I have a friend who lives in a halfway house with 2 of her 3 daughters. It’s a pretty big deal that she’s gotten this far in her recovery. She went from being in prison for DUI and 3 counts of endangering a minor (aka getting loaded going driving and then crashing with her 3 kids in the backseat) to where she is now. She almost lost her kids for good as DCF’s goal for a while was to adopt the kids out, well, the younger 2, the oldest lives with her dad now.
So Friend has made amazing progress but it can’t be easy. She has all the demands of being a single mom, plus being in recovery, plus her record, plus all the demands the halfway house itself puts on her and now she has her kids back after being separate from them for 2 years and all the issues that they all have trying to readjust. So when she asked me if she could pay me to drive pick up her girls and drive them to their grandmother’s house for the night so she could have a night of peace and be able to work an extra shift in the AM (she’s saving for an apartment), I agreed. I’d like to say that I am such a good friend that I’d just do this out of the goodness of my heart but it’s about 70 miles of driving all told, even if I wanted to we couldn’t afford to spend the gas on something that doesn’t have anything to do with our own household.
This has now become a weekly thing pretty much, so this is how it goes. At about 4:30 or so I go to the bathroom, take any necessary meds and generally prep myself to be in the car for several hours. Then I have Husband help me to the car, and I drive around our complex to wherever Son is playing and collect him because he just started a youth group that goes from 5-9 on Friday nights.
After I drop him at the church, I stay in the parking lot for a few moments to both text Friend and let her know my eta and also set my GPS because I still get hopelessly lost whenever driving anywhere near New Bedford which is where friend lives. To me, that city is just a maddening, poorly drawn grid of super thin one way streets with cars parked on either side of them.
I then drive to pick up the girls. I use this time for a little musical therapy, which for me consists of blaring songs I like and singing along Melissa McCarthy style.
After finding the place, I collect the girls and the cash. Friend thanks me profusely and I remember how few people she has to depend on and feel a little crappy (again) for accepting money to do this, even though after I replace what gas it uses I make between 5-10 bucks. Today I also collected Friend and dropped her off at Walgreens, while finding out that my stupid GPS has been taking me several minutes out of my way each week when I go to leave the city and get back on the highway.
Helping Friend out like this has raised the awkward dilemma of needing to reprimand someone else’s kids. I hate doing this, and never really feel sure of how far to take it, but for the hour or so that I have the girls in the car they are my responsibility. I’m not a hypocrite. If the situation were reversed, I would fully expect my child to be reprimanded/have good behavior expected of him or her.
So when Older girl got in the car in a foul mood and was doing everything she could to take it out on Younger girl, I tried to stay out of it. I didn’t say anything when Older insisted Younger not talk to her or the several times she shushed her when Younger didn’t respect Older’s wishes.
But when Younger started quietly singing along with the radio and Older snapped at her to “SING QUIETLY!” I finally spoke up. I said, “How about you be grumpy more quietly? I’m sorry you had a bad day, but there are other people in this car and you need to be more considerate.”
Older and Younger were fairly peaceable for the rest of today’s commute. The only other time I said anything in the form of a reprimand was when I changed a radio station and Older whinily shouted, “I love that song!!”
I turned the radio off and said, “Then what do you think you might say to me, the person that has control over the radio?”
Instantly, she meekly replied, “Can you please put that song back on?”
I pull in to the grandmother’s driveway and have the girls get out while reminding them to take all of their stuff. Then I call upstairs to Grandmother’s house so she can come collect them. I then kill time for the hour or hour and a half till it’s time to pick up Son. I may stop and get something off the dollar menu somewhere, I put gas back in to my Kia. I park in the church parking lot admittedly an hour early but it makes more sense to wait this way then to try and go home in between time. I watch Netfilx or Hulu or I play Candy Crush while listening to an audiobook.
Today I am grateful for an opportunity to help another woman in recovery. While I wish I could do this without charging her, that’s not possible for me right now and if it wasn’t for me she’d be unable to work weekends at all because she’s have no way to get her kids to childcare so I feel like it is mutually beneficial. Also, it gets me out of the house, away in my own space for a couple of hours, which is nice when all of my other time is spent stuck in the apartment too close in proximity to a Husband whose very existence can irritate the hell out of me. Now that I am so dependent on him for my mobility, it is even easier to feel infuriated by him. So in addition to helping Friend and her girls, I am helping myself, by creating a little oasis of solitude.