Monday, June 16, 2008

Short Story Made Long

The other day my neighbor was taking a walk with her son and my kids wanted to join them. J was the one outside with them, and he agreed to let them go on the walk.

After 30 minutes passed, I started to feel a little uncomfortable. In general, I am a very easy-going person. And even in most of the ways I parent, I'm quite laid-back. But there are some things I have become increasingly neurotic about and some things that I'm ever so obsessive about. Most of those things have to do with my children. A couple have to do with chocolate and Bon Jovi.

After 40 minutes had passed, I turned to J and said, "You know, I don't let my kids go with just anyone, and I'm kind of a mess right now with them being gone this long."

J was, as he should have been, very surprised. He said, "But, you watch her kid every day, I figured it wouldn't matter."

"Right, I watch her child, she doesn't watch mine. I let her son into my house, but my kids don't go into her's."

I know most of my friends are particular just like this, so I know I'm not being a snob. Fact is, I actually don't have any problem with this woman. I like her a lot. But she has a boyfriend. Who lives with her. That she knew less than 3 months before he moved in. Who's "shady past" she has referred to in conversation with me. And of course, I can go from shady past to drive-by-shooting in under two seconds, when my kids are involved. Tori, I know you do the same, don't even pretend you're less neurotic than me. :)

So, while I have been very kind (not charitable, I genuinely like the girl), and have even started babysitting her little boy a couple of hours a day, I also have been careful to keep firm boundaries.

I have also been judgmental (in my mind of course) and critical (also in my mind, I think my own husband would be shocked to learn I was being critical...) that some people let other people into their homes after a very brief period of getting to know that person, and allow their child to be left in that person's care for hours at a time.

I remember watching some interview with Amber Frey---right around the time Scott Peterson and his creepy self was big news---and the interviewer said to Amber, "You let him pick your child up from daycare!?" all incredulous-like. I started thinking about that and I thought the interviewer was kind of dumb, but that there were probably a lot of people like that who trusted their kids to people they didn't even know. My neighbor, one of them.

Her little guy went to his grandma's last week for a couple of days so I didn't have him. He didn't show up again today so I peeked outside and saw her car, that she was home from work. Tonight I went over to check up and to see if I would have her son tomorrow.

She opened the door and looked like she'd been run over by a truck. She was crying and clearly had been for at least the last 48 hours.

The boyfriend moved out on Friday. She's pregnant. He took all her money.

Aside from being completely idiotic in letting this guy into her life in the first place, she's really got her stuff together. She keeps her home nice, she drives a nice car, she has a good job as a nurse, she takes good care of her son and she really has her act together. She never once mentioned things being tight to me, until the dude moved in. Now he's left her strapped, pregnant, and without childcare.

Even with all my judging, my heart just breaks for her. Despite the fact that he was an idiot before she picked him up and she still picked him up, she's still a girl who got her heart broken. I stayed and talked to her for 45 minutes and the tears didn't stop once. I didn't know what to say. I said a lot of, "man, what a jerk" and "I'm so sorry" but that was pretty much the extent of what I had to offer.

She just really wanted her mom, but when her mom learned that she'd been "dumped" just walked away and changed the subject.

I wished I could give her some of my peace. I felt bad for her, but part of my mind couldn't help but to go to thoughts of "I don't have to deal with this kind of crap." I knew that I would be going home to my husband who wasn't the man of my dreams, because as big as I dreamed, I never dreamed I'd marry someone as amazing as him. I knew that if I was feeling sad, my mom would comfort me, even if she didn't agree with the subject of my sadness. If I needed to gripe about my husband my mom would be there to say, "Get over it Nobody, they don't come any better than J." I knew that even when your heart feels like it's going to break, there is an end, and I can find comfort.

As much as this isn't really about me, I'd like to make it so. I see this is a learning experience. Whenever I encounter things like this, my response is always to rescue and try to fix everything. It's not my job. I want to give her a wad of cash that I don't have. I want to tell her not to bring home men she doesn't know. While I don't think that would go over so well, I think it's pretty helpful advice. I think she will probably learn from this. I really hope she does because this is an awful rotten thing to have to learn the hard way.


Leslie said...

i had a similar experience a few months ago, a friend of mine stopped by with tears in her eyes, she had just confronted her husband about his affair. his second affair. all i could say was, "what a jerk." then wondered later if that's what i should have said. i felt so terrible for her, no one deserves to be treated like that. i'm sad for your friend. :(

No Cool Story said...

That's so sad.

Just tonight Firstborn gave the FHE about keeping the word of wisdom. Keeping away from bad saves us a lot of tears and grief and misery.
I'm sorry that your friend had to learn the hard way. Amber F was lucky she didn't have to learn with her life or her child's.

Sometimes it's not our fault, like leslie's friend, and sometimes it's a hard tough world out there.

That's just sad.

No Cool Story said...

"I can go from shady past to drive-by-shooting in under two seconds"

Me too sister, me too.

If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, trust me it's a duck.

No Cool Story said...

PS: Fries are a OK!

Sarah Tilley said...

what do you say in situations like that? i never know. the worst is when my mother-in-law calls because i never know when she's suddenly going to start bawling (she does this periodically) and the only thing i can do is say stuff like, "wow, that sucks," "that can't be good," etc. because offering advice is useless, especially when you know they won't take it. then i was reading in a child care book about self-esteem and found out i was doing the right thing by not offering anything but empathy. so now i know the formula is give empathy and never let her take henry swimming...
paranoia is a good thing.

Cindy said...

I had an expereince last year at work. I was subbing in one of the classrooms and one of the teachers just spilled her gut out to me. I hardly knew her and thougt, what do I say? what do I say? Sometimes just being there and listening is the best thing.

That is great that you trust people so much. I can't even leave my 1 year old with a babysitter, let alone a friendly neighbor. I am getting better at it though...I think!

Better see you next Friday!!

MommyJ said...

So, ummmm, not to detract from the lesson that you learned and the sadness that your friend was feeling, but did they ever bring your kids back from the walk?

I'm thinking so, cause you might be a little more upset and not so in to learning valuable life lessons if they didn't...

Millie said...

I feel the same way - even while you're thinking "HELLO!", you still feel terrible for her. What a sick situation. Hopefully she'll be able to turn this around.

Code Yellow Mom said...

I'm looking at the same kind of thing right now. Crying all morning over someone else's spilled milk because I can't clean it up for her, and also because I've got it good.

But I'm a lot more critical and bossy than you. :)

It is a whole nuther ballgame when my kids are at another person's house. (I had a little freak out over Cal's first drop-off birthday party the other day. I knew it was fine, but...) I love feeling mother's intuition, though, and you'll never go wroing trusting it.

Sketchy said...

Now this is why I love the gospel. Ok one of the reasons I love the gospel. People think they are so free and then the come the shackles of what they have actually done to their lives. So sad.

As much as my heart does break for her, and it does. I totally get your desire for some boundaries whe it comes to your kids. Especially with someone who's proven to have some bad judgement.

I also think you did the right thing in keeping all that to yourself for the moment. She knew she'd been stupid, I'm sure at least half the tears were for how stupid she felt for letting this guy betray her.

But maybe later, when she's had a chance to recover a bit you could casually inject a little common sense lessons in there? Sounds like she could use them in the future.

Sketchy said...

I know! Maybe you could get a copy of Dr. Laura's book about Stupid things Women do (it's called something like that), beat it up a bit to make it look like you've used it a lot. Then lay it out on the table sometime you know she's going to come over, then say something like "OH I love this book it has taught me so much!" or something like that and then offer it to her.

Or you could just invite her to church.


I think you handled it well. This neighbor needed to purge, and vent, and cry and confide in someone who would listen and care. You provided all that.

While I feel somewhat sorry for her I feel infinitely more sorry for the baby and her son that will be dragged into this mess.

Lisa said...

Two words: Judge Judy. Hasn't she seen this??? If so she would have known not to let that man come live with her.

Ditto Elastic. Very sad for those children. Very very sad.

Boundaries are good. I am starting to feel more and more uneasy about parties and sleepovers...."Just come home and get some sleep. I'll pick you up at 11pm."

Physcokity said...

"I can go from shady past to drive-by-shooting in under two seconds"

For the over active and over protective mind it still doesn't take that long...

The best thing to do in situations like this (and trust me I've been through my share) is just to listen and respond enough to show you're listening, usually that's just what they need is someone who will listen so they can get this weight out into the open. No it doesn't take away all the pain and hurt, but it certainly helps to know that you can talk about what's happened.

Physcokity said...

and amen to the advice of these wise fellow bloggers.

glittersmama said...

Yeah, what happened with the kidlets? I wonder why people don't understand that it's really in their best interest to not give it up until you've got some kind of legal arrangement. Nothing is THAT great.

Suzanne said...

It's interesting how thing like this really give us perspective! Sometimes I feel like my life is harder than it should be, then I see what happens to others and it's humbling. I hope everything turns out o.k. for her.

And I'm assuming that your kiddies came back from their walk o.k.?

The Motherboard said...

man. that bites for your friend. She was lucky to have someone with perspective to listen to her.

I have a tendency to come home from experiences like that going: "Whew! boy. I have it good!"

Perspective is a beautiful thing!

aubrey said...

your poor neighbor. what a good friend you are to sit with her and let her cry on your shoulder. i hope things start looking up for her.

i'm a paranoid mother. i'm all about having the playdates here instead of having my kids go to certain homes.

S said...

Every valley eventually takes you to a mountain top!! As you know I have found myself in your position more than I care to admit. And the end result years later is always beautiful. That baby may be her saving grace, the greatest gift EVOH. Atleast he is gone, and he left bad so maybe she will live and learn less brutal next time. Remember not everyone was taught to be afraid of bowling allys like you were:) ps ditto on "and amen to the advice of these wise fellow bloggers."

S said...

ps Jen4 has a post for YOU!!!! :)

NOBODY said...

Leslie--Welcome back! :) I always worry about saying "what a jerk" too--just in case people don't decide to leave the jerk.

NCS 1,2,3--I'm going to feel abandoned and dumped if you ever comment just once. Thanks for indulging me. :) I love that Firstborn gave that lesson. I hope my kids understand that lesson early.
And who wants to date a duck anyway?

Tilley--Your formula cracked me up. And "that can't be good" is a GREAT line. I'm stealing it.

Cindy--Friday? I'm totally busy. :)

MommyJ--Yes, my kids came home safely. It was only the girl and her boy, not the boyfriend. But I'm all about, you are what you eat, you are who you associate with. That's why I associate with millionaires as much as possible. Or play the lottery.

Millie---yeah, I was thinking the whole time, "this SO could have been avoided". I should tell her, "Before you make any other life decisions, please consult with me. I'm wise beyond my weight. I mean, age.

CYM--yeah, drop off parties make me itchy and nervous. Uh intend to be ever bit as strict and "over-protective" as my mother. Whoever coined the phrase over protective never had a methhead invite their child over for a play date. :)How about that one?

Sketchy--I think you might be my more articulate twin. I wanted to say some of the things you said, but I couldn't articulate it like you did. She was absolutely heartbroken over her stupidity. I told J that night, she was probably only crying about 10% over loneliness or missing him.
And I love your idea about the Dr. Laura book. Very funny. In reality, no book I ever want to give to someone is that easily accessible or found. I think she'd call my bluff. :) When I give unsolicited advice I say, "I read in an article..." and then I make up whatever crap I think I should be preaching at some poor unsuspecting person who clearly knows less than me.

EWBL--You are right, sad for the children. I actually feel less bad for these two kids because they both have fathers who won't have anything to do with them. Sometimes that's better than unhealthy relationships and bad fathers. IMHO

Lisa-LOL about Judge Judy. That's a woman I wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. :)
I was never allowed sleep overs, and while I hated it, I am ETERNALLY grateful to my parents now. It saved me a lot of exposure to a lot of crap.

Physcokity--ever since I've "met" you I've wanted to tell people I got my degree in physcology. I just think it would be very worthwhile to begin.
You are right too--people just need to be listened too. And yeah, the people who comment here ARE wise. I have gotten some very helpful advice on this here blog. I've gotten some dumb advice too.
Just kidding.

Glittersmama--HA! You funny.
And yes, my kids are safe and sound and busily making more work for me than God intended one person to do.

Suzanne---that's exactly what was going through my mind, "I have it so good, I have it soooo good."

Motherboard---Perspective IS a beatiful thing.

Aubrey--I'm all about the paranoia.

S--you just commented, I have to go read it, but I didn't want you to feel left out.

NOBODY said...

S-Okay, your reference to the bowling alley totally made me laugh out loud, even though I have no idea what that means.

And you make a good point---things can and often do turn out to be really good, even when they start out looking like they won't be.

Mamarazzi said...

tragic. truly.