January 15, 2010


When the two little neighbor kids came over yesterday, I warned them that someone was coming to fix our furnace.

“I’m going to call you Mom when the furnace guy is here,” Little Biker Boy said, “Don’t laugh and don’t say you’re not.”

It’s a game the two kids play all the time. “Let’s pretend you’re our Mom.”

I had actually intended to send them home when the furnace guy arrived — they can be very difficult kids — but it seemed important to Little Biker Boy that they stay. “We’ll be good,” he promised.

“Okay, you two need to play quietly in the living room while I’m talking to the furnace guy,” I said. I dragged the Tupperware container of lego blocks out from under the orange tree and dumped it onto the floor for Ponytail. I gave them each a couple of cookies.

“I’m going to sit on the stairs and play with my cars,” said Little Biker Boy, “Like a normal kid.”

When Furnace Guy arrived, Ponytail abandoned the lego blocks to come and cling to my legs, jumping up and down and screaming, “She’s my Mommy!” Subtlety is not her forte.

Shaggy Hair Boy came to my rescue and took Ponytail into the living room to play with the lego blocks while I talked to Furnace Guy.

But Little Biker Boy sat quietly on the stairs right next to me, intently playing with his cars. It’s the longest I’ve ever seen him sit still. A couple times before Furnace Guy descended into the basement, he called out to me. “Mom, can you get me a glass of milk? Mom, can I have another cookie?” But he did it politely.

After Furnace Guy finished repairing the furnace, he and I stood talking in the foyer. We talked about the furnace, the weather, and the holidays that had just gone by. Furnace Guy, like me, grew up in this area so we compared notes about places we’d gone to when we were younger.

“You remember the old store on the main street of Train Track Village? The one run by those very old people?” he asked. I remembered it well. We bought jeans there, stiff and unshrunk, and the old lady would follow us out yelling, “Do you need any socks? Any underwear?”

During the conversation, I was aware of Little Biker Boy sitting on the carpeted stairs behind me. He was playing quietly, much like any of my own sons would have at that age. He was half-hidden by the railing, but I could feel him watching me, aware that he was part of the scene.

After Furnace Guy left, I gave Little Biker Boy a hug, “You behaved really well.”

“I told you I would,” he said. "Can we stay and play a little longer?"


Queen of West Procrastination said...

That is so sweet. But that one line of Biker Boy's -- "like a normal kid" -- completely broke my heart.

dp said...

its amazing what we take for granted. Its nice to get these reality checks every now and then to make us all step back and say ... how lucky am I to have the life I do.

Tie-Dye Brother-in-law said...

I just hope they weren't anxious to stay because something bad was happening at home.

Yankee, Transferred said...

If I lived near you and needed someone, I would totally lean on you.

sko3 said...

Queen of the West said what I was going to say. The most heartbreaking part of these kids' story is that they KNOW it's not normal. They KNOW that other kids have something else.

BeachMama said...

I often stop by quickly to see if you have anything to share about Biker Boy and Ponytail. I am always hoping that they are still coming to see you and that you are filling them with opportunities they would not be getting at home. I am so thankful that you are there for them.

Psycgirl said...

Oh, they break my heart. I'm so glad they have you - I hope they never move!

readersguide said...

All of the above. Those poor kids.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Well, now, what did he mean by "like a normal kid"? I thought he meant he knows his behavior is abnormal. My son, who's often seen the inside of the principal's office, has made comments like that. His phrase would be "like a good kid," though.

Does the school know about you? My son's principal and I are in constant communication, which I know helps him & the principal. I don't imagine Biker Boy's mother is able to give his schooling that kind of attention.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Also? I love that you've set a bar -- a high bar, I'd say, for a kid with that background -- that he is able to reach. "I told you I would." I bet he was proud of himself. That's a great gift: giving him something to be proud of.

KathyR said...

You are the Best Neighbor Ever. I mean Ever in the History of the Universe.

RageyOne said...

that line, "like a normal kid." makes me think someone tells him he's not a normal kid.

that makes me sad.

i'm happy, though, those 2 kids have your home to come to as a refuge.

jo(e) said...

Jennifer (Ponderosa): My husband knows the principal of the school the kids go to, and he's talked to her. We can give the school info but because of FERPA, the communication can't be two-way (which I totally understand). The principal is aware of the kids' situation. I'm hugely thankful that the school gives these kids a safe place to go to every day: I can't imagine dealing with Little Biker Boy AND a whole class full of little kids for a whole day, but his teacher seems to handle it just fine. Thankfully, it's a school with good resources for kids like these.

Tie-dye Brother-in-law: They are always anxious to stay, which is sad. But they seemed to see the furnace guy coming as some kind of cool event, which I guess makes sense if you're a little kid.

Jennifer said...

Jennifer said it in her second comment above - you do them such a great gift by having expectations of them. BB must have been so proud of himself.

Kate said...

This made me cry. Jo(e), I hope you realize what a big deal it is that you are a stable, loving presence in these kids' lives. No matter what happens as they grow up, whenever they are having a hard time, whenever they are having trouble remembering that grown-ups CAN be counted on, whenever they need to remember that they are likable and lovable people, they will remember you. You will provide a contradiction to the rest of their lives, and that will make things go that much better for them. Thank you for doing this.

Tie-Dye Brother-in-law said...

Jennifer (ponderosa): I think (hope) that the "like a normal kid" comment meant "like a kid in a normal family".

And I think it's a good thing that they know their situation isn't normal - thinking that an abusive situation is normal is what contributes to the "cycle of abuse". I think the example that jo(e) provides makes it a lot more likely that they'll break the cycle.

BrightenedBoy said...

It's obvious that he's made great progress under your watch.

One thing that stood out to me is that he must love and respect you a lot--it seems like he'd do anything to please you.

I hope they live next to you for a very long time.

They've latched on to you so tightly.

Lomagirl said...

thanks for the story on the kids- they are in my prayers and it's nice to have an update of sorts. blessings on you- as always.

Magpie said...

Ineffably sad that they need you to be their mom. Good that they have you.

(My word verification is WORDS. I think that's the best one ever.)