The hardest thing about riding the light rail and subway is the way it so often leaves me heartbroken. I didn’t used to be emotional about much of anything. Becky would probably say I’m still not emotional enough. Practically every night, if we watch TV, she playfully punches me and criticizes my lack of audible laughter at things like Scrubs reruns, America’s Funniest Videos episodes and Modern Family episodes. I prefer to laugh on the inside. When Robin Williams specials are on HBO, my dad can be heard guffawing probably all up and down the block. I generally just smile.
So, the light rail/subway of the city that reads: Baltimore. It is less than Charm City viewed from the smelly interiors of those vessels. Prior to Ariella’s birth, I really didn’t pay attention to the circumstances of other kids too much, and on those occasions that I did pay attention, it was confined to a brief mental note of sorrow. Now, when I see kids in crappy situations, I am a wreck. My heart beats so fast, my fists clench into sweaty knots. I get this sick feeling that I carry throughout the day. It’s a feeling not dissimilar to the sickness that accompanies a pot of coffee on an empty stomach (not an uncommon experience for me). It makes me want to cry; so overwhelmed with helplessness.
How can someone neglect a child? How can someone feel it’s okay to tell a three or four-year-old to “shut the fuck up?” How can someone tell their jacketless kid to stop complaining about the cold while they have on a thick bubble-coat? I want to take every single one of these kids home. They aren’t even given a chance. They have never felt the tender love of a caring parent. You can see the hardness in their eyes. TWO and THREE YEAR OLDS without curiosity! I look at them and every time, I see Ariella, and fury and heartbreak boil up at the thought of seeing my daughter lose her innocence like these kids have.
(This is actually the same feeling I get when I watch movies that involves mistreatment of kids. It has become such an immediate and extreme response that I have a hard time watching movies like that, even if I know a happy resolution is coming. The thought of kids not being loved, not being adored like I adore my daughter, crushes me like nothing else ever has.)
I want to grab these parents and shake them. I picture myself getting nose to nose with them and yelling, “Hold their hand! Comfort them when they fall! Listen to them, even if they are three and don’t make much sense! Take off your freaking coat and give it to your son! Stop using drugs! Don’t blow cigarette smoke in your kid’s face! Don’t make fun of their school books! GIVE THEM A CHANCE!” Childhood and innocence have no value in the world of the light rail and the subway. The problem is that the vast majority of the parents I see went through the same thing. The cycle is well established. They were never told they could be anything. They were never told sex has consequences, so they don’t even view pregnancies as consequences. They were never told that being a parent requires a degree of responsibility, so they themselves as parents have never grown up and their kid just becomes a necessary accessory, like a person with a bum leg uses a cane. It is something they were saddled with but doesn’t require any special attention.
The problem is that mentality is patently, heartbreakingly false. My friends Bucky and Susan gave/give kids a chance. My friends Kristin and Jon will likely do so also. They know that every single kid is special. They know all children are worthy and deserving of love. I don’t know if I have what it takes to fill that role, but any way I can support people who choose it, I will.
Mark Batterson spoke at my church earlier this month and said one sentence that really struck me. He said that part or our job as parents is to engineer experiences for our kids. Becky and I try to do this with Ariella, advertising every departure from the house as an adventure. These kids I see on the subway not only don’t get special experiences, but they are not sheltered from the experiences no child should be witness to. The result is the hard stare, the lack of curiosity, the tight-lipped mistrust of and/or aggression toward everything.
My heart is broken right now and I feel so helpless.
I’ll try to come up with a lighter blog later in the week…Thanks for reading.