Friday, January 18, 2008

The Ladies

I work part-time as the secretary for a small church. It's a nice job- I've got flexible hours, only work 4 days a week, and it allows me to be autonomous and creative. Sometimes I get the chance to write or edit material for church publications, which I love doing. It may not be the most stimulating job I've ever had, but it's not something I dread every morning. (Plus, I get to wear jeans!)

You know I'm not the complaining type (pause as laughter subsides...), but there is one facet of my job which makes it very stressful. The pastor of the church brings his 3 small daughters to work with him. Evidently, childcare is not something within his family's budget, but I'm getting to the point that I'd almost offer to pay for it myself. When I interviewed for the job, I was asked if I like kids, to which I responded that I do, very much (a true statement). She told me that the pastor brings his kids to the office "every once in a while" (a true but very misleading statement).

In reality, he brings 3 or his 4 kids to the office probably 2 or 3 days every week. He has twin girls, a year and a half old- we'll call them red fish and blue fish. He also has a 3 year old girl- we'll call her the tornado. He also has a son who is school-aged and who, on the one occasion I met him, showed me his transformer toy and spoke elaborately about it as he manipulated it, and then tossed it on my desk and ran off. Both the older children have noticeable speech impediments, and from what I've seen, all three of the girls are well behind where they ought to be for their age, developmentally speaking.

They tear around the office, dig through the trash, put things in the toilets, put things in their mouths, and make a general mess, yelling and screaming and crying all the while. I was wholly unprepared for what was about to happen the first time he brought them in. By the time they were gone, I had glue and marker all over my desk, parts of my printer were dismantled, there was probably a whole muffins' worth of crumbs distributed evenly over my floor, a ripped up kids book on the floor, and colored on paper glued onto my other desk. Probably every 2 or 3 minutes (throughout the whole day), one of the twins will erupt spontaneously into a kind of shrieking/crying that... there's just a quality to this crying that cannot be put into words... it's unthinkable, indescribable. It HURTS to listen to. The tornado is constantly pushing the twins, taking things from them, of locking them out of rooms. Every afternoon, when it's time to go, the tornado throws herself on the ground and throws a dramatic-full-on-losing-her-little-three-year-old-mind-fit.

I believe I'm certainly warranted a level of displeasure in having to tolerate this at work, but surprisingly, I really do like these kids. Their behavior is simply a manifestly obvious result of the very bad parenting that they receive, and every day I like the pastor I work for less and less. I'm agitated by the crying, the screaming, the mess every day and often go home with headaches, but it's worse for me to have to listen to the way dad talks to his little girls all day. It really disturbs me. I speak more kindly to my dog that this guy does to his own flesh and blood.

Just today, he was sweeping the hallway. Red Fish stood unmoving in front of him, smiling and pointing and him. Does he kindly ask her to move, or tenderly scoot her out of the way, or (gasp!) take this opportunity to love on his child? Of course not. "Move," he says (she does not). "Red Fish, move!" Suddenly another issue presents itself. Blue Fish has wandered into the men's room and is playing with the toilet brush. Does he issue a gentle admonishment? Does he laugh it off and explain that the bathrooms are not for playing in, helping her wash her hands? Not our guy. "NO!" he shouts, snatching the toilet brush from little blue, and stalks from the hallway, leaving her standing in the bathroom and staring after his retreating figure. In fact, he barely ever uses their names, referring to them collectively as "ladies", if he even refers to them at all. Just now one the babies knocked something off his desk. He'll responds with "No, no, no, no, no, blue fish!"

Seriously, I'm so mad just after proof reading this post that I don't know what to do with myself. Every day I come in with a fresh resolution that I'll find something, anything positive in this man's demeanor towards his children, and every day I go home frustrated because there's nothing.


Melissa said...

I guess you can't blame "the ladies" for the way they are. :(

ThomG said...

Remember my cure for the spiders? Oh, never mind; that could get you fired/arrested.

Beth said...

Aww I feel so sorry for the little ones, I know so many families in ministry who fall into the business of church life and forget their first duty is their kids. Sorry that you are on the receiving end right now.

Beth said...

Ps when I say duty by the way I don't mean chore.....that didn't sound right but you know what I mean!