Karen Campbell Prough
I want to see Mommy. I don’t like staying here. I can’t have the light on. Aunt Jenna says it cost money. She says Uncle Lem pays the bills … not me. I know that, I’m six. I have money in my piggy bank and it’s at home.
It was fun fishing at the lake today. I wanted a hook but it’s dangerous. Aunt Jenna told me it might hook me … stick in my finger or head. I’d have to go to the doctor and get a big shot. Shots hurt real bad.
I can smell food. But Aunt Jenna says I can’t have any. I broke her umbrella by the lake because it blew in the water. One of the pointy-things broke. It won’t fold and get all small. I didn’t do it. The wind did it. It took the umbrella away. I didn’t mean to let it go.
Aunt Jenna was mad when she got it out of the water. I told her I was sorry but she didn’t care. She said I was bad, like Mommy’s bad. The policeman took Mommy away and I want her! I can’t cry. Aunt Jenna will hear and tell the police. She says they’ll take me to another house, and people might be mean. I have to stay here because Mommy knows I’m here. Aunt Jenna got upset when she got a phone call. She told Uncle Lem that someone is going to give me a guardian, and she’s coming to visit tomorrow. I think that’s like an angel. But Aunt Jenna thinks I don’t need one, and I shouldn’t tell the guardian anything.
Uncle Lem says I look like Mommy. I got green eyes like her and skinny legs. Mommy doesn’t yell like Aunt Jenna. She just sleeps a lot. That’s okay because I like laying down beside her. Her bed is soft and nice … not like this one. It’s bumpy. Mommy has fluffy blankets … a blue one and a yellow one. If I had the blue one, I’d get under it, and I wouldn’t be cold. Mommy lets me snuggle. I don’t know where Mommy is.
I better not cry. I just want to eat. I wonder if Aunt Jenna isn’t mad at me anymore. I want to go ask her for some food. But it’s dark … I can’t see the floor. There might be bugs down there.
I see the light under the door, and I heard Uncle Lem hollering for his drink. He drinks out of cans. He calls it medicine. Mommy says it’s beer.
My tummy hurts. I don’t like the dark. Tomorrow I think I might tell my guardian angel that I don’t like the dark.
I lost my hat at the lake. It was Mommy’s hat, and now, I don’t have it any more.
I want my hat! Mommy might cry about it.
Oh … I just wish I had my blue hat. My tummy … hurts! I can’t go to sleep without my blue hat.
© Karen Campbell Prough 2012
Karen Campbell Prough
Have you ever asked an eight-year-old what he wants or what would make him happy? Most children will spout off a list of toys. They want their own cell phone, new tennis shoes that light up and flash, the latest action figures, and the list grows as they talk.
However, what if that child stands in front of you and says, “There’s just one thing.” His wide-open, blue eyes search yours, as if probing for the response he craves, before he even tells you what will make him happy.
“And what’s that?” You note his ramrod stance, feet apart, arms at his side—braced for the negative answer he expects from you.
In a firm grownup voice, he quickly says, “I don’t want them to get me.” He says the names of his previous caregivers. “I don’t want to even see them.” He is very serious, waiting for your response, but fearing it.
Knowing that you are not the judge or the authority in the court system, your heart aches for him and his apprehension. “Honey, it’s scary to worry about things like this, isn’t it.” Your words are more of a statement than a question. “Let’s think of good things. You are happy with this family. Right? I saw that they bought you a bunk bed and you get to sleep on the top, because you’re the oldest boy in the house. I visited your new school and talked with your teacher. She liked the drawing you did of your special family and said you have awesome talent. That’s something no one can take away from you. I’d like to have one of your pictures to put on my refrigerator door. Do you think you could draw one for me?”
“Yes, I will.” He grins and opens his arms for a hug, the serious grown-up persona disappearing from his face. He knows someone sees and cares about him and the little details of his life.
And then he acts more like a kid, saying he has a new friend in the neighborhood, and that he fell off his bike. He pulls up his sleeve to show you the jagged red scratch on his elbow and basks in your sympathy.
You tell him you need to leave and he grabs your hand. “Can you come tomorrow?”
Gently, you tousle his hair and laugh. “Not tomorrow, but soon.” One more hug and he’s gone, free from anxiety for the moment, and running back to his carefree, child’s world.
That is the way it should be. Childhood should be fun, free from worry, filled with love and comfort, but not all children view their world as fun or untroubled. Physical violence, neglect, molestation, mental abuse, verbal cruelty, hunger, and rejection weigh them down, tearing at their minds and bodies. They face more than you can imagine. In addition, their circumstances and abusers condition them not to tell and not to divulge what hurts them. As they grow older, they may either withdraw or become hostile, repeating on others the offenses done to them.
As a guardian with Guardian ad Litem, you can help bring changes to a child’s life. Not all things work out perfect in the courts of our land. However, the child, who has a Guardian standing in place for them at hearings and court proceedings, has a greater chance of achieving freedom from what binds them to a life of physical pain, neglect, and mental abuse. Alone, they cannot fight the mistreatment coming from the hands of adults, who are supposed to protect them.
Being a Guardian is not glamorous, not easy, and sometimes very frustrating. You will spend time doing research, visitation, reports, court appearances, and sometimes crying. But that one child, who runs to hug you as you get out of your car, makes it worthwhile. When you see their facial expressions change from a mask of fear and looks of withdrawal, to grins and a healthy glow, you know a miracle has taken place. And if you touch and change one life, for a boy or girl, you have accomplished what no one else has been able to fulfill. For that single child, you helped establish hope and the basics for a happy life. And so, a better life cycle will commence. His or her life will be improved and generations to come will be enhanced by the touch of love—your touch of compassion.
Please check with your county’s local Guardian ad Litem Program to learn more about becoming a volunteer. Be an advocate for a child.
© Karen Campbell Prough 2012