Officer, will my Mom be ok?
This last weekend those words dropped from the mouth of a little eleven year old boy. His sister was beside him. Both of them praying that Momma would wake up. The officer tried to comfort the children giving them words of courage as Momma was checked out by paramedics. Momma had overdosed.
In a matter of minutes, the children’s concern turned to horror and regret. Mom was going to jail. The handcuffs were placed on her and the children wept hysterically. The children were picked up by their Dad (who doesn’t live with them) and the home, new playground, and new friends were left behind.
Heartache. Imagine the thoughts running through their mind. They thought they were being responsible by telling the police officer that Mom was “bad” sick and passed out. They thought she might even die without their help. They thought getting help was the right thing to do. Now the right thing has had some very wrong results.
This story is not made up. This story is very real and just happened this weekend. This young man was to be a recipient of an Empower Youth scholarship for camp. We gave him the camp form two weeks ago and stayed on him daily to have his Mom fill it out. He made excuses every day for Mom, always affirming “please save a spot for me at camp”.
Why didn’t I see this coming? Now, looking back, all the signs were there! He was very independent for an eleven year old. He came and went as he pleased in our Neon Kids creative arts program. He was very good at taking care of himself. He could hang with the high school boys playing street ball as well as kids his own age. He was a scrapper. He took good care of his sister. He was overly helpful and at the next moment incredibly sneaky as he walked around with a can of pop that he “found” while “helping”. His dark brown eyes favored a puppy dog and his openness about finally having friends was a deadly combination. I asked to meet his Mom but he would make excuses saying she was not feeling well or not home.
I just assumed the forms weren’t filled out because he was so busy and not giving them to her. I never even thought that maybe mom couldn’t fill them out. I never thought that his independence was born out of necessity. I knew Dad wasn’t in the picture so I never even got information on his Dad.
Now, this brother and sister are gone. We’ve no address to contact Dad. So we wait to see if there’s any life coming from the apartment he lived in until Saturday.
While I wait, a future defining question picks up force within me like a growing ulcer. Did a young boy and girl just learn that getting momma help was good or did they just learn that there are some things that should be kept secret? When momma gets sick next time, should they find help?
And then the follow through on those questions become more serious… Those things Momma does in secret, if she doesn’t stop, will those things become familiar and routine? That’s the fear that is propelling this Empower Youth.
If a child sees drugs all their life will they learn to hate them or will they look at them as a means of rescue? When I was younger, I remember visiting a friend whose parents smoked. Every day my friend would say she hated the smoke. Her brother felt the same way. There was great disdain for the smell and how hard it was to breathe. Before the children hit junior high school, my friend who had always loathed smoking had begun to sneak cigarettes. By the time she graduated, her momma was buying them. Does that happen in a drug culture as well? Thus is what I wrestle with tonight.
How do we empower youth? We start asking more questions. We break through the wall of apathy and discomfort and visit the new family that just moved in next door. And we start reversing the lessons learned: keeping secrets will not make momma well, children taking care of parents is not the societal norm, and finally trust outside authority to help you be better.
I will be leaving a note for this little boy tomorrow. I will be hoping his Dad comes by to gather things. If not, we may have really lost an opportunity. And those of us who love this little boy will most assuredly lose more sleep thinking of what we could’ve done differently.
PART 2… Just added at 7:47pm May 12.
Today I received a call from a dear friend who had read the blog. She said, “Miss Lori, I know that little boy and I know where you can find him.” My heart caught in my throat as she talked of all the boy’s father had just told a similar tale at her child’s soccer game on Sunday. The little girl played on the team of my friend’s little girl. She invited me to come to their practice tonight.
I did just that! I saw my big brown eyed boy. I saw his little sister playing. I met their Dad. And…I signed them up for camp. Tears of joy and so very thankful we have a second chance to make an impact in the lives of these two children. I loved the little boy’s reaction when he saw me– utter disbelief! “Miss Lori why are you here?” “I’m here cause I missed you.” “OK, can I still go to camp?”
…sigh It has been a very good day.