Empty Stares – A Child Needs Time

It was the session end party in school. Kids gave their last exam and were all busy celebrating. They were to go to a new class after the holidays. Everyone’s parents came, clicked pictures, gave thank you cards or small gifts to the teachers. Everyone was busy enjoying when I noticed one my of students Annie (Name changed) sitting in a corner and constantly looking at the door.

As I have already mentioned in my previous blog that I taught in a school in Santo Domingo, this incident is also from the same school.

Annie was a bright students, exceptionally creative and active. She was also a good gymnast and participated in almost every activity. She always had that brightness on her face but that day I could not see it. She was sitting in a corner and looking at the door. I thought she might be waiting for her friends or someone. I asked her to come and play with all other kids. She came and I kept her busy. Then in an activity, All the parents and their kids sat in a circle and one by one came and talked about their experiences with the teachers. They thanked us and even gave some positive feedback for us to think about. It was a very healthy discussion. After the parents, the kids spoke… Then came Annie’s turn, her parents weren’t there. She came in the center and spoke alone, thanked us alone and tried to cover her sadness with a smile, a grade 3 girl and such maturity; I was amazed.

All of a sudden I saw mothers of a few students coming and standing next to her and speak for her. It was a beautiful experience.

Soon, the activity was over, one by one everyone started to leave. Annie was still there looking at the door – no one came. After almost an hour everyone had left but she was still there and now I could see a tear dropping from her eye. I knew that she was crying because her parents did not come. It was then I realised that I have never met her parents. Since I was a subject teacher and not a class teacher so I hardly got to meet all the parents. Yet, I could remember meeting everyone one on occasion or other, for one reason or other. But I had never met Annie’s parents. Nope, not even once. Her uncle, or I don’t know if he was her care taker used to come to pick her up. She  would go down stairs with him, have her snacks outside the gymnasium and then played basketball for a while before she actually left for home.

I went to her and hugged her. She burst into tears, she hugged me tight. She kept crying as I tried to console her. She cried but did not say a word, no complain, nothing. I guess it was too personal for her to share. I took her to the school’s cafeteria and got her some chocolate milk and cookies. We talked for a while, I told her that I had already checked a few papers and she is leading. She was pleased to know that. I kept her busy and told her things about India, that she was always curious to know. Then all of a sudden she said, ‘I will come to visit you in India if my mother gets time or I will visit you when I grow up. My mother works very hard. She is always busy with her work.’ ‘What about your father?’ I asked her. ‘He does not live with us’, she said casually. ‘Your mom has a lot of responsibilities, I said. ‘I know, she works a lot’, she replied. By that time, her uncle came and she was happy to see him. He thanked me for taking care of Annie and apologised in her Mom’s behalf for not being there.

I later came to know that her mother was the director of a big company and a well respected person. Not even once I wanted to judge her but somehow I felt that she wasn’t fair with Annie. She could have taken some time out for the little girl. At least once… I know that this does not mean that her mother loved her less or did not care about her… no. It is just that amidst all the responsibilities and the race to earn more, obviously for her child and provide her the best of everything, she forgot to give her child the one thing that she needed the most – her time.

Nothing can replace the gift of time. We need to slow down a bit, step back a little and be with our child, just be there to listen to them, to cheer for them, to hold their hands for a while and let them know that they mean the world to us.

As for Annie, we are still in touch, she says they all miss me… as they lovingly called me Miss Beyrma (as they could read ‘V’ in Verma as ‘B’ being a Spanish speaking country) I still miss that ‘Miss Beyrma, we love you.’

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