About ten years ago I was teaching at a high school in
Nassau and had become quite irate with a student who was extremely lapse in turning in or even doing homework assignments.
My students were usually very good about turning in homework, and the verdict is still out on whether or not that was out of self-pride and willingness to succeed or fear or their teacher.
Nonetheless, having gotten used to this behaviour, I had very little tolerance for students who did not conform.
So I decided to confront this particular student in the middle of collecting the homework.
I asked her why she even bothered to come to school if she couldn’t seem to get any of her assignments completed and turned in.
And to that question, my dear friends, her reply was: “Miss Ritchie, how do you expect me to get any homework done, when I have to make sure my five brothers and sisters are fed, bathed and taken care of every day I get home from school.”
Well, at this point, my jaw had to be lifted off the ground.
I apologized to her and told her I would talk to her after class.
Because of what was expected of her at home, there was little chance of this student ever getting any homework done.
She was the oldest of six children.
I don’t remember the ages of her siblings, but they were obviously still young enough for her to have to care for them.
I taught her for three years and never met her parents.
I am not about to judge her mother, but I can’t help but think about the many other students, teenagers and children who have to take care of younger siblings because mommy has to go to work or wherever.
Very often people talk about it taking a village to raise a child, but who’s raising the child who has been made to be a parent at the tender age of ten or eleven?
This phenomenon seems to cross all socio-economic barriers.
I have been told that fourth and fifth graders attending private schools have been made to stay home from school on occasion to baby sit younger siblings.
Yes there are sometimes dire situations, unforeseen circumstances that arise and a parent calls on an older sibling to help supervise, but this is not what we are talking about.
We are talking about the women who have child after child, usually with different men, and then turn around and demand that their older children take care of these new children.
We are also talking about the women who may only have two children, and still expect the older child to care for the younger child when she is not at home.
It’s no wonder we have a society filled with angry children!
We have had several cases in our country’s history when children have been burned up alive in houses because they were left home by themselves.
If we investigate these cases I’m sure we would find that some if not all were situations where an older sibling was left to care for the others.
How do we expect our twelve year old to have respect for us as the parent if we have been leaving her alone to take care of her younger siblings since she was eight?
She believes she is an adult as well.
I have known young girls who have actually gone out and gotten pregnant because they said they might as well have their own baby to mind since they have to mind other people’s children. Yes the thinking may seem warped, but in their mind’s eye, the logic is that they would rather not have a life of their own on their terms and not someone else’s terms.
If you are a single parent, you must recognize that it is ultimately your responsibility and not your children’s responsibility to raise any other children you may have.
Yes, a family helps each other, but a child should not be responsible to feed, bathe and discipline younger children.
In case some of you may have forgotten, it is against the law to leave your children unattended and unsupervised.
And, if something were to happen to them while they were alone in the house, the police will hold the parents responsible.
In order for a village to raise the child we must allow our children to be children.
A ten year old will lose out on a lot of his childhood, if he is made to take care of younger siblings.
A ten year old who does not get to experience playing video games, watching cartoons, riding bikes or even doing homework, will in fact be missing out on his childhood.
We were created to go through various stages of human development and when we force our children to do adult things, we are forcing them to miss out on their development.
Their chances of becoming who they are called to be is made more difficult when we force them to jump from being a child to an adult in the first ten years of their lives.
About the author:
Joye Ritchie-Greene is an Educational Consultant, Writer and Martial Arts Instructor. She is the owner/operator of The Bahamas Martial Arts Academy; president of Time-Out Productions; and is also a columnist for the Freeport News. She has a B.A. in English and an M.S. in Human Resources, resides in Freeport, Grand Bahama with her husband and enjoys playing tennis. Joye can be reached at