When Bubba moved me yet again, I met some people who were like no other people I’d met before.
Maria was the first person I met in our new town. Maria and Jose had been married for about a decade. They were going through a massive marital crisis. Jose had screwed up extensively. Maria was on the verge of leaving him but Jose was such an excellent father and two of their four children had special needs, so she couldn’t bear to rip their father away from them.
Jose was truly repentant and sought help for his problems. He was actively working hard to change his behavior. I was absolutely amazed at Jose’s willingness to do whatever Maria needed of him to prove that he was working on himself. If she had told him that every morning, he needed to stand on his head and recite Shakespeare to her, he would’ve started memorizing lines! And he never would’ve complained or asked why or told her that her request was nuts. He simply would’ve done it.
Maria has one of the strongest personalities I’ve ever encountered. She takes no crap from anyone. She doesn’t pull punches and she tells it like it is. She is also willing to share her strength with others who haven’t found their strength yet. Maria held me up on various occasions when I was too weak to hold myself up. She was the first person to validate my feelings about the rapes and she held me while I sobbed my pain out right before my first counseling session.
Maria was also relatively quiet about her faith. I knew she’d come out of fundamentalism and had a very firm faith in God. I know she was very vocal about speaking out against patriarchy. We discussed our faith but she was never pushy about hers and she never tried to take on a mentoring role.
Arcadia and Elrick were another couple I met. I met Arcadia at the playground for the first time. I’d taken Shane to play and she was there with her two girls. We were chatting and having a nice time when we noticed that Shane was yelling at a little girl on the playground.
I mentally prepared myself for the battle I knew was to come – both with Shane and with the judgment that I was sure would be rolling off Arcadia in waves. It was what I was used to with the friends I’d made at my last church. I didn’t spank my children and they all believed that corporal punishment was Biblically mandated. They blamed Shane’s anger issues on the fact that I didn’t spank him.
I calmly separated Shane from the little girl and asked him to apologize. Since he refused to apologize, I apologized for him – modeling the appropriate behavior to him. I took him back to where Arcadia and I were sitting and continued to try to help Shane calm down. When it became very apparent that he was not going to calm down, I knew it was time to say our good-byes. Where I’d prepared myself for judgment from Arcadia, I only felt love and sympathy coming from her. It was a balm to my soul. Here was a woman who understood what I was trying to accomplish with Shane. Not “good” behavior, but a relationship with him – teaching him self-control, disciplining him in the way he needed to be disciplined.
Arcadia, Maria, and I started meeting on a weekly basis to allow the children to play together while we talked. The children got along rather well. We knew that we were going to come across disagreements and fights and we also knew that we were all on the same page as to how we would handle it. There would be no blame games. We would each pull our own child/ren aside and deal with the behavior they were displaying. We would work to teach our children how to solve their own differences so that our roles could diminish as they learned how to resolve conflict as they grew. Playdates were surprisingly peaceful for me. At least for a little while……
….until Bubba decided I was spending too much time with my friends.