I was young, naive and excited about the future. I had four wonderful children, a loving husband and we had just purchased our very first home. Life was looking pretty good indeed.
However, just a short time after, a new house was being built on the property next door to ours. My children were excited as brick after brick was added to the foundation. We all knew that a large family would eventually live there, due to the massive size of the house. What we didn’t know, was what kind of impact that family would have on ours. However, it wouldn’t take long for us to find out. The day “they” came to town will be a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
Being honest, I don’t really recall them moving in on moving day. Perhaps it was just our busy schedules with schools, sports and living life, but whatever it was, that day sure changed our lives forever. I had been helping my youngest daughter with a project when I heard someone tapping on the front door. I opened it and saw the prettiest, doe-eyed, young girl standing there. She stood at the door nervously wringing her hands and struggling to speak. I asked her if she was okay. She said that she was, but she was embarrassed because her mother had sent her over to ask what day the wheelie-bins had to be put out. I smiled at her and told her not to be embarrassed and that the bins went out on a Wednesday. From that moment on, that young girl would smile and wave to me every time she saw me.
Over the next few days, my sons, being the fantastic private investigators that they were in those days, found out that the girl was 12-years-old and that there were also twin 11-year-old girls and a 9-year-old boy living in the house. My sons were super excited as there were no other children my son’s ages in our street, so they thought all their Christmas’s had come at once. And, I must admit, they were adorable little people with their big brown eyes, tanned features, and gorgeous smiles. It didn’t take long before they would become best friends and all “hang out” together, every afternoon after school.
Strangely enough, I wouldn’t meet the children’s mother for several weeks after they moved in. Despite the feeling that something wasn’t quite right with the woman, I really didn’t mind her. She had some very strange habits, but I assumed it was just how she was, so I simply brushed it off. Once I learned that she was severally mentally ill and always heavily medicated, I tried to help her as much as I possibly could. She would often tell me stories of how the children had no other family other than her and that my family was a blessing to them. She explained to me that she only had one sister, but that her sister was too lazy and selfish to help her. She explained that her two older daughters that lived out of home wanted nothing to do with the younger children because they were too much trouble. She also said she had her reasons for not letting the children’s father have anything to do with them. Being totally honest, I felt so sorry for the family, so I did my best to help them.
During this time, my husband suffered a work injury and could no longer work his trade, so money became tight within the family. All the fun activities stopped, luxuries ceased and the day to day grind became all but impossible. Nevertheless, by this stage, the four children from next door had become a part of our family. We loved them and cared for them and did all that we could for them. They were no stranger to going without food, clothing or necessities prior to moving in next door, but once we met them, things slowly began to change. We often provided them with food, personal items, and necessities whenever we could. However, they wanted more. They wanted parents, a healthy home life and above all, they yearned for love.
Nonetheless, no matter what we did for them, their mother eventually turned on us, believing we were trying to take her children away from her. Nothing could have been further from the truth. We certainly didn’t need four extra mouths to feed and clothe, nor did we feel it was our responsibility, but, the children wanted and needed us, so we kept doing whatever we could to help them,because by then, we loved them like our own. In the end, it wouldn’t matter what any of us wanted as the Health Department came in and shut down the house due to the filth, the Red-Back spiders, and other dangerous situations that were occurring in the home. The mother was sent to a mental health facility and we were left with the responsibility of finding homes for these children. We were unable to take them in as the authorities wouldn’t allow us to have teenage girls and boys in the same room, sensibly enough. We carefully placed three of them with loving people we knew and trusted. One went to stay with her oldest sister, only to leave there very quickly when things went sour. I stayed in contact with them daily the whole time they were gone.
Eventually, the mother would be released from the hospital and all appeared well. The therapy she had received during her lengthy stay seemed to be working and the children were allowed to return home. Things ran smoothly for a month or so before the same behaviours returned once more. The children were still too wild and the mother ill-equipped to deal with them. Once again, the mother returned to her bed and the children’s lives once again fell into shambles.
Over the next few years, the girls began to date men….. And, I mean grown men. I was disgusted, not only in the girls and their boyfriends but also the children’s mother. These girls were 16 and 17-year-old girls dating men in their 30’s. I explained to the girls that it was not acceptable, but their mother didn’t mind and allowed them to move these older men into the house. Hesitant to isolate the girls further, I spoke at length to them about finishing their schooling and told them these “men” were not right. I told them in order to have a good future they would need to let them go. I understood by now, being the most influential person in their lives, that if what I had said didn’t make a difference to them, no-one could have changed their minds. These girls had become all but my daughters. They loved and respected me as I did them. However, they were lonely and craving to be loved by anyone who would have them.
A few months after the men moved in with the girls, one of the twins boyfriends became very violent towards her. Naturally, my husband and I were horrified. We begged her to get rid of this guy because we feared he may kill her. Needless to say, she didn’t listen and ran away to South Australia to be with him. We begged her to come home to no avail. In the end, after all the bashings he did give her, I finally told her if she didn’t leave him there and return home, I would be forced to cut her off for good. The pain of him hurting her was destroying me and I had all the other children to consider. She decided to stay with him for a long time afterward and she still holds me responsible for her messy life to this day.
Despite being told time after time that “No good deed goes unpunished” I pushed on and helped these children who were not mine. I did all that I could for them and then some. I hold no malice for the wasted years. The years I should have been spending with my own children. And, given my time again, I’d probably make the same “mistakes” all over again. I understand people may call them no-hopers, losers or whatever else they can call them, but my heart still goes out to them. They were born innocent into a life they did not choose. A life that treated them unfairly and they were forced to live it. In turn, they turned to drugs. Something that destroyed my relationship with each and every one of them for some period of their lives.They grabbed hold of what they thought could save them only to be burnt again.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day, I loved those children and against all the odds, I know I was there for them. I know it was my influence that made a speckle of difference in a life that knew no kindness. I know when I look at them today, I see glimmers of the lessons I taught them. I see in their eyes they are good people. I see in the smiles of their babies, that what I did for them taught them how to love their children like a mother ought to.
However, they have made their choices that I don’t have to agree with, but they are their choices to make. These four innocent little people, who eventually grew up to be adults, gave something to me in return for my kindness. They taught me a huge life lesson: It doesn’t matter what you want in life for your children or any children you may have influence over, at the end of the day, they will be, who and what they want to be. And, that they are all perfect in their own way!