During my days of volunteering at the school, I come in contact with many parents. It may be a simple “Hello” followed by a smile from the Spanish-speaking Moms, or it may be hearing the life story of Billy’s mom during the morning announcements. I like to think I am one of those people who is pretty easy to talk to. However, as it has been pointed out to me in the past, the reality is I am just one of those people who attract the more “colorful” people of the world.
Tommy’s mom is a new mom who I am slowly getting to know. My first encounter with her was at a parent facilitator class I was running. Tommy’s mom had a list of everything she was not happy with, everything she wanted to change, and she wants it changed NOW. During the class, other parents along with myself, had the pleasure of hearing about how her children were out of her custody for a short period of time. Each one of us listened closely as she was talking about a domestic violence situation going on, which led to her childrenbeing taken away.
During my “Parent Facilitator” training sessions, we were not trained on how to deal with this type of parent. How do you calm someone down when she is standing up in the middle of the room yelling F bombs after F bombs? You can’t. Not at least without intervention of a higher up. My partner and I had no one. So we gave her the floor….or she took it.
As the weeks went on, I would try to avoid Tommy’s mom whenever I would see her in the lunchroom or hallways. I could not give her the answers she needed. I was out of my element, I was not trained for this. On occasion, she would find me, and give me a brief 30 minute rundown of what was happening in her life. The only advice I felt I could offer her was “Just concentrate on getting your background check complete for the school. Once you have clearance, we can certainly use you in the PTA.”
I always felt I needed to be very careful with her. I am a volunteer PTA Board member. The only training I had was an all day class titled PTA and the Law. For my parent facilitator position, I get paid a very small stipend. It was important to me to make sure I did not cross any lines with her, the school, or my parent facilitator position. I do not officially have a “boss” that can come back me up when things get out of hand. I am treading on thin ice.
Monday morning. During chaos that surrounds the morning routine at the school, Tommy’s mom literally bumps into me. There would be no avoiding her today.
“Oh hey, I am sorry I did not see you there….Guess what?”
Yep. No avoiding her today.
“Hi, how are you?”
And then it happened.
“I am doing great, guess what you are not going to believe this, him and I are back together. We are back together and I know it will work this time. I did not call him for five whole days and he missed me, so then we talked and he promised he would do better and not hit me anymore and he will be out here next week sometime and I am just so happy!”
And that is when I knew. This was my one moment. I had to put aside my fear of not having the “proper training” I knew I had to try to talk to Tommy’s mom, one on one, woman to woman.
“What do you mean you are back with him? The same person who beat you up?”
“Yes, but he has changed. I can hear it in his voice, he has really changed. My boys will be so happy.”
“Where did you get that scratch that’s on your face?”
“That’s just from my cat.”
“It’s interesting how a cat can make such a nice clean scratch that goes from your forehead to your mouth.”
“I just feel so much better about things now, I can’t wait for him to come out here, you should meet him. He feels bad for hitting me before.”
“Listen, if I may speak freely, I am speaking to you as a person, not as a PTA member, not as a parent facilitator. I need you to know something. Right now things just feel better because this guy has broken you down and rebuilt you the way he wants you to be. This is his way of implementing control over you, I promise you this, if you allow this person back in your life, back into your sons’ life, things will not get better they will get worse. And if he hasn’t already, he will eventually go after your sons, it will start off as emotional abuse and escalate to physical. You and your kids deserve better than that. This is what needs to happen, you need to work on you….again, we can use all the help we can in the PTA. Once your background check clears, come to the school, I will work with you, I will show you how you can take your brokeness and change it into something positive, you will see firsthand how volunteering your time in the school is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself, you may not believe that right now, but I believe the next chapter of your life deserves more than getting the shit beat out of you on a daily basis, and one day you will believe that too.”
I have no idea if my words got through to her or not. We were cut off, morning announcements were starting.
The reality is, I did have training. It may not have been official training, but training for this moment, I had.
I had my experience with domestic violence. I have had experience with the police being called, “rape kits” in the emergency room. I have had the experience of being called a whore, of being told I will never be good enough, and that right there in this moment that was all the training I needed.
My hope, one day, years from now, Tommy’s Mom is in a better place, and she will be able to offer the same advice to another woman who feels this is all she deserves.