Friday, September 29, 2006

Derrick and the Mom Who Yells

Tuesday and Friday mornings are a team effort at the Smith House because these are garbage pickup days on our street. We must be among the first houses they come to because they're always here really early. David's always wanting to be at the office early and it's a sprint of breakfast, clean socks, coffee making, trash can and out the door!

The past two days we've had trash pickup, I've been on the front porch throwing the last of the trash into the can when a woman and her children have come walking down the street. I first saw them a few weeks ago during one of my walks with Corduroy. Their family is a little boy about 6, a little baby girl about 14 months and their mom.

The thing is that every morning, the little boy is lagging behind the mom and the baby girl and the mom is SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS at him. He's a little bit nerdy. He's got thick glasses and he looks like his hair could stand to be washed and cut. He wears a Birmingham City School uniform that looks a little rumpled. He looks shy. He looks at me out of the corner of his eyes as he walks by. He doesn't smile, but I don't think it would take much to get him to.

I know his name because the mom will say things to him like "Derrick, if you didn't drag your damn feet all over the house, you might have been able to get some breakfast, but you don't get any because you're too slow!" or "Derrick hurry up. If you weren't so damn stupid, you'd be ready in time."

This morning, Corduroy dog heard the mom yelling and she ran out on to the porch and barked. Loudly. And growled. It scared Derrick, but I think what Corduroy meant to do was to scare the mom. If we had one of those dog-bark/English translators, I think Old Cord Dog would be saying something like "Bitch, if you don't shut up, I'm going to eat your friggen face off." That's what I like to think of Cord Dog.

My prayers these days go like this: God, please let someone at school make sure Derrick gets some breakfast. God, please let someone say something kind to him today. God, please let him get a bath and a haircut. God, please make sure that Derrick gets some love from someone today. God, please do something to make his mom's life less overwhelming. God, let me know them better so I can do something. God, show me what to do..

I guess what bothers me most is that there is really nothing in the world I'd rather have than a little boy or girl. This woman has both and she doesn't seem to want them. But I want them. Especially Derrick. I'd let him eat breakfast twice every morning.

The world is an unfair place and it's hard to understand sometimes.


amanda said...

Isn't it so hard in situations like that to hold yourself back from hugging the heck out of that child, and/or throwing bricks at the parent? That makes me really sad.

Maybe it says a lot about me that I'd rather throw bricks at the mom than hug her, too.

susan said...

I wanted Corduroy to eat her face off. I called her some really awful names. And then I thought about it for a minute. She doesn't seem very smart and I know she doesn't live in a great house. I bet her life is hard.

I'm smart and I have more education than many people and yet, life is really hard sometimes. If I had two kids all by myself and had to work really hard to support them, I might yell, too. But, I hope not. I guess you can love your kids and still be a bad parent?


John in Birmingham said...

Many a parent feels that way about their kids from time to time, even daily. The difference is that most have learned at least enough self control to avoid lashing out like that, at least in public, and at least most of the time. You've got to feel pity for this woman in that no one (not her church, not her parents, not her friends, not her schools) has ever taught her, either through direct instruction or modeling good behavior, that lack of self control makes you appear self-centered, immature and incompetent. She's also never been taught that lashing out like that really hurts your kids; poor Derrick will be dealing with this hurt for a long time, no doubt.

I say all this "she's never been taught" not to say that she is free of guilt; it is sin that causes her to act that way, and she's plenty guilty. But she's never been taught to curb her sinful tendencies in this respect, so they are given full reign and the damage is just that much worse. I want to say stuff like that to my kids sometimes, but I usually don't because, through God's grace, I've been taught to form habits of self control that make me think before I speak. I'm still just as sinful as Derrick's mom, but self control permits me to prevent some of the damage to my kids that my sin would otherwise cause.

susan said...

JP, I respect that you're trying to see the other side of this situation, I really do. I'm just not sure you should have to be trained not to abuse a small person when you're a big person. It just seems like you should know that already. That thin line of inhibition separating desire and action is a critical part of being human, don't you think?

Could I take this so far as to say Derrick's mom is less human, do you think? I don't know, but it's an interesting thought.


John in Birmingham said...

But maybe you can be trained to MIStreat a small person. And maybe she was! I find myself treating my kids like my parents treated me all the time.

This doesn't excuse it, of course. It's more of a "there but for the grace of God go I" kind of thing.

And yes, if you push your logic, you could end up with a "she's less than human" kind of conclusion, but I don't think you would do that.

susan said...

Well, if I did take it that far, I'd be wrong. I actually saw them this morning and I spoke to the mom. She said good morning and I felt such compassion toward her.