Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Little Boy Lost

When one first enters the weird and wonderful realm of parenting, one tends to have a somewhat romanticized view of children. They are sweet, innocent, miraculous, pure. They are the best part of us. They are a blank canvas upon which all our hopes and dreams are writ large.

And when they are small, that is a perception that remains mostly unchallenged. Because even the most undesirable behavior can usually be attributed to something like missing a nap, too much sugar or sensory overload. We excuse it because we can rationalize it.

But then they get a little bit older and we begin to realize that not every kid is the precious gift we have idealized them to be. For me, kids were somewhat sacrosanct in many respects. I always wanted them and when I got them, my life was enriched in a way I could never have foreseen. So for a long time, I felt really badly when I encountered a kid that I just couldn't like.

But, parenting also provides some insight into the fact that kids are of course, human, and as such, they are not perfect. Not every kid fits the soft focus Hallmark vision we have of them.

So I got over feeling badly when I realized that my insincts were often correct. Kids that strike you as sneaky probably really are doing something behind your back. I stopped trying to smile and pretend I liked the sneaky kid. The potty mouth kid. The torment the pets kid. And they usually get the message loud and clear.

We've developed an understanding, these kids and I. You can come over here kid, but I've got your number. Don't think you're pulling one over on me. And I've never had much trouble out of them. Our house is kind of the hang out house, and nobody wants to be left out. So over here they mind their p's and q's for the most part, where they might not otherwise.

This past summer, one such kid became kind of a thorn in my side. It's a long and ugly story and I won't go into all of it. I'll just say that he seemed to take particular delight in baiting Diminutive One. When Diminutive One finally had enough and retaliated, he would, the nervy little creep, come to me and tell me oh so earnestly about how he was doing nothing at all and Diminutive One just socked him one.

But I watch, which is, I guess, not somethig to which he is accustomed. I think he's used to going through life mostly unnoticed and I think he's spent a lot of time and effort perfecting the art of flying under the radar. But he quickly found out that I wasn't buying what he was selling. And from there it just escalated. He made our summer somewhat miserable.

Mostly he was just annoying, but I found out via the neighborhood grapevine after an incident at the pool wherein someone jammed a ball into an intake vent and nearly blew up the pump motor, (it wasn't him, but suspicion lay heavily on his doorstep until the perpetrator was caught) that he was also criminal. He had been caught breaking into a vacant home here in the neighborhood and also had a string of other petty crimes such as shoplifting and vandalism to his credit.

So my boys were told to stay away from him and I told him to stay away from my boys. Every once in a while he would turn up at our door and inquire "Does your Mom still hate me?"

Hate him? No. I didn't hate him. But I did dislike him a great deal.

He is a few years older than Pre-Pubescent One, and so, his overatures were only made in times of desperation, which were blessedly few.

Later in the summer the HOA president, to whom I had mentioned our troubles with the kid, told me that his mother was a drug addict who had been in and out of jail (mostly in) for much of the past five years. His older brother was on house arrest for drug related charges. His stepfather was not often around and when he was, he did not concern himself with the welfare or whereabouts of his stepsons.

Against my will, the skin crawling dislike turned to pity. It wasn't something I was comfortable with, pitying this kid. I liked it better when I could dislike him without apology. It was so much less complicated.

How does a kid even have a chance with a life like that?

Near the end of the summer, Pre-Pubescent One came home one day looking somewhat dismayed.

"Well guess what?" he said. "Cory's Mom died."

He looked a little rattled. He doesn't deal with death well, and someone's Mom dying hits a little too close to home for him.

"Are you sure, honey? How do you know?"

"There were all these cars and stuff at his house and a hearse. I asked him what happened and he said his Mom died."

"Do you know how?"

Pre-Pubescent One shrugged. "Emphysema or something."

Or something.

The grapevine confirmed that the woman had indeed died, but the consensus seemed to be that it was drug related. Whatever the cause, she was dead, and a kid was without his mother. It made me sad to think of, because even a crappy drug addicted jailbird of a Mother is a Mother. I'm sure he loved her.

Later that same week I saw him riding a bicycle that was far too small for him in slow circles in front of his house. His blonde hair, which had been an unruly mop hanging nearly to his shoulders, had been clumsily shorn close to his head. His shoulders, which had always been straight and tall with affected arrogance, slumped terribly. There was no animation in his face, not even the trademark smirk that I had so often longed to wipe from it.

I felt that uncomfortable pity again. I wondered who was looking after him. I wondered if he was eating Ramen noodles for breakfast and watching MTV into the early morning hours. I wondered if he had anybody at all to comfort him.

I didn't see him again until yesterday. I thought they might have moved away, because the once ramshackle house began to look somewhat improved. New shutters appeared, then a new front door. The waist high grass had been mowed and some effort had been made to prune the bushes that had grown out of control along the perimeter of the yard.

It was a beautiful day here in Georgia. It was the kind of day on which a person simply cannot stay indoors, so we took our boys hiking at a nearby State Park. We stopped at the visitors center to get a trail guide and use the restrooms. While we were there, Pre-Pubescent One elbowed me discreetly.

"Hey Mom, there's Cory."

Diminutive One let out a snort of disgust. "Why would they let him in here?"

"It's a public park, DUH. Anybody can come here." replied Pre-Pubescent One.

I watched with interest. He was with a group of boys roughly the same age as he. They all sported crew cuts and they were all dressed in jean or shorts and light flannel shirts. Two men in military fatigues were handing out compasses, maps, and canteens. I tried to listen to what the instructor was saying, but my boys were anxious to be off.

We had to pass the group to get to the mouth of the trail and as we did, Cory's eye caught mine. I know he had seen us walking to the small building where the restrooms were located, but both he and my boys had feigned unawareness. The boys were not eager to engage him, and he, I assumed, was not eager to have someone witnessing his situation, whatever it was.

But instead of looking away as I expected him to, he smiled. And it wasn't that knowing smirk that had so annoyed me time and time again. It wasn't a cat that ate the canary smile. It wasn't meant to ingratiate or deceive.

It was an honest and genuine smile.

I smiled back and raised my hand in a small, inconspicuous wave. He raised his hand slightly at waist height in return and then turned back to the instructor.

I thought he looked relaxed and happy. I'm not sure I've ever seen him without that caculating wariness. I don't think I've ever seen him ungaurded. He a kid. Not a criminal or a vandal or a miscreant. Just a kid.

Was it military school or boot camp? Was it one of those tough love things? Or was it merely a wildnerness training exercise, meant to keep him from wandering the streets aimlessly in search of trouble? I don't know. But whatever the seems like someone is maybe looking out for him at last.

Good luck kid. I really hope you make it.

I hope from now on, the doors you've found shut in your face are held wide open in welcome.

Will mine be? Yeah. I think so.


  • At 8:51 AM, Blogger painted maypole said…

    I hope you do get a chance to welcome him into your home again... maybe you will be able to see a change first hand. Your post reminded me of a neighbor we had when we lived in a rough part of Philadelphia. All the kids hung out at their house, because the parents would be HOME and had RULES but LOVED all the kids that came through the door. They fed them and wouldn't tolerate swearing or disrespect. And the house was always packed full of kids whose parents had no idea where they were, but those kids knew they were in a place where LOVE ruled. And they kept coming back.

  • At 9:06 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    I know how you feel. We have a very similar relationship with a kid whose father just died recently. He's honestly a good kid with a very bad mother, and he didn't have much of a chance. I've always given him respect, but careful respect, and he's never disappointed me. All kids, even kids with bad mothers and little to no supervision deserve love. Sometimes it's hard, sometimes it's almost self defeating, but when the kids realize that you're a good person, they respond. I'm happy for you, and for Corey.

  • At 9:09 AM, Blogger Sarah said…

    This moved me so:

    Against my will, the skin crawling dislike turned to pity. It wasn't something I was comfortable with, pitying this kid. I liked it better when I could dislike him without apology. It was so much less complicated.

    You've got a big heart, BA. I'm glad it looks the tiniest bit hopeful for that kid. Because your writing was powerful here, and it caused me to worry about him.

  • At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hmmmm....interesting dilemma. Should you step in or let him figure it out on his own? (sorry I couldn't help myself)

    The thing is, you didn't hate the kid, you hated his behavior. I've known several children like this and despite receiving love and caring from someone, they had what seemed like a 50/50 shot at turning out to be a decent human being.

    Hopefully, this one falls on the right side of the 50%.

  • At 10:33 AM, Blogger Avalon said…

    BA~~ It is very big of you to even consider allowing this kid back into your home if he ever chose to. I don't know that I could do it.

  • At 11:10 AM, Blogger thailandchani said…

    Well, I sure hope it is something good for him, whatever the circumstances were. I hate to think of kids being lost that way.



  • At 11:14 AM, Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said…

    There's still time for him. Not all kids who are bad are born that way. I hope things get better for that boy.

  • At 12:20 PM, Blogger flutter said…

    Of course your door is open. It was even when it wasn't.

    This really made me respect you even more

  • At 12:55 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    Oh that just makes me want to cry... I have so often, I'm sure, judged kids like this prematurely. I will try to remember to give them a chance.

  • At 1:07 PM, Blogger Cathy, Amy and Kristina said…

    "... because even a crappy drug addicted jailbird of a Mother is a Mother. I'm sure he loved her."

    So true. So sad. I hope someone fills the void in his life, one that clearly was present even before his mother's death.

  • At 4:18 PM, Blogger Ms. Skywalker said…

    Keep that door propped open for him, Antagonist. He needs people like you.

    It's funny, how gray the world is, isn't it?

    You represent the chance that he needs, and seriously, bless you for giving him it.

  • At 4:49 PM, Blogger Liv said…

    My own mom took in a few kids who just seemed to like her and listen to her more than other adults. Be open, but always be careful, and continue to honor your children's needs first.

  • At 5:07 PM, Blogger OhTheJoys said…

    I hope so too. Nice one, BA!

  • At 5:28 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    One of the odd things I discovered going into teaching so late in life (40) is the students who drive you nuts. They're usually my freshmen students. It seems like you're pulling teeth trying to get work out of them, talking to them about their choices, and just generally being on their case. They don't like it at all, yet they're the students who always say hi to you after they're out of your class. The "good" students just move on because you're just another teacher to them. Those students remember you because they don't always have someone in their life who cares enough to make them act right. They need those boundaries and they do respect them even if it doesn't seem like it at first...or for a very long time.

  • At 11:51 PM, Blogger Girlplustwo said…

    poor Cory. Why the world is so cruel for some kids is hard to understand. you matter to him, BA. I will be interested to see how he shows that to you.

  • At 12:15 AM, Blogger Jen said…

    Wow. Just - wow.

  • At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My parents taught at a school with VERY underpriviledged kids. Many of them like this kid, whose parents were either druggies, in jail, or just not around. And most of the kids were good deep down inside... they just hd never been given the chance to show it.

    Jane, Pinks & Blues

  • At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    One of the things that keeps me reading here regularly is you very keen, observant eye. Recognizing that this kid was troubled yet not trouble (completely) is something I don't think a lot of adults can distinguish readily.

    I hope you're right and that you get the chance to see the improvements in him continue.

  • At 2:51 AM, Blogger Polgara said…

    I blog hopped over here in a bored moment at work and your writing has moved me.
    I hope you dont mind if i subscribe and come back.

  • At 7:57 AM, Blogger Ruth Dynamite said…

    Sometimes it's hard to remember that kids are, in fact, kids.

    I suspect you'll be seeing more of this kid - and I'm thrilled for you both.

  • At 11:07 PM, Blogger crazymumma said…

    There is hope for everyone.

    I love how open you are to the possibility.


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