I can’t stop thinking about this

little boy in Fisher’s kindergarten class. We’ll call him "Wayne."

Wayne and Fisher did not start out on the best of terms. Fisher’s… well, you know Fisher. Academic, rule-follower, anti-violence, honestly kind of a teacher’s pet (go Buzz!). Wayne showed up on the first day of school with an "Army of One" t-shirt. Things went downhill from there.

At one point several months ago, Fisher started crying when it was time for him to go to school. He *never* does this. So after some gentle interrogation, I found out he was afraid to go out to recess because Wayne was hitting him and calling him names ("dumbass?" who in kindergarten calls another kid "dumbass?"). Cue mama-tiger mode. At the end of that day, Rhys and I marched into the school to go have a few words with Mrs. Gorman. As we stepped into the crosswalk at the entrance to the staff parking lot (emphasis on STAFF, as in -only), a giant filthy pickup truck came roaring through without even slowing down; we had to jump backwards to keep from getting squished. I made eye contact with the driver as she blazed past… it was Wayne’s mom, "Cora."

Ahhh, Cora. Now, if Wayne’s a piece of work, it’s entirely due to the gentle influences of his mother. She’s close to six feet tall, tweeker-skinned, given to wearing halter tops and low-slung jeans that do not at all suit her daunting body type (honestly, she looks like a cage fighter). Her life is a litany of sorrow and she responds with rage.

Fisher’s teacher is not a gossip, but I managed to pick up a little information about Wayne’s family situation from overheard snatches of conversation and comments made by other classroom moms. (The regular unscary crosswalk-respecting ones.) Apparently Wayne, his mom, Wayne’s little brother and sometimes Wayne’s mom’s sister and her brood spent most of the school year bouncing from motel room to motel room, sometimes getting child support checks from Wayne’s dad and sometimes living on a whole lot of nothin’. At one point Cora spent a couple weeks in jail. And for the entire last month of school, Wayne did not show up.

Then on the last day of school… poof, there he was! He told his classmates he’d spent the last three weeks playing video games with his mom’s friend because his mom was too tired to take him to school. When Cora showed up at the end of the day, Mrs. Gorman asked her to stay behind and talk to her for a few minutes. Cora did so, reluctantly, arms crossed, face fixed in a scowl, leaning against the back wall of the classroom as the new graduates made their tearful goodbyes. Fisher was staying behind to give his teachers big hugs and get some photos… so when Mrs. Gorman approached Cora, I stepped away to try not to hear their conversation. Mrs. Gorman used a soft enough voice that I couldn’t hear her, but Cora bellowed:

"I couldn’t get him to school. I couldn’t call. I was up pukin.’"

"I don’t have any support at home. There’s nothing I can do about it."

"Well, I’m not LIKE the other mommies!" At this, she grabbed Wayne’s arm and stomped off.


So despite all the problems that Wayne and Fisher have had this year, my heart is just breaking for this little boy. For god’s sake, he was truant for a month in kindergarten. He has no chance, no hope, unless by some miracle his mom cleans herself up and gets her life right, or if someone can step in and make a difference for him. I feel like I should do something… but what? Honestly, I don’t know if it would be safe for me or my family to have anything to do with them… scary people tend to have scary friends and the last thing we need is to get mixed up with people with a meth lab in their single-wide. And if I did approach her, how would she respond? She seems rather the sort of person who’d be happy to beat the crap out of me for suggesting she’s not exactly mother of the year…

What would you do?

In other news, Jim said we can move back to California. *happy dance, happy dance* Probably about a year from August, i.e., when Rhys starts kindergarten.

About Molly Newman

Writer, cook and trivia/spelling bee hostess, living it up in North Portland.
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6 Responses to I can’t stop thinking about this

  1. Jen says:

    Oh, I know how you feel. There was a child in one of our activity classes who comes from a very messed-up family. I wished there was something I could do, but mom’s moved them all to Vegas to live with her new boyfriend.
    What could you do, really? DCFS would hardly be a help to them, sounds like she’s doing the best she can. Maybe a carefully supervised, mostly-outdoors playdate would be a good start. Show the kid there is more to life.

  2. Holy Trailer Trash! If there is no intervention, Wayne doesn’t have a chance in hell. I’m not sure where you are, but most states have Child Protective Services that can step in. Calls are confidential. It could mean Wayne will be removed from his family and put in foster care, expecially because of the abuse. It’s very hard on the child who doesn’t know anything other than abuse…but it could be a life saver for this little guy. So much damage has been done already, but I’m a believer that it’s never too late to save a child. Considering this family’s violent past, stepping in without the anonymity of CPS could very well put your family at risk.
    My heart just aches for these children…
    Back to CA?? Good for you!!

  3. Jerrene` says:

    Hi Molly, not sure if you remember me, but I remember you from dmarie—still visit there regularly—
    Anyway, I can relate to your desire to do something for “Wayne”—nobody likes to see a small child left for the wolves to devour…and with his family situation, he just doesn’t seem to have much going for him. Unfortunately, it’s so hard to step in without possibly harming your own family! Your son sounds like a sweet heart—and with his initial fears of “Wayne” it just doesn’t seem like a play-date would be all that terrific for your little guy (let’s invite the “boogie man” over for cupcakes so you can see he’s not really a bad guy….then watch “Wayne” bop your poor little boy or worse watch Fisher start picking up some of his nasty habits! Nope, I’d pass if it were my child). We had kids in the neighborhood we’d become friends with, and I always hoped they’d pick up some of our “good” traits, and when they moved on there’d be warm memories from visits here. I also know there are some kids I never could like—didn’t matter how kind we were, or how we tried to reach out, we just never clicked—just like some adults we’ve met.
    Hopefully for Fisher’s sake, “Wayne” will have moved on before 1st grade starts—or at least will be in a different class, and you won’t have to deal with him or his mom again. It’s hard to not try to do something, but in my “old” age I’ve realized sometimes you just need to follow your instincts & go into self-preservation mode—
    Onto a new subject—noticed you were looking into reading “A Changed Man”—I highly recommend it! Our local library is very hip into getting brand new books quickly, and when I read about a book that sounds interesting, I check the library and 89% of the time they have it—Very good read—tense at times, a book that’s hard to put down once you start, but worthwhile! (and it makes one second guess my advice about “Wayne”…but I’ve always been a skeptic towards strangers—not as warm and open as my husband—a good balance!)
    Gosh, I’m wordy tonight…
    Good to see you again!

  4. Wanda says:

    No words of wisdom here except to tell you that the reason you can’t get it off your mind is because you already know in your heart what you need to do. I wish you the best!! Hugs Wanda

  5. Herm says:

    If you move back to CA, I’ll be the happiest sis in the world. Because then we’d have to move back, too. Maybe I could become the NWF’s West Coast correspondent. And Benj would soon follow. And then mom’s head would explode. In a good way.

  6. Gwyn says:

    Molly, I knew right away where this one would go. I knew, because this is my worklife to a large degree. Sad to say, it doesn’t matter where you move, because there are way more Coras and Waynes than should be legal in a country with so much in the way of resources. Heck, when they have regular offerings in professional educator development programs titled “Reaching Children in Chaos,” that says something. I’m treading into dangerous political commentary, so I’ll shut up. I guess the best thing to offer them is to say “hi” and not pretend their invisible and hope they’ll go away. That’s her defense she’s throwing up.

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