Friday, January 09, 2009

Playdate from Hell that Melted my Heart

I wish I had the emotional fortitude to be a social worker.

The community that is Eight's school is incredible. The academics? Well, she's probably not a genius, so we don't worry about that part too much. But the community? It simply can't be beat.

A family of a girl in Eight's class is in trouble.

The mom is in rehab and has been in and out of their two girls' (one younger) lives, and the dad is doing all he can to hold it together.

And by "it" I mean, I'm sure, not only the kids and their lives, but his own sanity.

Anyway, a group of moms at the school have joined together to help them out in any (and seemingly every) way possible from cleaning their house to a standing committee to organize play dates.

The best I could offer was to be on the play-date rotation, and today was my first time.

I had been warned about the youngest and put aside all aspirations of getting any work done once Big went down for a nap and prepared myself for the worst. And when the worst came, I wasn't surprised, and wasn't shocked. She is essentially a girl raised with few boundaries who is angry and disappointed with her current life situation.

And well, she acted just like Big, so I just maybe had been in better practice than other moms out there who just sent their youngests off to kindergarten.

During her only time-out, I hung out with her in our basement bathroom and listened to her angry growling and recognized myself, a few years later in my own life (nine years old, to be specific), after I woke up one October morning and my older brother informed me that my mom had died an hour or so earlier after only being sick a month, and that I was stuck with my less-than-responsive dad.


Me to her: You know, I kinda like that growling noise you're making. It's a cool way to show that you're mad and it makes me recognize how strong you are.

She didn't stop growling and hid behind a towel so I just kept talking. I told her that I was a little like her. That my mom had died when I was little, and that I heard that her mom wasn't around much. That I was angry. That I can still get angry. That I can yell and that I sometimes want to throw things. That maybe I'd learn to growl.

I told her how unfair it was for someone so little to have to deal with such a big thing.

She growled a little softer.

I know this sounds corny and textbook, but it happened.

I told her my name and that everyone at her school knew me, including the principal and that she could call me if she wanted to talk. I told her that a whole lot of people at that school cared about her, and her sister and her mom and dad.

Eventually, after a lot more growling and hiding behind the towel, she crawled onto my lap.

And now, I look at our kids and am so grateful and so worried for those two because I know what it means to want your mom so bad and have your dad whose trying his best but just not quite cutting it.


Catherine said...

You would be a damn good social worker.

Jen said...

I cried reading this. I wish I had known someone like you when my mom got sick. I also wish I had thought to growl. Thank you for reaching out to someone who really needed to be reached. I'm sure this will make a huge difference in her world.

giddings said...

You guys are sweet. I can't stop thinking about her and her growl.

Catherine -- LOVE The small-you photo!!!!

LilliGirl said...

Awesome way to help a little girl facing what may feel like insurmountable odds to her (and her dad) some days. Understanding goes a loooong way and you did a great thing.