A couple of weeks ago, we started the story of my recently concluded 13 week Divorce Care 4 Kids session. In Part 1, I introduced you to the leaders and children in the class. In Part 2, we looked at the first three weeks of class and leading up to Week 4. Today we will look at Week 5’s class through Week 9.
The air was little heavier the night of Week 4 at DC4K than in previous weeks. The reality of the hardships of divorce had hit home in our little class in a very real way given the situation with Cassie and Kylie. The theme for Week 4 was, “God’s plan for Me,” and it was important for all of us to remember, given the circumstances, that God is always in control even when things seem very bleak, and out of the ashes of a broken home and broken lives, God alone can lift us up.
Week 5 marked the second week of our “assigned” small groups. I noticed the kids beginning to open up more and more as they got to know us and know one another a little bit better. God has a way of working things out in terms of timing, and the theme for Week 5 was “I am not alone.” Our activity out of the workbook for the week was designed to help the kids understand that other kids in their class were sharing similar experiences, and it really seemed to get the kids in my group talking to one another a little more.
Following our Week 5 class, Mary was talking to some of us about a conversation she had had with Ella and Katy’s mom. According to their mother, Ella was having problems in school and they were having all kinds of problems with her attitude. Several of us had noticed a pattern over the couple of weeks prior that Ella’s mom would focus on very negative things in her initial interactions with Ella when picking her up. We heard things like, “I hope you’re being better than you were when I dropped you off,” and “Your attitude better have changed while you were here,” instead of “Hello” or “How was class?” Other leaders shared that they had had conversations with Ella’s mom where she had expressed that she sometimes wished she could just get rid of Ella. Ellen also told us that Ella had shared with her that her mom wouldn’t let Ella see her dad even when she was supposed to. All of this came as quite a surprise to all of us as Ella had been nothing but delightful in our DC4K class.
Between Week 5 and Week 6, Mary sent an e-mail to Ella’s mom. She was kind enough to share that e-mail with the rest of us. In it, Mary shared in detail about her own story and her experiences with her kids following divorce. I was touched by her openness and willingness to share her own story to try to reach out to a parent of one of the kids in our class in order to help that child. I was encouraged by the level of commitment and compassion of my fellow Safe Keepers for these kids in our class.
We also found out between Weeks 5 and 6 that Suzie and Haley, who had missed Week 5, would also be missing some upcoming classes for various reasons. It was one thing to have a child not come back after one week. It was quite another to face the prospect of these kids who you have started to form relationships with not come back at all.
Week 6 afforded me the opportunity to remember to celebrate the little things. The kids were excited for trick or treat which was coming up the next week, and I spent some time talking to each of the kids at my table about their costumes, their favorite candy, and all things related to Halloween. The kids were very willing to share. We were having a great conversation, but Cassie still refused to open up or even talk at all. She would participate in answering Yes/No questions, but anything more than that still met with a shrug of the shoulders.
When she wouldn’t share what she was dressing up as for Halloween, I made a deal with her. I would guess her costume by the end of the night or she would promise to tell me what she was dressing up as. When she agreed (by nodding of course), I proceeded to guess some of the most silly and outrageous costume ideas that I could think of. I couldn’t get her to talk to me, but many of my suggestions drew smiles or that elementary school girl role of the eyes that says, “you’re crazy.” At the end of the night, it was time for Cassie to make good on our deal, and she did tell me that she was dressing up as a butterfly and looking forward to it. It was good to hear her voice. Sometimes, it is the little things from which we must draw encouragement, and I was encouraged just to get her to talk for a minute.
Also during our Week 6 class, Mary took some time to talk to me about Ella during our movie time. Her mom had talked to Mary a little more about the situation and explained that Ella was having anger management problems. Mary wanted to know if I was aware of any resources she could suggest to Ella’s mom to help her with that problem. Again, I was a little surprised because we had not seen any indications of anger from Ella during our class, but I let Mary know that I would have a look and get back to her. It was that conversation that jump started our Dealing With the Emotions of Divorce series on DivorceMinistry4Kids.com as I spent that week putting together the first installment in that series on Dealing with Anger.
Ella and Katy were the last two to get picked up that night after class. As Ella’s mom picked her up, there was the now usual exchange between them about Ella’s attitude. As her mom began to run through the list of Ella’s “problems,” Ella finally broke down and began to respond/unload. The two of them went back and forth for 10 to 15 minutes as Ella shared how she felt that her mother loved her little sister more and how she didn’t like her mother’s new boyfriend. Ella’s mom reacted defensively and by lashing out even more at Ella.
Mary mediated the situation as best she could. I was impressed by her patience and compassion. I’m certain that I could not have showed the same had I been in her position. Because of the setup of the room a couple of us were “trapped” by the situation unfolding in the hallway, and there was little we could do other than listen. Finally, as Ella stormed out of the building and her mom was still talking to Mary, I excused myself and went outside to make sure that Ella was ok. As I drove home that night, my heart broke once again for a little girl who clearly just wanted a little attention and love from her mother but whose mother was so caught up in her own situation that she couldn’t even see how much her child was hurting.
The following week, we had to cancel our class as it conflicted with the local trick or treat night. It was strange that night not to be driving out to see our kids, but in the end it worked out well as it allowed us to end our class just before Christmas which was kind of special. When we came back two weeks later for Week 7, the theme was “Developing New Relationships.” It was great to see the kids again and hear their stories from Halloween and trick-or-treating.
One of the funnier stories (there were many) from our class actually happened during this week. During our discussion of new relationships following the “Kids Like Me” DVD, we were talking about step parents. Alice, one of the leaders, shared that her mother had just gotten remarried. One of the kids asked how old she was, and Alice shared that her mother was fifty years old. To that, Suzie replied,
“Fifty? That’s old! How did she get a man?”
It was a good moment, and we all got a laugh out of it, especially those of us who don’t view fifty as all that old anymore.
In Week 8, we discussed a topic which is very real to many children of divorce but oftentimes I think overlooked by others. The theme for the night was “Developing Money Smarts,” and we talked to the kids about handling money well and why things often change financially following parents’ divorce. We introduced “chores” that the kids could do to earn money in class and a store that they would be able to spend the money at on the last night of class. Suzie and Haley missed class again which was, unfortunately, happening more and more frequently.
Mary was out for a prior obligation on Week 9 which left Carl to head up class for that week. The topic was “It’s Not My Fault.” A couple of the other Safe Keepers were also out that week leaving us with a limited number of leaders. We played a game with bandanas and bean bags this week where the kids tried to pass the bean bags to one another using the bandanas held at either end by a child to throw them. It started out kind of slow, but the kids seemed to pick it up by the end. Week 9 was our last week before Thanksgiving, and there was to be no class the next week for the holiday.
Over the Thanksgiving week, we received word that Barbara’s parents’ house had caught fire early Thanksgiving morning, and our prayers went out to them and Barbara’s family. In my years in ministry, I have always been amazed at how easy it is to connect with those who you are working with when you share a passion for ministry. In a couple of short months, meeting for only a couple of hours each week, it is amazing how God can build relationships amongst the members of His family in such a way that you really feel their losses and celebrate their successes. One of the great joys of working in DC4K, second only to meeting our kids, was meeting and getting to know a great group of leaders.
Join us next week for the conclusion of my DC4K story.