Thursday, March 26, 2015

Among Us

You're not supposed to have favorite clients or get too emotionally attached, and for the most part, I abide by these rules. Except when it comes to my little 5 year-old sugar pie. He moved the US barely a year ago and used to whisper to me in Spanish during group activities when he first arrived and was confused by everything. He has since gained an (almost) complete understanding of the English language as well as a whole hell of a lot of confidence. He still holds my hand though and jumps into my arms on a weekly basis. And sometimes tells me that he misses me, and I melt into a puddle.

A few weeks ago, he told me a story about theses scary monsters on TV. Kids have the ability to talk for minutes uninterrupted, and I have to admit that I have developed a nasty skill of tuning them out when they are describing TV shows or movies. I hate it when adults do it, and it is even more confusing and unbearable when children try to explain plots to shows that I will never watch.

After a few minutes of planning what to eat for dinner that night while he sweetly relayed information in the background, I realized that he was possibly describing the Loch Ness Monster and other water dwelling creatures. And then he floored me with his language acquisition and said, "And the man on the TV said that they still live among us today. Cool, right?"

I thought, whoa. Did he just use the phrase "among us?" So I prodded a little to see if he was simply repeating the phrase or if he knew what he was saying.

"They live among us? Really?"
"Yes. Among us."
"Does that scare you? Or give you nightmares?"
"I mean, is among us in this world?"
"Well, yes in a way, I guess it is."
"Ok because I decided that I kind of want to go to mungus, but I am a little scared too"
"Oh really?" (I was trying to figure out what he was saying)
"Yeah. I mean, if my dad wants to go to mungus, then I want to tell him to be careful, but he could go there if he wants to see the monsters."


And those are the less heavy days when kids are sweet and innocent and words are new and exciting.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

The Route 66 Roller Dome is situated right off the highway in a small town near Tulsa. It has become one of the options in a never-ending stream of activities for our clients when school is out of session.

As one of the more stressful and potentially painful activities that we do with the kids, I am never fully prepared to deal with the chaos that is the Route 66 Roller Dome. Turns out that kids these days are also never fully prepared to skate. It's like watching a Whack-A-Mole game of children on roller skates. One falls, then another, then WHAM! one really falls, then another. It's tense, but it's good for the kids to try new activities. Rightfully so, many kids are a little weary to try out this hazardous activity, but my job is to help them overcome their fears and gain more confidence in themselves.

This day, I was targeting a particularly apathetic kid. He has a tendency to refuse to participate in activities and then incessantly complain about being bored and having nothing fun to do. In other words, he has a tendency to drive me nuts.

When he got out on the rink, it was like watching a baby walk for the first time. It was unbalanced, halting and so exhilarating. He was doing it! He had his PVC pipe walker to keep him at a 90 degree angle, moving precariously one foot, then the other. My baby bird was finally leaving my nest.

Fast-forward 30 minutes or so. A dramatic little client comes bounding down the rink frantically yelling, "Miss Molly! HE NEEDS YOU! He ripped his pants!" 

I could vaguely see him through the smokey fog and disco lights of the roller rink. He was sitting awkwardly on a bench in the alcove-turned-arcade on the opposite end. I casually walked over, bobbing and weaving past uncoordinated monsters on roller skates. "Miss Molly, I need your help," he inconspicuously said to me as I approached. I assumed it was a bad tear since most of the kids' clothes are very, very worn. And then, there was the problem. There it all was. The boy had left his house that morning forgetting a very integral piece of clothing: his underwear.

To make matters worse, the tear wasn't a small rip. It was the entire seam of the pants. Zipper to back belt buckle.

I mean. How. How do I even. One of my coworkers found a beach towel in her trunk, and we wrapped our client up as if he was headed to a luau. He refused to take off his skates until we convinced him that the walk of shame back to the lobby would be much more graceful without wheels.

On the ride home he was very quiet but didn't appear too upset. We had a quick chat about remembering to bring all necessary items of clothing before the next activity, he agreed, and I watched as he hobbled into his house the towel constricting his regular stride.

Weeks later, we ended up needing to bring him with us to the roller skating rink since his older sister wanted to join us. As he peered over the wall, watching all the other kids skate, I assumed he was still embarrassed and couldn't bring himself to try skating again after such a traumatic event. I didn't blame him.

"How are you feeling? Do you want to try skating again?"
"No, not really."
"Is it because of what happened last time?"
"What do you mean? What happened?"
"Well . . . you know . . . "


I love it, because I know him well. And this was not traumatic or even the least bit interesting enough to remember two weeks later. Thank the good Lord for that. 

10 Cars and a Helicopter

Some days are heavier than others.

"I don't want to be successful. Everyone says I'm going to end up in jail, and they're right. It's no point trying no more."

He is 17 years old. He was caught by the police ("like 10 cars and a helicopter") for stealing and selling puppies last weekend. When he told me, I laughed out loud and said, "Puppies?! Puppies are what brought you down?" He smiled and said, "I do whats I do, Miss Molly." After attempting to exchange money for some wiggly pure breeds, the police arrived in full force, surrounded him and his brother, told them that if they moved an inch that they would be "shot in the ass," slammed their faces against the car windows and took them to juvie.

Unfortunately, I've become accustomed to the arrests and the asshole cops and the drugs and the guns. I'm unfazed but disappointed in my clients' decisions when they make choices that are so detrimental to their future and when they don't express much regret. But as frustrating as it can be to hear no remorse, it is far worse to to hear the sounds of utter defeat. I taught my client what self-sabotage means, and he agreed that he is indeed sabotaging himself. When I asked him who believes in him, he said, "Just you. And my mom." He has reached a point of no return.

This boy was born into poverty, kidnapped by his dad for a year, taken back by his mom, sent back to his dad then back to his mom, and told he was stupid and incapable of making anything of himself over and over. This is real life.

No matter how many times I try to get him to identify positive qualities and talents in himself, no matter how many options to his gangster lifestyle I present, no matter how many times I advocate for him with schools and programs, no matter how much his mom loves him and works hard to provide a life for him, he is still a young, Latino male living in urban poverty with little chance of success. And days like this are very, very heavy.

We ended the session by shaking hands and agreeing that he would take it one step at time, call me before he attempts a felony again, and start completing some assignments for school. It isn't life-changing, but it's a step. And at this point, a step is monumental.


But good news, y'all! He's been telling me for years that he's got my back. Today he told me that he doesn't like it that everyone is afraid of him. I told him that I wasn't afraid of him and he said, "We got you, Miss Molly. If anybody messes with you, just let us know. We'll take care of it."