In approximately 6 weeks, another school year will be behind us. My youngest will have completed his first year of high school. Three more academic years and then we will proceed to become empty nesters. (At least in theory) I had an experience at the high school last week that reminded me that the empty nest will never become a complete reality for us.
I was visiting with one of the teachers after school when one of her students popped by her room for an unexpected visit. The girl was very friendly. She told me during the course of the conversation that she was a sophomore this year.
My teacher friend just asked one question, if remember correctly. She asked the young lady: How are you doing? That is all that it took.
The 16 year old began by venting her frustrations about her grandparents, whom she lives with. (Of course I immediately wondered to myself why she was living with them.) It did not take long to find out.
In the ensuing conversation, she told us that her mother left the state without telling her goodbye. Apparently the departure to a distant state will be a permanent move for the mom. And then she informed us that her father all but came out and said that he wanted nothing to do with her.
The girl went on to attend an extracurricular activity that evening and I was left to process everything that she unloaded on us about five or six minutes. I must add that the teacher I was visiting that evening is nobody’s fool. If the student was stretching the facts, she would spot it quickly. She confirmed after the girl left that the story was indeed legitimate.
What did I learn after that exchange? My initial reaction to the whole thing was to be overwhelmed. In a very short period of time, I have encountered three or four students just like her. I had some of those: “We are all depraved and in serious trouble thoughts.” That is not accurate or helpful. I finally concluded that the best way to help people is to serve them one at a time. Take each person and each situation as it comes.
It also occurred to me that I must take the years of experience I have as a parent and do something constructive with it. I have made countless mistakes. Lots of good things have taken place as well. The nest will never be completely empty. Not as long as there are kids like the one I encountered Tuesday evening.