November 28, 2010

Heartsick

For the last two and a half years, I’ve gotten daily visits from Ponytail and Little Biker Boy, two neighbor kids. They’ve played with traintracks on my living floor, built castles out of lego blocks, and colored at my kitchen table. They haven’t been easy kids to deal with; they are children who have already been damaged by the difficult lives they lead. My house has been their safe place, even when I’m not home. In the winter, I’ve left plastic toboggans on the front hill for them to play with, and in the summer, I’ve left toys on the front porch.

They are affectionate kids. When I come home from work, they are often on my front porch and they jump up and down with excitement when they see me pull in. Every time I go out of town, they greet my return as if it’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to them.

Last month Little Biker Boy told me that they’d been evicted. I kept asking his mother what their plans were, but she kept telling me conflicting stories. She made it clear she wasn’t cooperating with the social worker assigned to the kids; her attitude toward all caseworkers is very antagonistic. I think the caseworker wanted her to move into the city, where she could walk or take the bus, since she doesn’t have a car.

As usual, I got the most reliable information from Biker Boy. Despite his mother’s warnings about keeping the family secrets, he has always told me the truth. Unlike his mother and sister, he doesn’t seem to know how to lie.

Ponytail and her three-year-old brother disappeared about a week ago. Biker Boy says they have gone to live with her father. (He’s the man who attacked the family in a drunken rage one night a couple of years ago. Little Biker Boy drove to my house on his bike, barefoot and in boxer shorts, and I called 911. The cops had to taser him before taking him away in handcuffs.) He lives, apparently, several towns over. I have no way of getting in touch with Ponytail.

In the meantime, a man in a white truck has been moving furniture from the trailer. Biker Boy told me that the man is his mother’s latest boyfriend, and that “he’s mean.” I walked over to the trailer so I could meet the man myself, and he was full of talk about how Little Biker Boy “needed his ass kicked.” He seemed to fit the same mold as the last bunch of abusive, alcoholic boyfriends.

Biker Boy and his mother are moving in with this new boyfriend.

Little Biker Boy kept telling me that it’s his fault that they were evicted. His mother has apparently been telling him that.

“It’s not your fault,” I kept saying, over and over again. “You’re a nine-year-old. You’re a kid. None of this is your fault.”

Little Biker Boy got in my car with me, and we went to find the place where he’ll be living. It’s near the high school that With-a-Why goes to. Unfortunately, the road is busy, so I’m not so sure that it’ll be very safe for him to ride his bike. But he knows my phone number, so I’m hoping that he’ll call and I’ll be able to pick him up sometimes and bring him to my house. I’m relying on the fact that his mother is always want to shunt him off, and will be happy to take advantage of a free babysitter.

I pointed out a farm that’s within walking distance of the house. “See that place? Remember the silos. I know the people who live there. If you needed to run somewhere and get help, that would be a good place to go to.”

He nodded.

Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I took Little Biker Boy out to a movie. He was excited about getting nachos and candy and a slushie. He laughed during the funny parts of the movie, and kept turning to me and saying, “Are you having fun? Isn’t this fun?”

Back at my house, he and I sat on the carpeted stairs, where we have had many talks. (It’s where I always send him to calm down.)

“Are you going to cry?” he asked.

“I’ve cried every night,” I told him. “Every night this week.”

“For me?”

“Yes, for you.”

He looked surprised. He leaned back and rubbed his head against me, and I rubbed his back. He said that when he’s old enough, he’ll get a car and come visit me.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what a nice young man you’re going to be,” I told him.

“But I might turn out bad,” he said.

“No, you won’t,” I told him. “You’re like my kids. Like Boy in Black. Like Shaggy Hair Boy. Like With-a-Why. You’re going to be compassionate and gentle and nice.”

And then I had to say goodbye, had to drive him through the dark night to the house where he lives now. I don’t know what happens next.

87 comments:

Heidi said...

Crying here.

Sally said...

(o)

landismom said...

Wow. Just wow.

I am heartsick just reading it, can't imagine how you must feel.

I hope that you are able to stay in touch with him, and to reconnect with Ponytail.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Jo(e). I'm so sorry...for them and for you. I hope Biker Boy stays in touch and that Ponytail comes back. I can't stand how sad this is.

Norah

Arwen said...

What I know to be true: children are more resilient if they have one person, however distant, who looks out for them and gives them care. I am crying for him and for you, and wish the world wasn't so painful and people so hurt as to inflict it on kids - but I know that what you have given him he'll take with him and I am glad you have been there. And I am thinking of you all.

leftyconcarne said...

So sad -- I've recently become pretty close to a 9 year old boy myself and after reading your post I'm so grateful that his parents are both stable, mature adults so he doesn't have to be.

I could be anyone. said...

Oh, I'm just crying, too. Jo(e), know that you have touched their lives. You have. You may never see the fruits of the impact you have had, but it's there. I'm glad those kids had you and your family as a safety met. {{{ o }}}

Lilian said...

Oh my friend, I'm so sorry. Thanks for keeping us updated. I'm glad that at least you know where he is for now and that you've given him important advice. What you did for him and his sister is priceless and I'm sure it'll make a difference in their lives. I'll be thinking of them and praying for them.

What Now? said...

Oh, this is so sad -- the fact that the kids are separated makes it all the harder. I wish I had more faith in intercessory prayer so that it felt possible to do something for them instead of feeling helpless.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to read this.
:(

My heart goes out to those sweet children.

Mary Ann aka Joy (Ms. Flamingo)

Lorianne said...

Oh, Jo(e). This is sad beyond words.

susan said...

I have been feeling so sad about their move just reading your posts about it--I can't imagine what you are feeling. I hope they carry your caring in their hearts to help them rebound from whatever comes at them.

richard said...

I know you knew it was coming, but it like all dooms, it's still awful when it comes. I'm sorry, Joe.

Jules said...

Heartbreaking, indeed.

Songbird said...

jo(e), my heart goes out to you. I wish this could be different. I am so sorry.

BrightStar (B*) said...

my heart hurts for these kids on so many levels... he might turn out bad? but he is already good. oh no... I am so sorry. I'm glad that you're doing all you can to show him what is possible -- that love and kindness are possible, that goodness is possible.

parodie said...

I wish the world were different, but these children - for all their troubles - are lucky to have you. Thank you, from all the rest of us.

elswhere said...

(o)

patrick said...

So heartbreaking... and to think this kind of thing goes on probably thousands of times every day somewhere. He is no doubt so thankful to know you're there for him should he need you.

readersguide said...

Those poor kids --

Coasting Anon said...

I have no other words other than to thank you for being a steward of hope to those children. I am glad there is a place close to biker boy for him to run to should he need it and I'm glad you showed him where to go.

Psycgirl said...

Jo(e) I just wanted to say thank you for blogging about these kids - their story is so sad and heartbreaking (I"m so sad they moved) but I'm glad you've been sharing it with us. I hope to see a post about Little Biker Boy soon and how he got in touch with you

Ianqui said...

This is beyond sad. I really hope he keeps in touch with you, and I hope he knows how his sister is doing too. Maybe you can drive by their place sometime, and he'll be outside playing and you can talk to him.

Reading this really makes me wish there were some sort of legal way to keep updated. But I guess even if you *could* get in touch with the social worker, it might not even be much help if the mom is being resistant.

sheepish said...

So sad for them and for you. As others have said, I can only hope the kindness you've shown them and the refuge you gave them will stay with them somehow. I hope they will be able to escape the cycle of abuse.

Springer Kneeblood said...

God, this is so hard to read. You have had an impact and, whether it's clear or not, always will. I wish the boy and his family well.

Janice said...

I'm so glad that he has you to be caring and on his side. Despite how difficult and horrible his life has been and can be, you've given him kindness, hope and stability. As Arwen posted above, that can be a big factor in helping someone hang on.

I wish it didn't have to be so contingent. I wish that he had a happy ever after starting right now.

Seeking Solace said...

So sad. I hope things work out for this family. At least you had some impact on their lives.

Terri Torkko said...

I am so sorry, and so thankful that you are who you are for this boy.

S. said...

I've been following this saga, not sure what to say, but I wanted you to know I'm reading, and hoping.

Rebecca said...

I am so sad for you and for the kids. I was the truth-teller like Little Biker Boy, in a family not nearly as dysfunctional as his (although plenty bad enough!) and my heart ached to hear him feeling blame and feeling like no matter what, he will be bad. And in his family, he will always be the bad kid, no matter what he does. But the hope I have for him is that he is strong and determined. He can't help but be honest and you have planted good seeds in his mind. You have shown him what a healthy family looks like. I hope that you can keep in touch with him and continue to influence his life, but even if that doesn't happen, you have made a big impact on him. He knows that there are other ways of doing things.

RageyOne said...

tears in my eyes as i read your post.

i can only hope that you're able to visit with Biker Boy on a regular basis, and hopefully reconnect with Ponytail.

so sad those kids are in such a tough situation.

Val said...

I'm sorry, Jo(e).

Teri said...

tears...and virtual hugs for you and Biker Boy and Ponytail and the little brother...may they be safe and find ways to be well and happy. I know your influence on them will live inside them and help them in so many ways, and vice versa.

Rev Dr Mom said...

So sad for those kids, and so grateful they've had you in their lives.

Karin said...

This just breaks my heart. But he'll always remember you - and the love and kindness you've shown him. And I bet he will come to visit you when he can drive a car. Bless you for all you've done for those kids.

kathy a. said...

oh, no. i knew they'd be going, but never thought that they might be broken up. and for little biker boy to think it was his fault? oh oh oh.

if mom's not cooperating with the caseworker, that's not good. the caseworker can't tell you anything, but you can tell her/him, in case that is helpful. all the kids -- i also didn't realize there is a little brother -- need to have someone watching for them. my guess is that they can find ponytail girl's father, and you know where little biker boy is, even if the new boyfriend is not on the screen with the caseworker.

i am so so so glad that you were able to go to the movies, scope out the new house, tell LBB where he can run if he needs to be safe. and just as glad that you told him what he really needs to hear -- that he is good, that you love him, that he is like your boys.

kathy a. said...

will LBB be at the same school? if so, that would make things easier for him.

my word verification is "hoper."

ThirdCat said...

That's a good thing you're doing. A good, good thing. I don't know what else to say, except, most sincerely *hugs* for you and for biker boy.

Twice said...

This really sucks. I'm so sorry. I hate that they are so far from the only safe place they have known. I hope you are able to see them sometimes.

BrightenedBoy said...

If there is one spark of brightness here, it's that he's close enough for regular visits.

I'll be thinking of all of you.

Krazy Kitty said...

Heart wrenching indeed. I hope the children will be fine; I hope they know to ask for help (and remember where to ask for it). I hope they don't forget you and their life at your home, and that you can keep in touch (at least with Little Biker Boy).

They are lucky to have you in their lives (even though it seems that it's the very least luck could do for them, given the hand they were dealt).

katha said...

Hi there,
was hoping for a better outcome. So for now all there is be happy that at least little biker boy is not to far of and knows, that he has you and how to contact you.

Sending you little happy thoughts with full of hope at these dark days.

Marni said...

Oh my. Crying a river here. That breaks my heart and I hope beyond all hopes that he comes back to you.

Jennifer said...

I am heartsick too and I've never met Biker Boy and Ponytail. That's not true. I met them here because of you and I've grown very fond of them and I'm wishing the best for them.

Karen said...

THis was so hard to read. As others said at least through you he got to see that families can be different from his and that there are people who love and care for him. Hoping and praying here.

Anonymous said...

Tears, compassion and hope. <3

Melissa Sarno said...

This upset me to read-- I can't imagine how you must feel. My heart goes out to you and, especially, to these kids. I can tell by all the posts I've read over the last year that you've had a truly positive impact on these children's lives. I hope that your relationship with them doesn't end here. And I hope they all find a new safe haven to go to. <3

Sarah Sometimes said...

I'm so sorry. Love to you, and to them.

ChrisinNY said...

Good luck at keeping in touch. I hope you can set up something regular (like picking him up every tuesday pm after school) and that the mom agrees. sigh. Maybe the teacher could be an ally too. Good luck Biker Boy. And to Ponytail Girl too (and the littlest one). Sending good thoughts your way too.

Linda said...

Oh, Jo(e), I'm so sorry. My love and prayers to all of you.

Magpie said...

weepy here. i hope those kids are going to be okay.

MJ said...

Oh, this is so very sad and heartbreaking. I'm hoping that you'll be able to stay in touch with him as you've obviously had a positive impact on his life. I'm glad that you know where Biker Boy will be and that he has nearby neighbours who will help him.

sko3 said...

oh, oh, oh.

Rana said...

*hug*

Bardiac said...

I'm sorry, Jo(e), more for the kids than for you. Thank you for sharing the story. I hope things go better for the kids somehow.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I dropped off some things at a local safe house last week, thinking of those kids the whole time.

oh, my.

What would your monk friends say about all this? I could use some wisdom right about now.

Anonymous said...

This is a sad story. I don't mean to be a hater but the person missing in this equation is the MOM ... obvious issues there ... possible drug/alcohol abuse ... enabler of abusive behavior ... 3 kids, no job ... 100% public assistance ... being belligerent to the case worker ... did she have a cell phone? Cable TV? Ignoring her kids like that borders on neglect and the kids should be put into foster care or turned over to the state. As it is they will face more misery. You did all you could, and the public (taxpayers) are doing more than enough. She needs to wake up.

jo(e) said...

Anonymous: Yes, this is both neglect and abuse. Yes, there are alcohol and drug addiction patterns involved. Yes, the mother of the kids is negligent. Yes, the fathers (there are five kids altogether and five fathers) are negligent and abusive. All of the kids have been in foster care in the past, and likely will end up in foster care again.

The mother, in this case, was a victim of abuse herself. She continues to be a victim of abuse. The men continue to be abusers. The father of Ponytail has been in prison.

These situations exist in our communities, and I don't think these problems are going to magically go away. Somehow we need to figure out how to change these patterns, to help kids like this. The kids have done nothing to deserve the life they are getting. They are just kids.

Sure, it's satisfying to blame the mother and say she should just wake up, but that attitude doesn't help those kids at all.

jodi said...

I am sorry. I'm glad that he knows your phone number and that the silos mean safety. Sending you hugs.

kathy a. said...

omg, five kids. and they are a drop in the bucket -- there are many tens of thousands of such kids everywhere. they are invisible, until they end up in trouble. and at that point, they get blamed.

jo(e), i agree that it's easy to blame the mom, when she is surely a victim herself. she must feel so hopeless and desperate. i don't say that to excuse her abuse and neglect of her children, but the chances are that she has had few opportunities to do very much better, and nobody telling her she was loved no matter what.

shit streams downhill, as they say. bigger ones take it out on smaller ones.

these kids need safety and love, so they do not perpetuate the cycle. they all have big risk factors; they need more protective factors -- outside adults who care, chances to succeed, safety.

Bardiac said...

Jo(e), re your comment #58: you're making a really important point here. It doesn't matter how we feel about the adults. For these issues, we need to focus on the kids as kids in and of themselves. (And separately, we need to focus on our adult peers, and figure out how we can change patterns of abuse. But that's separate from the kids needing support from the community.)

You've done wonderfully by these children. Thank you.

Nope said...

Wow. I am sitting here sobbing. Thank you for being there. - Andrea

Kyla said...

:( I'm sorry jo(e)...sorry for them, sorry for you. Sorry that this happens all over the place every day and there isn't always someone like you to reach out and lift these kids up.

You'll continue to be a blessing in his life and I hope you'll be able to be in touch with Ponytail, too.

Danny Bradfield said...

Well, the result of 2 1/2 years of knowing you and your family means Little Biker Boy and the others just might have a chance. Hopefully they can hold on to it.

zach said...

I had no idea you had so many readers. I feel so sad about these kids, like everyone else reading this. I wish there was something we could do to help.

Sandy said...

Such a sad, sad story.

comebacknikki said...

{{{jo(e)}}}

Genevieve said...

I've read your blog for years. I've never posted till now. I'm so sorry. This is heartbreaking. Thank you for being so loving to these kids.

romelover said...

Adding my prayers that Little Biker Boy and Ponytail hang on to the goodness you and your family have shown them. That your offers of help (like everyone else, I'm so glad you've given LBB some resources) may be the turning point.

In so many ways, you are an inspiration.

Hugs to all of you in your own pain, which is palpable.
Chrissie

Kris said...

I hope with all my heart that soon biker boy (and pony tail girl) can run for those silos and never look back.

liz said...

Sobbing. I will be thinking of those two every. single. day.

Barbara said...

I'm so sorry. That is heartbreaking to hear. I hope they'll be ok and manage to find their way back to you sometime soon.`

sixdown said...

Thinking of you and of them and hoping.

kathy a. said...

love what bardiac said, #61.

Cindy said...

Just a sad situation all round. Hugs to you.

Anonymous said...

I'm following up to my original posting #57. I am NOT saying "blame the mother" and I take no "satisfaction" in it. I am saing, SAVE THE MOTHER. The way to do this is to get her to the city where she can have empowerment over health/job/transportation problems. THe kids obviously mean nothing to her other than a check from the government. So they need to go to foster care.

Mary Beth said...

(o) All in my prayers.

Miranda said...

Foster care is not always better than the original situation. It often trading one bad situation for yet another bad situation with even fewer supports in place for the child.

My heart is breaking for Ponytail and LBB and you and your family. Like others, I believe that your love made a difference in their lives. (o)

writingonthemargins said...

Oh, joe(e). Knew this was going to happen from what I've been reading, but it is still heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

Here is something that can help the boy, and, help all of us: good schools. A good school, which includes compassionate teachers, that understands and supports kids who come from challenged homes (instead of ostracizing them), and builds real skills so that kids have self-confidence, will probably provide the best chances for kids like this. We won't be there for them in the future, but schools like this can build them into people who can take care of themselves and handle challenges. I know, I was one of these kids and my school was my refuge (with the help of some great teachers, who saw past my worn out clothes, dirty face, and poor manners). So, support your schools!

jo(e) said...

Anonymous: You are so right about that. These last couple of years, I've been so grateful for the elementary school that these kids attended. Without school, I don't think kids like this would stand a chance.

Anonymous said...

Me again (80 - Anonymous). I often get asked "How did you make it? You seen like you come from a great home?" And I have pondered that question so many times over the years. Despite the poverty, with its associated lack of resources and knowledge, despite the drug and alcohol abuse around me, despite the violence (although that diminished when my mother left my father), I was able to see light at the end of the tunnel. So, I wonder "am I special" or "were there things that happened to help me"? And I think a lot about the school system. When I was a kid, there was not much in the way of social services. But the school provided a stable environment. And key teachers saw me as a person, not "some poor child doomed to be a criminal or dropout". Not to say there were not some teachers like that, and certainly many other people put me in a "category". But the school system really did seem to want me to succeed. And I did. So, now I pour a lot of money back into the system, through taxes. And I support numerous people around me when I can. From a purely investment perspective, all those tax dollars spent on the school were worth it, as they have been paid back numerous times. And I have broke the cycle, being able to marry a great person and raise great kids. So, for all those teachers following the blog, never forget how important you are to the kids...and they may grow up to support your pension!

immersion said...

I am so moved by this post. My heart cries. Hope can be the only weight to carry. But sometimes, even hope is heavy.

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

Adding my tears and prayers with all of the others. This whole thing sucks. I know you have loved them and will continue to love them. My heart breaks that you had to show him a safe place to go.

Thank God you and your family has given the children a fighting chance.

twofrisch said...

I keep thinking about you and those kids. I have a baby with an ear infection so lots of time to think while I rock, rock, rock him back to sleep all night...

Don't they have those firefly phones for kids that you can only program two phone numbers into, plus emergency services? Maybe you could get one for Little Biker Boy, and plug your number into it; I would guess the other adults in his life wouldn't be able to use it since it only has those numbers. Plus, I'll bet your readers would chip in to pay the monthly cost.

I don't know, I just feel like doing something...

thanks for being you, jo(e).

jo(e) said...

Twofrisch: I like that idea. I had thought of a track phone, but figured that his mother or her boyfriend would just take it. I've never heard of those phones. I'm going to check into it ...

Anonymous said...

I am not sure the cell phone idea will work out. It is well intentioned, but what could be seen is an adult giving a cell phone to a child without the parents permission - that could cause trouble. Plus, it could draw more attention to the mother, which might make her angrier (her latest boyfriend as well). It is great to be a good neighbour. It is great to support your community. But involving yourself in someones family, without their permission crosses a line, I am sad to say. Even when kids are involved (that is why we call the social services). Careful.