Long ago I was a professional clown.
Some people say I still am a little bit of a clown.
I wasn't the best juggler, but I was an absolutely phenomenal stilt walker.
I find today that juggling is still a challenge.
You see, juggling is all about timing.
One ball up, one ball down, one in the middle.
Not to mention that if you are juggling in unison with someone else, you must be synchronized and in perfect timing or the balls will fall. Might I add, that when they fall, it is a mess.
Juggling my life, my partner, my three children, my work, my friends, is difficult to say the least.
One thing is clear – all juggling – everything will be put aside for my children. They will forever and always be my first priority.
My middle daughter broke her arm. It is her right arm.
The entire household has rallied to help her do her homework.
In doing this task three things became very clear to me:
1. I still, absolutely hate doing homework.
2. I have the horrible realization that my intellectual capacity is possibly at a 5th grade level leaving me in trouble doing her 6th grade homework!
3. My child is very, very smart. Smart as hell, but time management is not one of her virtues.
The other morning, she realized that she had a whole history packet of homework to do. I, on the other hand, had a very busy day ahead. I was juggling twenty different things for myself, and the rest of my clan, trying desperately to get ready.
She started crying, so I put all of the juggling balls on the side and sat down and wrote the answers she dictated to me.
The interaction with my child was intense, funny, loving, annoying, anger provoking, and everything a mother and daughter interaction should be. We finished the homework.
I brought her to school (late, of course) and, as I watched her walk into school, I thought that crazy hard as this was, this is what it is about.
This is normal – for us, and many of our friends.
BUT, absolutely not even remotely familiar to my girls in Juvie and their Mom’s.
I met her a few years ago, when she was 14 years old and pregnant.
She was in my group at the incarceration facility.
I remember that every time I looked at her and her belly, something inside me would physically hurt.
Such a young little girl, having a baby. That's not the way it should be. I remember during our sessions she would tell me again and again how she wanted to be a good mom.
How she wanted to give her baby everything she never had.
She wanted to take her baby to places she had never been to.
The capacity of the imagination of this child and what she would give to her unborn child was actually heartwarming.
I remember then, being touched by her desire to take her baby to Disneyland and writing about it.
“How, how, Ms., how will I be a good mom?” she kept asking and asking me.
Such a simple question and such a loaded question.
When we talked, I would tell her that she needs to love her child, that she needs to be there, that she needs to be gentle.
I remember telling her, you can only be the best mom you can be.
While saying those words, secretly I would be trying to convince myself as well.
Pregnant girls are usually taken out of the facility, at about 23 or 24 weeks. I don't exactly remember. She left before I had a chance to say goodbye or to get any of her contact information.
Later, I was told she had her baby.
For months I kept thinking about her, wondering how she was doing.
Does she have postpartum problems?
Is someone helping her?
Is someone loving her, so that she can love her baby?
Is someone making sure that she is nourished on every single level so she will be able to nourish this new life she brought into the world.
On a recent location tour for a continuation school I am planning to start working at outside the walls, I bumped into her.
I know that my excitement completely overwhelmed her.
I was so happy to see her.
This young woman is a very quiet, contained young girl.
The 20 times I said, “Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god! OH MY GOD!” made her blush, and feel a little self-conscious.
Such it is when a master extrovert encounters a super introvert.
“How is the baby? Did you have a boy or a girl?” I ask.
And then I notice.
She is pregnant.
I shut down and become silent.
She puts her hand on her belly and says,
“Yeah, I'm having another one.”
I don't want to seem judgmental so I smile.
“When are you due?” I ask.
Everything about me changes – I hate myself for that.
“In the fall.” She says.
“Nice,” I say. I try to sound excited!
And I feel my heart sinking to the depth of the ocean and I can’t think of what to say.
I ask to touch her tummy and I do.
“You remember, Ms., how you told me that when you are a mom you need to learn how to juggle? You were fucking right, but look.”
She grabs three random objects and, so help me god, starts to juggle.
“WHAT???? I say.
“Well,” she says,
“My baby girl…”
She had a girl. I sigh.
She continues, “Well, she cried and cried and cried and it drove me fucking crazy. When I’d throw something up in the air, she would stop.
Then I remembered what you told me and I watched and watched YouTube and learned how to juggle. My baby loves that. It was good advice, Ms.”
I am flabbergasted.
“Wow,” I say.
I am dumbfounded and absolutely speechless.
“What a good mom you are,” I say.
“Yeah,” she smiles. “I got this mom thing.”
“You coming to work with us here?” she asks me.
“I think so,” I say. “We are figuring it out.”
“Cool,” and she walks away.
Honestly, I can’t move.
17 years old and 2 kids!
I’m not sure what I am feeling.
The person showing me the facility comes to get me.
“I don’t know what she will do when the baby comes,” he says.
I look at him and I say quietly,
“She will juggle.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” he adds.
I tell him what just happened.
We both tear up and share the amazement, the fear, and the helplessness we feel regarding these kids lives.
On my way home, I literally laugh out loud and I cry, too.
I think of my sweet girl learning how to juggle from the screen of her phone and the little baby watching her Mom make an effort to entertain her.
Suddenly something inside me is optimistic that it will be okay.
The deep, dark worry and sadness is alleviated a little.
She will learn.
She DID learn.
I listen to the quiet in my car.
I look out to the beautiful mountains and I hope that I am right.