What’s the “okie-doke”, you ask?
That disease we sometimes contract that tells us that what others require trumps what we require in any given situation. It’s that drive to keep your end of a bargain, no matter what, even in the face of the other party not keeping theirs, even when it starts costing you and yours dearly. It’s turning a blind eye to the fact that you’re being taken advantage of by someone.
“Okie-doke” is particularly hard to shake when kids are involved. When kids are involved, the okie-doke digs in deep.
This time, the kid caught in the cross-fire is Adopted Son. The other party is his mom. And it’s me tryin’ to shake the Okie-doke.
A couple weeks ago when I went and picked him up after he’d been to court (after his night in Juvie), his mom told me that she had decided to put me on his paperwork at school so that I could get information about his grades and attendance (so I could verify he’s keeping his part of this bargain) and so that I would be the one the school called in case of emergency (since he’s living with me and I’m the one with a vehicle.) She also said that she didn’t have any money that she could give me to defray the additional cost of feeding him, but that on the 1st of each month she gets $289 in food stamps, $189 of which she would give to me to go to the grocery store. That was the Friday before Spring Break, and they had to go see his lawyer the first Monday back, so we agreed that she would call me when they were done at the lawyer and I’d go pick them up, we’d take him to school and she and I would get the paperwork done and then I’d take her back home.
That didn’t happen. In fact, she was rather bold about ditching that plan, because when she called to say they were done at the lawyer’s office, I asked her if she was still going to the school with us. She said yes. But when I got there to pick them up, she was walking across the parking lot toward another apartment building. When Adopted Son got in the car, he said she told him to tell me she’d do the paperwork later. Well, later has yet to arrive a week and a half later.
But here’s the one that’s making me feel like a case of the Okie-doke has snuck up on me: Yesterday was the 1st, and not only did she not call me, she didn’t ever return my two phone calls, despite reminding me on Sunday that the 1st was coming up. The drive to keep my end of this bargain is strong, because of Adopted Son, but this part has started to cost me and mine…dearly.
If Adopted Son’s mom had absolutely no resources to contribute, there’d be no Okie-doke involved, no matter how many times I have to miss dinner so the kids are fed. But the point is: she does, and she’s not. At all. That’s how I’ve got the Okie-doke – if I let her get away with this.
Ironically, I took Adopted Son over to her apartment Monday morning because she said some friend of hers had a job for him til Thursday. So, he’s not with us now, he’s with her. So I have some leverage.
The Okie-doke makes me feel like it’d be shitty for me to tell her he can’t come back until she contributes food or money to my household, because he’s caught in the middle and pays a price right along with me. And there’s every possibility she’ll tell me something like she traded her foodstamps off already for drugs. That’s a real possibility, in fact.
He’s supposed to be coming back tomorrow evening so he can go back to school Friday morning, so she’s got another day to make good before I have to decide. And even if he handed me whatever money he’s made at that job this week, there’s still the issue of the paperwork at school, which even he can’t solve without his mom doing what she’s supposed to do.
The whole point of this adventure is to provide him with a safe place from which to get to school and back and get an education. But without any visibility to his grades and attendance, I’m unable to enforce the agreement he and I have. Since I substitute teach in the district, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve that I could use to circumvent this problem, but you know what? Until the problem of feeding an extra person (who eats like at least two, as most teenage boys do) is resolved, I’m not inclined to go there.
The Okie-doke gets you good when you want something for another person more than they want it for themselves. There’s no doubt in my mind that Adopted Son prefers to be at our house. What I don’t know is how much of his preference has anything to do with getting an education. If most of it is due to his ability to live a calmer, safer, less stressful life at our house, then I totally understand, but it changes how far I will go to accomodate him.
Should I have to take what belongings he left behind to him instead of picking him up and bringing him home tomorrow, it’ll be the Okie-doke in my ear telling me that I let him down somehow, even though that is so not the case.
But I have to admit, it’s an entertaining thing to be this conscious and aware of all the dynamics involved in a situation like this. Before I wasn’t, and it’s no wonder my life got so derailed.