It’s been a day filled with family, good food, baskets, eggs, presents, and more… But the things I’m most thankful for are the reasons behind the holiday: Jesus’ Resurrection and our salvation. Happy Easter to everyone from Joshua and me! May we all remember and count our blessings today.
Tonight my heart is bleeding for child victims of neglect.
Around 6 o’clock this chilly evening, we noticed a toddler who had wandered into our driveway from the alley behind the house. She was dirty and wearing thin, short-sleeved pajamas and one adult-sized tennis shoe. She was pretending to paint our car with a paintbrush.
I waited awhile for an adult to appear, but no one did. When I rushed out to further assess the situation, I saw her barely-older brother, also in thin PJs and adult shoes, playing near the alley. I asked them where their mommy was. “She left me,” said the little boy.
So I knocked repeatedly on our neighbor’s slightly-open screen door , but no one came. I opened the door and yelled inside several times. Still, no one responded. I sent the kids inside to get an adult, and they came back – twice – without one.
The little boy asked me to ask his daddy if they could play outside. When I told him to get his father so that I could talk to him, he said, “There’s no grown ups.”
After ten-ish minutes of this, my mom called the police as I told the kids to wait for me to run inside and get my own shoes. Before I knew it, both of them had let themselves into our house, and upstairs into my bedroom!
We tried again and again to knock and yell into the house near where they’d been playing outside. More silence. One of the kids said their daddy was sleeping in a chair inside, so we carefully and very nervously entered the house.
The kitchen floor was covered in items that I can only assume the kids had flung out of the kitchen cabinets. There was a baby girl in a playpen chewing on dirty women’s tennis shoes. They had all been left unattended for what was obviously a very long time.
Because there was their dad, curled up in a ball on the recliner, practically comatose. We yelled and yelled at him, from only a few inches away, but he didn’t respond. I was seriously afraid that he was dead. So we kicked his chair multiple times, finally stirring him.
He said, “Yeah?”
We said, “We live in the house across the alley. Your children wandered into our yard and then our house. They don’t have on any shoes or jackets. They’ve been playing in the alley, and could get hit by a car. We’ve been trying for a long time to get your attention to make sure everything is alright.”
He said, “Okay??”
And we went through that exact dialogue two or three more times.
He didn’t question who we were, where we came from, or why we were in his house. He wasn’t startled, worried, confused, embarrassed, or concerned in any way. He was also obviously high as a kite. When he finally staggered to his feet, we left and shut the back door behind us.
Unbelievable. This man was more concerned about having been awakened than that the children for whom he was supposed to be caring were playing outside in the alley, in the cold, and entering a stranger’s home.
When a police officer finally arrived at our house, I explained to him my concern for those children. He went to their front door, and got no answer. He tried their back door – no answer again.
I started to walk back to our house, but decided to run after the police car as it was pulling away. The officer told me that the guy finally answered the door, giving him the explanation was that the children had gone to sleep with him, and must have slipped out the unchained back door without waking him. The officer said there was nothing he could do, and that he had to leave. No big deal.
I beg to differ. Huge deal! I cried all the way back to my house. I thought about those kids, imagining them getting hit by cars, being abducted, and worse. I wondered if they had been whooped for causing trouble. I thought about the baby, and wondered how long she’d been sitting in a dirty diaper in her playpen. What kind of parents don’t know or care where their children are?!
I told my family that I want to go back and offer to babysit. They told me not to get involved, that they couldn’t pay for it anyway. I told them I’d do it for free. They told me that I can’t save everyone.
I am so unbelievably frustrated right now. Little kids deserve for their caretakers to actually care for them. I don’t know what I can do for the little kids from the house across the alley, but there has to be something I can do for others like them.
I’m open to suggestions. For now, I’m going to do some Internet research to try to figure it out. And tonight I’ll pray for all the kids who are neglected by their guardians daily.
Moving back home, while totally humbling and slightly embarrassing (even if it is just temporary), does have its perks. I get to spend tons more time with my mom, who is inadvertently teaching me about nearly all aspects of life daily through her words, actions, and general attitude. She is and always has been a Super Woman. A wonderful mother, daughter, sister, friend, employee, woman.
Her success as a mother (the part to which I can attest the most) of three now-generally-productive-adult members of society has been astounding, especially since she did it with limited support, financially and otherwise. On her worst days, she was a world-class personal chef, maid, chauffeur, alarm clock, accountant, ATM, party planner, therapist, and cheerleader. Really, she could teach a class on this stuff.
In fact, my mom was and continues to be so good at what she does that I’m afraid I am bound to fall short of her awesomeness. I suppose anyone can learn to cook and clean. (God knows I never had to because she always did those things for me.) But her innate abilities to fulfill all of her responsibilities and then some without complaint and to nurture her relationships with the people she loves, two jobs that often require intense effort, overwhelm me when I ponder how she does it all.
My mother’s wisdom and grace are, above all else, her two most attractive qualities. I doubt my mom enjoyed cooking for and then cleaning up after a large (and often oblivious and ungrateful) family, waking up early on the weekends just to sit in the parking lot waiting for our sports practices to end, or spending her very-limited income responsibly while still providing us with everything we needed and wanted. But she never complained or let us know that she could use a break.
I’m sure my mom probably would have rather spent her free time sipping a glass of wine in a bubble bath, getting massages and pedicures, or shopping for new clothes. And she deserves to be doing all of those things, especially now that all of her children are grown and out of the house. But instead, she offered to take in her adult daughter and toddling grandson so that they could create a better life for themselves.
I can only hope that one day, I will be half as good a mother to Joshua as my mom has been to my sister, my brother, and me. But it’s going to take quite a bit of blood, sweat, and tears in order for me to get there. That’s where my goals for this year come in to play. I intend to use them as a sort of road map to lead me to becoming the kind of mother and example that Josh deserves, as well as the kind of daughter my mom deserves.
They say that it is unhealthy to compare oneself to others. I disagree. It is unhealthy to envy others, and to focus on how one is in negative contrast to them. It is healthy to identify the qualities that others possess that we would like to develop, and then emulate the thought processes, words, and actions that bring about the manifestation of those qualities. (I wonder how many social psychologists would scoff at the statement I just made?!)
So in an attempt to avoid defeatist, negative self-talk (the self-fulfilling prophecy, I think?), I’ll elaborate only as far as to say that I could be a better testament to my mother’s efforts and accomplishments. The silver lining is that, from here, I have nowhere to go but up.
At the risk of sounding like I’m making a dramatic acceptance speech at an awards ceremony… Here’s to my mom, from whom I am learning so much each day, and to whom I owe credit for many of my past and future successes. And here’s to the substantial remainder of 2012, which I intend to use by making her proud.
Time sure does fly. Nearly five years ago, I was a graduating senior of Tennessee State University’s mass communication (print journalism) department and member of the school’s volleyball team. My priorities and goals were those of a young woman with many dreams and few responsibilities.
Ah, the good ol’ days………….
A life of indulgence. My free time involved reading my favorite books while lying by the pool, writing about anything that got my creative juices flowing, dinner and drinks with friends, catching up on trashy television programs, taking daily trips to Jack-n-the-Box, buying new clothes if I ran out of clean ones, staying up late, sleeping in on weekends, napping… All kinds of fun stuff. I had never cooked, rarely cleaned, barely budgeted, and definitely never considered methods of child-rearing.
But college graduation came sooner than I was prepared for it. Then the bills for rent and student loans came sooner than I wanted them. Then my first child was born sooner than I had planned.
Fast-forward five years.
A life of sacrifice and a little elbow grease. (And exhaustion, as you can see!) I now spend my free time grocery shopping, clipping coupons, trying to prepare healthy meals (Yes! Me. The girl whose first attempt at making grilled cheese resulted in a visit from the fire department.), searching for new ways to save money, changing diapers, kissing “owies,” singing nursery rhymes, cleaning up messes, folding basket after basket of tiny clothes not much bigger than my socks, skipping watching my favorite TV programs to watch The Fresh Beat Band, and so much more stuff I never believed I would do. (And if you knew me five years ago, you wouldn’t believe it either!) For the first time, another person exists on this planet who is more important than myself. Whole new ball game!
And I’d gladly trade it all again for my little bundle of joy. The domestic life is more challenging than I ever thought it would be. In a good way. I have a brand new idea of what “home economics” really means. I also have a new outlook on what it means to have a meaningful role in life. What job is more important than raising a child?
So here’s to even better new days………..
With the change in responsibility has come a major shift in what I consider to be my priorities. My professional, domestic, financial, spiritual, and personal goals have all been affected (and for the much-much-better, I must say). To answer the (rhetorical) question in the last paragraph, I don’t believe I’ll ever do anything as important as raising my child to be a God-fearing, compassionate, and productive member of society. But I also believe that being a mother is not the only life role that God has planned for me. (Now if only He would speak plainly, and just tell me exactly what that plan is!)
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I absolutely love being the mother of the most precious little boy who ever lived (hey – my blog, my prerogative). Still, though, I hope to eventually find meaningful, fulfilling work outside the walls of my home. To determine my life’s true calling, if you will.
This blog will serve as my first step in doing so. I intend to use it in order to help me to become a better mother; a more efficient and organized homemaker; a better saver and spender; a more faithful Christian; and a more informed, intelligent, well-rounded, healthy, and happy woman. And, of course, to allow me to maintain my sanity by engaging in the kind of reading and writing that feed my soul. Dramatic, much? Absolutely. But I’m just not the same without my books, pens, and paper (e-reader, keyboard, and monitor, in 2012 speak).
So if I’m able to snag a J-O-B that harmoniously aligns with all my other goals, then I’ll know that I’ve finally discovered my calling. That I’m truly living in the center of God’s perfect plan for me.
I’ve been saying that I’d write a blog for months. But the advance knowledge that it wouldn’t come out exactly the way I want it, that it wouldn’t be perfect, kept holding me back. That perfectionism is the same reason (okay, excuse) that has kept me from beginning (okay, procrastinating on) many a project that I’d like to tackle.
Then this morning I thought about Jon Acuff’s (fantastic) book Quitter. I’d quote it verbatim if I could find it, but I seem to have misplaced it in my recent move back to my hometown. But he said something along the totally paraphrased lines of, “An idea is better at 90 percent right and done, than perfect and still in your head.” (You get the gist.)
So here (this fledgling blog) is my attempt at Mr. Acuff’s “90 percent right and done…” Or something like that.