I’m going to take a couple of risks here: ranting about how other people should raise their children (bearing in mind that I have no children, to make it even juicier), and writing about a rerun on television. Today Oprah’s show reran a feature on a 7-year-old girl who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. This time I got to see the whole thing, which riled me up even more than when it originally aired.
This little girl gets violent and sometimes has to be hospitalized. What I couldn’t understand was why she is not always hospitalized. We have facilities where people with all kinds of dangerous and/or high-maintenance disabilities can be tended by professionals in a highly structured environment. Sheltering people who dangerous to others is one of their primary missions. I’ve actually heard some positive things about these places. Just like all homes, I suspect, some are happier than others.
The little girl’s parents trade off days with her, living in separate apartments. They never get to be alone together. One parent is always with their other child, in that other apartment. The girl is too dangerous to be allowed to live in the same dwelling with her own brother.
The parents say that they have to constantly engage the girl in conversation to keep her voices at bay, to keep evaluating her for danger. The dad said he had gotten so overwhelmed and depressed by his situation that he tried to commit suicide. The whole story made me furious.
Why should the possible happiness of one girl trump the possible happiness of two adults and their other child? And why are they so insistent that living at home with them, exhausted and depressed as they are, is better than growing up in a hospital with caretakers who are (comparatively) rested? It’s not true that only biological parents can love and nurture a child. And how about their other child being raised by parents who are exhausted and depressed? Is it right to sacrifice his needs for hers?
But the main thing I realized was that watching tired people makes me mad. Not just mad for them, but mad for myself. I watched that dad talk about his suicide attempt, how he didn’t even go to the hospital to get his stomach pumped because he had to stay with the kids, I thought, give yourself a break! Let someone give you a break! It is too hard for you! Admit it! Take a break!
This is almost impossible for me to do. I can talk the Italian vacation talk, but I am still a worker American. I struggled today merely to admit that I could not get all my students’ projects graded over the weekend. Sorry, guys, I said. I had to have some time off. I can’t always get the job done. Sometimes I just crap out.
So for that dad, especially, I will not feel guilty about spending a couple of hours on the couch tonight, drawing and playing iTouch Skee-ball and eating popcorn. I don’t have a desperately needy child, but I was very tired from my migraine yesterday. And tired people should do their damndest to find time to rest: tired dads, tired girls with schizophrenia, and tired teachers with only nine days left in the semester, not that I am counting.