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


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