The wonderful world of Justice and Mommy aka Mary!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bridging The Gap With Boys Town

As I sent Justice off on his first day of school, snapping pictures all the way, I had the same dream and vision every mother does. My boy would go to school and outshine all the other students in academics and behavior. He would be the star student, well on his way to Harvard. The apple of everyone’s eye.

Let’s just say things did not go as planned. It did not take long for the notes to start coming home. “Justice is not following directions.", "Justice is talking out of turn.", "Justice needs to complete his work in class.", BLAH BLA BLAH….

It was not what I had envisioned. By December, Justices teacher realized he was falling behind academically due to his behavior and we felt it was time to have our first parent teacher conference. I was careful to schedule it around a time when both Josh and I could be there. He never showed that day. I sat there with Justice’s teachers going over his progress. They presented me with cold hard facts. He was bright and engaging; but, he was also defiant, distracted and causing excessive problems in the classroom. His seat had even been moved away from the rest of the class. He was THAT kid.

It was a hard pill to swallow; but, thankfully I’m good at swallowing pills. I absorbed the truth then moved to the next step. It was time to take action. The school recommended an early intervention program with Boys Town. It was very intensive and would involve a one-two hour in home commitment from me. A case manager would be assigned to us, meet with us in our home every week and monitor Justice in school as well as meet with his teachers. The goal was to get everybody on the same page and stop the small problems before they became big problems. I was game.

In a few weeks a got a call from Jeremy Makefield. He was a case manager from Boys Town and he had been assigned to us. We spoke for a few minutes and agreed that Thursdays at 5:30 would be the best time for a weekly meeting. I was not sure of what to expect from the program; but, I knew I needed help. I couldn’t be there at school with Justice, so I had to do whatever was asked of me to support him during those precious hours where he was out of my control. I needed somebody who could bridge that gap for me. Mr. Makefield and Boys Town were just the bridge I needed.

Our first meeting went well and was filled with background and history. Mr. Makefield listened intently as I described the issues we were facing. He took note of the key issues and began to develop a plan of action in his head. Our situation was not so unique as I had originally thought. He had seen it all and even though Justice was an individual he did fit a certain sort of pattern.

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Mr. Makefield prescribed consistency, practice and understanding. All were within my reach. The prognosis was good and we all felt as if success was on the precipice. He warned me things may get worse before they get better, but promised things would get better. I was ok with that.

Justice responded well to Mr. Makefield. He was thrilled to have a consistent and positive male influence in his life. As the weeks wore on I became more and more surprised at the results. Justice had flipped from bad to good like a light switch. He went from earning mostly sad faces and negative notes to mostly happy faces and well deserved praise. It was the miracle I had been looking for.

As quickly as everything came together it fell apart. Justices father had been living with a married woman who he impregnated. As her stomach swelled with bastard life no explanation was made to Justice. When she moved out of the apartment taking most of her things he was not spoken to about the new living arrangement. He was left to fend for himself and figure things out on his own.

Luckily I became enlightened to the situation. Justice got the explanation he was looking for; but, the damage had already been done. To make matters worse, his father moved to Delaware somewhat unexpectedly right after Mothers Day. It was all a bit too much for Justice. He started to slide back down the hill he fought so hard to climb up. He was angry and scatterbrained. He was sleeping more than 12 hours a day. I almost want to say he was exhibiting signs of clinical depression. It was hard to watch.

I felt bad for Justice and wished I had a magic wand to make all his troubles go away. This is where it becomes very difficult to be a single parent with a father who behaves recklessly. Honestly I couldn't care less what he does, except for the fact that his actions directly affect my son. Why doesn't he see that? Why do some parents think they can behave any way they want and then lie to their children to save face? We expect our sports hero's to lead lives worthy of adoration by our children and when they do atrocious things off the field like Michael Vick and the dog fighting scandal, we call them out on it. So, why don't we hold fathers to the same standard?

It is a puzzle to me which may never be solved; but, I am very pleased to say, with Justices father out of the picture I was able to provide an ultra-stable home life and helped him get back on track by the last two weeks of school. Unfortunately Justice lost his trip on the hot air balloon which was promised for a huge, consistent change in his behavior.

It was so hard for me to keep my word and cancel the balloon trip. It just wasn't fair. Justice had no control over the craziness his fathers life and it was no surprise that it affected him in such a way. I really feel like he should have been cut some more slack; but, if I did not keep my word I knew I would be setting myself up for disaster in the next year. My word would mean nothing.

I promised Justice he could have the trip next year if his behavior was good and consistent and assured him of my love. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have had to stick to as a mother. I know I did the right thing, but it hurt so bad to do it. The light at the end of the tunnel is shinning bright and I believe I will emerge into it at the end of next school year.

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With the influence from his father greatly diminished, I have the ability to provide an ultra consistent day to day life for Justice and I look forward to it quite eagerly. In my heart I know the upcoming year is going to be much better and I have great hopes for my son. With the proper love and guidance I believe he can reach for the starts and meet any goal he sets for himself.

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posted by Mary Gerber at 9/28/2008 0 comments

A Right Of Passage

As a single mother I like to be as self sufficient as possible. I hate to ask for help. Most of the time I find I am able to accomplish many tasks around the house most women would ask their men to do. I hang curtain rods like a pro and can unclog a sink with ease; but, every now and then I just can’t do it alone. Luckily I belong to an amazing church, Vintage Worship Gathering. It is one of very few places I feel comfortable asking for help.

This week I had a war with Justices bike and I lost. It was time for the training wheels to come off, so I got out the pliers and gave it my best. I applied a death grip to the bolts holding the superfluous wheels in place and proceeded to twist and turn the pliers to no avail. I threw all my might into it and gave it my best; but, those darned bolts wouldn’t budge. Not even an inch. After yelling a few very un-Christian obscenities at the Batman bike, I decided to concede.

The next day I sent Albert, the unsung pastor of my church an e-mail requesting a small favor from Vintage. The removal of two training wheels. Of course he was happy to arrange for the small favor and told me to swing by band practice on Thursday, either he or Albert D. would remove the wheels. It was a load off my shoulders. I was anxious to teach Justice how to ride a two wheeler, just like my dad taught me and was hoping to spend the weekend doing so.

Thursday came and we loaded Justice’s Batman bike quite awkwardly into the Honda Civic. We drove the one and a half blocks to Vintage and entered the building to the crashing sound of drums. Albert D. was practicing on stage. It didn’t take long for him to realize we were there. He stopped playing and picked up his toolbox, which he had placed smartly on the stage. Within moments those pesky wheels were off and Al was handing them to me as if they were nothing.

I was shocked, yet not surprised at how quickly he was able to remove them. It never ceases to amaze me what the right tool and the correct measure of strength will accomplish. Of course Al was happy to be of help and even suggested we practice next to a patch of grass in order to provide a somewhat soft place to fall in the event Justice lost his balance. I was thankful for the help and suggestion.

Almost immediately we were out the door and before I could say no or wait, Justice hopped on his bike with no fear in sight. Strange I thought…..I was petrified when my dad took my training wheels off. I was terrified of falling, convinced I could not do what so many other children could do. My father reassured me, telling me I could do anything I put my mind to and with a good measure of apprehension I got on my pink Huffy bike with the assurance of my father. He promised to hold my balance on the back of the seat. He promised not to let go. I believed him. In an instant I was riding my bike up the uneven sidewalk of Byberry Road. I was doing it! I was really doing it! Then, all in an instant, I glanced back at my father who was holding me up only to find he was several feet behind me beaming from ear to ear. SHOCK, HORROR! CRASH, I hit the pavement. The tears flew from my eyes even faster than the screams could escape my gaping lips. He had let go. He didn’t keep me safe like he had promised.

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I wanted things to be different for Justice. I wanted to warn him gently that he would fall. I wanted him to know that skinning his knees or earning a bruise on his arm were all part of the process; but, it would be ok. I would hold him up; but, I would let go. I would be loving, yet honest.

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He had other plans. In the instant he jumped on the bike, my own childhood experience passed before my eyes. I watched him weeble and wobble, then I watched him get the hang of it in let than sixty seconds. I stood in awe. I had never seen anything like it. Was it possible for a child to learn to ride a two wheeler without the guidance of a mother or father? Could a little boy, my little boy, learn to keep his balance without me holding the back of his seat? Apparently the answer was yes.

For a moment my heart swelled with sadness and the same type of sorrow that covers the space left in an empty nest. My boy did not need me. My plans to do things differently had been shattered by something I had not anticipated. Unadulterated confidence. Justice wanted me there to smile at him and he wanted me there to tell him how proud I was of him; but, I was not necessary. I had become one with the superfluous wheels.

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Fortunately, I recover quickly. I packed Justice in the car and made our way back to the house. We had our last appointment with Mr. Makefield from Boys Town, so the bike riding would have to be put on hold for a bit. Luckily for Justice we had a few minutes before his arrival when we reached home and he made the best of it.

He rode his bike up and down the cement sidewalk, shaky at times and steady at others. All the time he wore a huge smile. It was so big I thought it might escape his face and travel through the air like a balloon floating in the breeze. He kept posing in front of his bike beaming with pride every time I pointed the camera at him. He wanted this day memorialized in every way. He had earned a right of passage in American life, a defining moment- the moment that would separate him from the little kids and the big kids. He could ride a two wheeler.
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posted by Mary Gerber at 9/28/2008 0 comments