improve his weak language skills. This particular exercise consisted of picking out matching cards, such as a doll and a stroller, or a ball and a net. As he picked out the bucket and spade cards, Ingrid, in an attempt to promote more advanced language usage, asked if he could use the spade with something else as well.

"I can use it to throw sand in other kids' eyes."

She prodded him, asking why he'd want to do such a thing.

"To make them cry."

And the reason he wanted the kids to cry?

"So they'll be afraid of me."

The boy came to Norway with his family from a war-torn country, and the father has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The mother looks like she is about to fall apart from exhaustion every time she drops off or picks up her children. And every day, her son - her baby boy - desperately tries to cope with his own fears by transferring them onto others.

Ingrid told me that Children's Aid have been notified, and that the children will likely be removed from the family. My heart breaks for these boys, who are seething with anger at the world. I wonder what foster care can do for them. What foster care might do to them.

But my heart also aches for their parents. For what they've become, and for all those broken dreams.

47 comments:

painted maypole said...

heartbreaking.

Jen M. said...

God, that's so sad.

the dragonfly said...

Oh, that breaks my heart. I hope those boys can find love.

Badness Jones said...

Your friend Ingrid is a special person to deal with so much sadness everyday...it scares me to wonder where our world would be without such dedicated souls.

Gina said...

That is so sad, I always look at the bullies and wonder what has caused them so much pain for them to act in that manner.

I hope that things can get better for him and his family.

Chantal said...

That really is heart breaking eh. I often think that Early Childhood Ed is my calling and have thought about going back to school for it. I day dream about the success stories, the kids I could reach and have an impact on. This bring reality home, you can't reach them all. They can't all be saved...

Kyla said...

That kills me. I hope the kids find a way out from under all that anger that has been heaped on top of them.

Suzanne said...

Oh, how heartbreaking. The work your friend does is so important, and I hope that this family can find a way to heal.

Candy said...

It's absolutely tragic. No one thinks about the children, and the hate in the world just perpetuates itself. It can really make you wonder how we can ever climb out of the many things that divide us. Your friend must have some hellish nights.

hokgardner said...

As sad as the story is, it is heartening to hear that there are people like your friend there to care about and work with these kids. I wouldn't be able to - I'd fall apart and want to bring them all home with me at the end of the day.

Jennifer said...

Oh my goodness. Ingrid's heart must break, daily. It's so good that they have someone good like her in their lives. Hopefully, it can be enough.

Kathryn said...

Life is so hard. There is just no way around it. I have come to terms with the fact that life is not supposed to be easy. The difficulties help us to work on our weaknesses and make our souls stronger. Your friend is doing amazing work. Work that will no doubt affect those boys' souls and make them stronger as well.
Thanks for sharing the story.

girlymom said...

I truly feel for this family- they will be in our prayers.

Victoria said...

Ingrid is obviously a wonderfully caring soul. So sad about those boys. Sigh.

Julie Pippert said...

Right through the heart.

Julie
Using My Words

Steph said...

What a sad story. Those poor babies.

Karen MEG said...

It saddens my heart to hear of such anger in those so young. They have experienced so much negativity already, and now to be removed from their home; it seems like such a vicious cycle.
Your friend is very special, to do the work she does.

Cathy said...

That is absolutely heartbreaking. No little person should feel that much anger. Awful.

Stie: My Favorite Things said...

I just can't imagine that. It breaks my heart. Hats off to Ingrid.

Amy Y said...

Glad you connected with Ingrid again...
But what a sad sad story. Poor lil guy. :(

Stomper Girl said...

Oh lord. That poor child. Ingrid and the daycare workers must be very special people, so many of us would only see the bullying behaviour and could never help kids like that.

Kellan said...

This was such a beautifully written, sad post. I was almost in tears at the end. I was so happy that you finally met up with your friend, Ingrid, and then .... what a difficult job she has!!! Thanks for sharing this touching story. You are quite the story teller my friend. Take care.

WorksForMom said...

Wow, that is so incredibly SAD. My heart aches for those children. :(

gmcountrymama said...

That's wonderful that your friend called you. It is so silly how we sometimes obsess about things that in the end didn't matter so much.
What a tragic story about such a young boy. No, I couldn't imagine my son, 4, ever wishing to hurt another child like that. Well, beside his older sister.

SoccerMomofTwo said...

How heartbreaking.

But good you caught up wiht an old friend

Sue said...

This was so touching. My husband was a foster care case manager for a number of years and after a while, I had to tell him I couldn't listen to more stories. My heart broke for these children, and although my husband did what he could, some of them were already broken, already had been through so much that they were almost beyond reach. It's a horrible thing.

suburbancorrespondent said...

I'm with Sue - I have to hide my head in the sand, or I wouldn't be able to function. I can't bear hearing these stories.

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

I can only hope the social services for children in Norway are better funded and staffed than they are here in the US. We lose a lot of children "through the cracks" between bad foster care, overworked social workers, and underfunded programs.

Kristen said...

My goodness, those children's stories are just heart-rending. Sounds like Ingrid has an amazingly difficult job, she must be a pretty incredible woman.

jen said...

what a sad, sad story. broken, indeed.

Kelley said...

OH. Oh. I am sitting here feeling sorry for myself having the flu and then I read this.

Oh.

That has torn at my heart.

Thankyou so much for visiting my blog so I could come to you and read this. I will be thinking of these poor little boys for a long time to come now.

Mountain Dweller said...

Goodness that's terrible. Your friend must be psychologically as strong as an ox to endure such sadness on a daily basis.

ALM said...

But you know what is so, so cool - that the school HAS a social worker. This is day care. Try to think of a day care here in the states that would have a social worker! And one that is involved as your friend! Able to have the time to actually make a difference.

So, given that, I'd say the boy has a better than average chance - his "problems" were found and dealt with early on in his life. kudos to your friend!!

chichimama said...

Oh how sad. Your friend is very special indeed. I can't even begin to imagine being able to cope in that job. Those poor children...

Lisa@Take90West said...

That is a sad story, but a reminder of the world we live in. So glad you got to reconnect with a good friend.
I need to do the same!

Who She She said...

You're much more generous to the parents than I would be. I guess I have to work on that. I'm so sensitive to children-in-peril stories now that I'm a mother. They're born so perfect and so vulnerable. They deserve the best we can give them, and that some of them get nothing but the worst breaks my heart. Mother to one, mother to all, right? I guess I should remember that the parents were once children, too.

Misty said...

Indeed. Broken dreams, indeed.

Christy said...

I started out so happy that you were able to reconnect with your friend, and well by the end I was crying for those little boys. I will definitely say a prayer for them.

Karen said...

That really is a gut-wrenching and heart-wrenching story. Thank goodness there are people like your friend who are there to help these little lost ones.

Mrs. G. said...

I hate stories like this. It just makes me want to adopt children every day of the week. I'm glad you reconnected with your friend.

Lisa said...

So glad you got to reconnect with Ingrid. Wow, the story of those two boys. So heartbreaking on so many levels. Its sad to hear they are being abused. And their outlook on life and coping strategies are so very sad too.

Abbeydog answered your question... If you are interested. :-)

Stepping Over the Junk said...

how lovely to be in touch and learn about your friend and what she does...those stories are so sad

Lisa said...

Can I add you to my links list? If not, just let me know. I won't be offended by any means.

Aliki2006 said...

This is heartbreaking--it's so sad to me how much some children endure--so tragic.

LoriD said...

Heidi, that story is heartbreaking. I hope the damage can be undone.

It's so nice when you have a friend that you can pick up where you left off, no matter how long it has been. Most of my good friends are like that, but I have one that sulks because I'm just not good at keeping in touch, so I employ the avoidance technique, just to save myself the backlash.

the dragonfly said...

p.s. I tagged you!!

http://ondragonflywings.blogspot.com/

Just Seeking said...

Oh this completely breaks my heart. Those poor little souls subjected to such horrible things. What a horrible, horrible thing. It's a puzzle too, whether foster care is the thing for them. On the one hand, it could make them even angrier. On the other, they might find an environment where they are loved profusely and treated with respect and gentleness. Hard to know. I'm praying for a good outcome on this story. If Ingrid ever tells you the "ending" please share it with us!