The past few weeks he's been getting worse. Johnny (not his real name), a little boy in the primary grades, never really participated in music, but at least he'd sit off to the side quietly. I gave up trying to make him join in, because the more I'd encourage him, the more he would retreat. Recently, he's been getting more disruptive and his behaviour has been more and more defiant. Johnny, however, is not a typical kid acting up in music.
Just one look at him and how he behaves makes me wonder what life at home is like. Behaviour like this is not a little boy's natural response, that's for sure.
The last two weeks have been the most difficult. Whenever he is asked to do something, he refuses, and just starts muttering, "Hit me... hit me... hit me..." When the other children are waving purple and blue ribbons to look like waves and singing a bright little song, there is Johnny, trying to get in the way of the sticks the ribbons are attatched to so they will hit him, all the while muttering, "Hit me... hit me..." And when I asked him to move so that he was sitting against the wall and not underfoot? "Good, I can bang my head against it." I have heard him ask, to no-one in particular, "Do you want me to kill myself?"
This is a young, young child. That these words are even crossing his lips makes me want to cry.
I don't even know how to respond. I want to whisk him away to a place where he will be safe, where he will be loved. Where he is not afraid. But mostly I just want to cry for him. Jesus, you never meant for it to be like this. You never meant for a child to know such hurt that at eight years old he talks about killing himself. Kids are meant to be hugged and loved and taught to ride bikes and taken to the park to play and reassured that they are safe and nothing in the whole wide world can hurt them, because mommy and daddy are there. Sometimes I don't even know how to pray for him. What do you say? And why does God allow this?
I had Johnny in my class again today. "Hit me... hit me.... hit me...."
He was the last one out of the room today, and as his classmates followed their teacher back to their class, I crouched down, did my best to look him in the eye (he rarely makes eye contact), and took his little hands in mine. He held on.
"Johnny, I will never hit you. I don't want to hurt you. You are a good boy, and I like you. It makes me sad when you ask me to hit you. I will never hurt you. I promise."
He asked some question about the instruments that were behind me. I answered him, then told him again, "I will never hit you... Okay?" He looked at me and said ok as he ran off to catch up with his class.
I wonder if he saw the tears in my eyes.