Wednesday, August 13, 2008
A cheerful post
Tonight I will be going out with my kids. Yep. My. kids. I have somewhere between 8 and 12 kids. They are all between the ages of 19 and 22. No, I am not a teenage mother. Let me 'splain. For seven years I worked part time at a drop in center for teenagers. It was open weekend evenings and I was there often twice a weekend. There is a story behind why I started working there. I was at the mall and some stupid asswipe teenager said some stupid comment at my general direction. As I was driving home, I was pissed. I hated teenagers in that moment. I decided I could either add teenagers to the list of people I hate, or I could try to work with them to help them be a little more tolerable to the adult population. I opted for the latter. I knew about this teen center in a suburb close to my house. I called them up and they were hiring. I became staff, and quickly became a supervisor. I was responsible not only for the kids, but also for the other staff on nights that I worked. I loved working there. I have to admit it wasn't always easy. At times it was the hardest thing in the world. I found I have a knack for working with teenagers, something not everyone can do. I also had a soft spot for my "regulars". More than a few kids came in nearly every night. It was my job and also my privilege to get to know them. These kids were smart. Some cunningly so, others surprisingly so. I know that I tried to help them all, in some way. Sometimes just listening to their music and playing a game of pool was enough. Other times were harder, like the month I spent consoling the girl who's boyfriend (another one of "my" kids) had died in a stupid, avoidable car accident. I spent more than a few car rides home after a shift crying my eyes out because one of my kids had disappointed me, or pissed me off, or had died. Unfortunately more than one of them passed away. The kids I am having dinner with tonight are the ones that best define MyKids. They even call themselves that. They are sophomores, juniors, and seniors in college now. They go to different schools, all across the country. I had tried to keep up with them, but last winter I also decided to let them go. I didn't want them to have to carve time out of their precious winter and summer breaks to spend time with me. I was satisfied to have known them, and was going to be ok with it. Happily, they had a different opinion. The message I got a couple of weeks ago on my cell: "Von. It's V. We were thinking about you and would like to all get together for dinner before we head back to school. Everyone wants to go. Give me a call." It took me 1/2 second to call him back. I choked up a little, he sounds like a grown-up (almost) now. I guess he should, he's 19. I left the teen center almost two years ago. It was a personal and difficult decision, but I don't regret it. It's time for me to do other things. Someday I hope to work with teenagers again, but for now, I'll just look forward to that call every six months or so, when my kids think of me.