But as the majority of our kids enter the teen years (and beyond for a few of them), the kinds of busy that Nick and I find ourselves is changing. Instead of wiping butts and getting kids dressed, we are really thinking about the future. Nick likes to say that we are not raising children, we are raising adults. It has weighed heavy on us the responsibility that Nick and I have to our kids in their growing up years. This means working to keep communication lines open, to present our kids with life lessons in relevant ways, and dealing with a ridiculous level of hormones.
These thoughts have helped us start to identify "life plans" for each of our kids. We have been and are in the process of thinking through a set of goals and plans for our individual kids. What does that mean? Well, it means that we recognize that each of our children is unique. They have a unique story, unique gifts, and a unique set of circumstances that brought them to the point where they are now. The combination of all of these attributes presents certain realities, For example, we know that a few of our children will not have the capacity to finish high school. It's not that they are unintelligent, life has just not afforded them the opportunity for this to be an option. We know that for some of our kids, their childhood years were marked by trauma and a lack of opportunity for basic education. They have come up with obstacles that were outside of their control, and that changed the trajectory of their life, too. As these kids have aged, we've come to realize that success (for some of our kids) can mean something different than finishing school.
Culturally, this plays out in the statistics. In Haiti, only about 67% of children attend primary school. Only about 20% attend high school. And only about 1% receive a university education. So, obviously, this has spilled over into the unemployment rate (at least 40%) and the poverty rate (about 80%). (source: CIA World Factbook)
So when we think about 12 children entrusted to our care who will eventually be adults, we understand that this is an uphill battle. Now, please don't get me wrong. I realize that my 3 American kids, and Schneider soon, too, will have a whole other set of opportunities because they are (or will be) Americans. This means that they will be able to enjoy the privilege of a (pretty much guaranteed) minimum wage job should they live in the States when they are past the age of 16. I recognize the inequity in this. It's not something any of us can change, so just for the sake of argument, let's just say that we have 8 individuals to prepare here in Haiti when we're talking of the future.
Of those 8, there are probably 3 who are unlikely to finish high school. Perhaps 4. (But the 4th is not due to ability but advanced age and the possibility that he will not wish to continue his education.) \ Of those 4, 2 of them are going to be fine. They are naturally go-getters, they are hard workers, they can follow instructions. I would feel confident recommending them to anyone as an employee. The other 2-- not so much. I honestly do not know what to do with 2 of them. I am not sure where life will lead them. Orphaned at a young age and forced to live on the streets has caused in them a fracture that 5+ years of consistency, provision, and love has hardly begun to touch.
And so we've found ourselves in this moment with one of our older boys, where we have needed to see more effort and responsibility on his part. We've provided him with the skills and opportunities he has needed to begin to be self-sufficient. Not willing to just drop a kid when they turn 18 which is the norm for "orphan"ages around here, we've fought for this kid for years. Believe me when I tell you this is a huge problem in Haiti-- What do we do with the 300,000 kids who have been in orphanages when they become adults? How do they enter society when all they have ever had has been given to them at regular intervals? We see this struggle every day. Nick currently has an on-going dialog with 5 kids from an orphanage we used to work with who regularly ask him for money, letters for visas to try to go to the States, jobs, etc., because they do not know what they are supposed to do now that they are grown. Orphanages in Haiti are failing kids in so many ways. But that is a story for another day.
All of this is to say, that this week Nick and I had to make a hard call with one of our older boys (legally an adult) this week who needs to learn the value of work. I could go through an extensive list of the gentle, educational ways we've tried to do this. But that would be pointless, because so far, all of them have failed. So, my desire to rattle off what we've done up until this point would just be image management. This week we sent him out into the countryside for a period of (at least) 6 weeks. We know that the life he will be living there with some family friends will not be easy. Participation in hard work and contributing to the needs of the family will be necessary. Honestly, I do not know how he will do. But we feel very strongly that this young man needs to accept more responsibility if he wishes to continue receiving financial support from us. (Side note 1: THIS IS HARD!) (Side note 2: I know that parents in the States are going through the same thing with their kids, too. Or their 30-year-olds.)
Will you please pray for our son? Would you pray that he will grow to see work not as a punishment but as a part of life where he can find satisfaction? Please pray that he would understand that we still love him and are committed to him, and that it is out of love we're pushing him in this area. And pray that he would learn the lessons he needs to learn quickly and completely, so that he does not have to repeat them. Finally, PLEASE pray that he doesn't do anything stupid. I have all these "what-if" fears. Thank you!
The longer I live the more I learn that we're all just doing the best we can. Thanks for all the ways you come alongside of us so that together we can raise adults who will have a net-positive impact on their community. Indeed it does take a village.