Helping struggling kids is a family affair for Lola Rainey
My grandson and his mother spent the first year of his life with me. I marveled at how much energy he had. He’d cry for hours “just because” or lie awake in his crib blowing spit bubbles late into the night. He grew into an active “toddler hipster” who wore a large, fake gold chain, sunglasses and carried a man-purse (actually a canvas bag his mother had discarded) loaded with toys, his favorite cologne, crayons and a notebook filled with his drawings. It was around this time he gave me a special name, “own grandmom”, because as he explained to his mother one day, “[He wanted to visit] Not your grandmom (his great-grandmother) but my own grandmom (me).” It’s the name he still calls me.
When he was about 6 years old, I left the country to travel for a while. My grandson was eleven years old when we met again; by then, he had morphed into a tall, squeaky-voice adolescent. The confident little “fella” I saw last was an awkward kid with a fair share of insecurities; he was floundering socially and academically.
His mother, a single parent, was up in arms about all of this. She had good reason to be concerned; the academic outlook for black males in the U.S. is pretty grim. A 2012 report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education placed the black male dropout rate at 48%, a figure that’s part of a well-documented downward trajectory for Black males in nearly all areas related to social stability. Dropouts, in particular, have a higher rate of unemployment and incarceration than other males.
To her credit, my daughter went to bat for my grandson. She made the teachers at his school partners in an academic self-improvement plan they all collaborated on. She tapped into services in the school (after school tutoring) and in the community (family counseling). More importantly, she monitored my grandson’s progress on a consistent basis.
We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”, I say it takes a committed family to save a child. Each member of our family is as vested in my grandson’s success as his mother. In addition to supporting my daughter’s efforts to help my grandson, I looked for ways to help build his self-esteem. It seems to be working. My grandson has made positive strides academically and socially.
While there is no magic formula for “fixing our children”, families should work together to create safety nets for children struggling socially and/or academically.
—photo by jot.punkt/Flickr