At the end of juvenile detention hearings, the judges typically ask parents if they have anything they wish to say on the record, or anything they would like to see happen. Sometimes they will say they think the youth has learned his lesson, and they want him home. Or that they do not trust the youth and want him away from younger siblings. Mostly they say they don’t know what to say, and they don’t know what to do. They are at their wit’s end.
The most common complaint is that their kid will not listen. He won’t mind. He refuses to attend school. He won’t do any chores. He doesn’t seem to care what anyone thinks. He is just angry, violent, using drugs, or what have you. Sometimes a single mother will ask the judge to please make the child mind, or be the father figure he never had. This is sad and touching, no matter how many times we hear it. But it touched me in a different way when a mother was invited to say something on the record, and she responded, “He has gifts”. She then went on to explain the following.
“My son has gifts. But he can’t see it himself. I am his mother, and I know him better than anyone. I know him better than his friends who think he is disposable. For me, he is irreplaceable. He is so talented! You have no idea. He is so smart. When he draws, he just acts like it’s nothing, even when I tell him it looks great. He could do something with it. He is creative and artistic. He has talent. He has brains! He does well in school whenever he tries. The teachers like him. He has so much potential! I just see so much in him.
“I went to the local college and asked for their application for admissions form and I put it on our fridge with a magnet. What is that, he asked me when he saw it. That is for you, son, I told him. It is your college application. I want you to go to college. Whoa, he said, mami, do you think I really could? Of course, son, I told him, because you have gifts. You are very smart and very special.
“But I see doubt in his eyes, no matter what I say. Because his father left him, and he just doesn’t believe me. He cannot see the good in himself. He only sees the boy whose father didn’t want him. Who wasn’t good enough to deserve to have a father around. He is wrong, and I tell him so, but that is how he feels.
“He loves me. He hugs me. He tells me not to worry. But I know I am not enough. I lie awake at night thinking, what can I say? What can I do? I would give me life for that boy. Meanwhile, his little gang friends come by and he is off taking people’s cars and driving them around even though he is too young to even have a license. That is why he is locked up now. He is making bad decisions, being led by others, not seeing anything to look forward to. So your honor, can you show him, can you tell him, can you get him to see, that he has gifts? He can’t see it. And it is really, really important for him to see, that he has gifts.”