So many of my friends know that I work in a therapeutic home for teenage boys. If you ever follow my status updates on Saturdays I either say I'm going to bury a few or I put up funny conversation that I have had at some point during the day. I for one will not be making a career for myself in this field. It is a very hard job, you can only hear so many stories of physical, sexual, mental abuse and neglect before it really starts to eat at you. Plus for me, it has made me Leary of ever having children. I know that fear is pretty unsubstantiated due to the fact that these kids only represent a very small population of children today. However, do my job and tell me different.
We have kids from all walks of life. We have had kids from very poor backgrounds to kids who come from homes where they have their own assistants at the age of 14. We have kids that have been abused to the point where it has left hideous scars all over their bodies to kids who were molested by people who were supposed to care for them. We have kids who go so far into the drug scene that they literally become a cancer to their own families and have torn them apart.
It has been both a very fun and very stressful job. i have learned a lot from these boys and if there was anyway to thank them i would do it 1000 times over. I can only hope that i have been a good example to these boys, even though I know I am no saint.
I like to think that I am a tough son of a bitch and that not much can get me. I don't like to admit when I'm hurt both physically and emotionally. I don't like to be vulnerable around people especially women and people I look up too. I have had to learn that being this way isn't good. i have had to learn that approaching someone with your arms figuratively crossed is just like approaching with a large knife. Here are a few stories...
We have this one kid who I will call Shrek. He is a very big boy. I remember hearing about how he came to us. His parents drove him from the mid west, he was bullying and using drugs. He also was well behind his peers in school and had many anger issues. He was literally dragged into the house by two cops. He was super angry threatening everyone and just being Shrek. Well it took a few months of me working there and him getting the chance to go home for the two of us to butt heads. Well I remember how everyone would tell me to make him take a shower. He smelled so bad, that's why I never really wanted anything to do with him. He never showered, I remember seeing his boxers and damn near throwing up. They were beyond soiled and you could smell them from the hallway. I remember the boys were picking on him about smelling so bad, they wouldn't let him sleep in the room with them, they wouldn't let him sit on the couches to watch a movie either. Well I told him to go shower then come back and he could have my seat. He told me to go fuck myself and to make him shower. Well that set me off. I got up and walked right over to him, and it came out. It's rare for me to really tear into someone to the extent i was about too. I remember telling him that there is a reason the boys treat him like they do, they weren't afraid of him and they were tired of his constant stankness. (I actually used that word.) He took a step closer to me and said he was about to hit me. So naturally I said the following, " I fucking dare you. I will put your fat stinky ass in the grass you fucking pig. Then after that I will drag you by your dingy mop top outside and hose you off like the dog you are. You fucking stink Shrek, if i have parents telling me this its obviously a problem for other people to you selfish giant fuck." He looked like he was going to hit me hard, and by his size I really think he could have killed me. I'm not making this up, this is a big boy and his fists are huge. Well instead of him hitting me he ran off to his room. He slammed the door, which set me off again. So I followed him up the stairs for round two. Well after I got the door unstuck I walked into the room. Shrek was nowhere to be seen. The window was open, but there is no way his large frame was getting through the 6" slip. I looked around and didn't see him. Then I heard it. A whimper, it came from the the closet. His giant feet were sticking out from under a pile of clothing. He had covered himself in clothing and was crying. My immediate thought was "what have I done." I said, "Shrek, what are you doing?" Her replied. "go away." I couldn't think of anything to say except, "I'm not here to yell at you anymore", Shrek,"Yea, you did a good job downstairs." Me," Listen bud..." Shrek,"I don't want to hear it. You really hurt my feelings, you really scared me." Me, "I uh I...I" Shrek, "Do you have any idea what is like to be me? I can't help that I'm bigger than everyone. I can't help that I am afraid to shower. You don't know Seth. You don't know. Just leave me alone." Me," I can't leave you alone, we have to talk this out. This is a problem bud. If you are afraid of showering here I need to know these things. i need to know who is doing what to you." Shrek," No one is doing anything to me here, I just don't want to get burned by the water. You don't know..." I found out why he was afraid, don't ever let me hear about you forcing a child into scolding water. Well after I read that I went back to his room. He was uncovered but still in the closet. Me," Hey, I'm not really to good at this apologizing thing. I'm sorry I said the things I did. I just want you to know I would never deliberately try to hurt you. It's not my nature to fight. If I feel threatened though, like I did. I will protect myself though. I honestly care a lot about you Shrek. I want to see you get ahead. I know about the things your dad says to you. I know about how all you "friends" treat you. I also know why your afraid of the water. I'm afraid of water too. I hate deep water where I can't see the bottom. My dad use to tell me I wasn't going to be able to do much either because I was smaller than everyone. He also didn't show up to anything for me as well. So i do know a little bit. So here is what I'm going to do. From here out, when I feel that I'm about to blow up at you; I'm going to tell you to go to your room or go somewhere else. I will calm down and we can talk. I can't promise that I won't yell or swear at you but I will promise that I will try really hard to stop before I get bad. From you I need you to try to shower more often and be cleaner. If you need me to teach you anything just ask. I will teach what you need to know. You also need to tell me if you need a time out. Is that something we can do together?" Shrek," Yea, I'm sorry too." He got up and I gave him a hug, which almost killed me.
Shrek is still here. He doesn't smell as bad, and when I work he usually has better days. In fact, its been said that he really looks forward to Saturdays! Shrek is an interesting kid. He is super emotional and super big. He gets mad and threatens, but you can count to 7 and he starts to cry. I really like him and I hope he does well when he leaves our program. I still look back on that day, I have never in my wildest imagination thought I was capable of being like that. The boys told me later that my eyes literally turned dark and the veins on my arms and neck were bulging. They spoke the their respective therapists about it, they said they didn't feel threatened, They actually felt like someone cared for them and Shrek. Which is good they said that because I would have gotten fired.
Every now and then Shrek and I will take a drive somewhere and just chat. Even though he is a giant, he still is just a scared little boy. Seriously, every time I think about him i imagine him walking up the stairs in cover all pajamas and a stuffed bear. It makes me smile thinking about it. He is scared about going home, he is scared about talking with his dad. Just like me... All he has ever wanted was for his dad to be proud of him. His dad no longer calls him shit head. They don't yell at each other on the phone. Shrek is one of those kids that just needs someone to put their arm around his big smelly body and just say. "Hey, you done good kid."
A few weeks a go another one of my most fun kids graduated. Sid and I have a lot in common. He is 17 years old and stands a short 5' 4''. He was a wrestler, and he played football. He had two older siblings. One was married and the other was nowhere to be found. He lived with his oldest sister. He came to us with a drug problem and all around deviance issues. I remember my first encounter with him, we were talking about wrestling. He told me that the only reason he wrestled was because that was the only sport a midget could be really I told him I wrestled because it would make me a better lover. He didn't quite get it... Anyway, as I found out more about this kid I learned that he and I had a lot in common. I graduated high school a tall 5' 5'' and weighed around 176 lbs. I went to boot camp and grew 3".
He was really manipulative, constant bullshitter if you will. Well if you know me, I am the king of bullshit and I'm not about to be one upped by a teenager. Sid is really good at making you laugh when you are obviously angry with him. He used this on me a lot. However, he still paid the pipe when it came to me. I remember one night I was working a night shift, I went down stairs and heard him screaming. I went into his room and was sleeping and screaming at the top of his lungs. His roommate was gone so that was one good thing. Well he woke up and started crying. He told me about the dream he was having. He watched one of his best friends burn to death in car crash. He got out and couldn't get his friend. Well as I sat there, I decided I would open up to him about some dreams I've been having. In particular the one i wrote about in "Keep Smiling." We became pretty close and he wrote a song when he graduated. It was called No Matter. Its a good song and I will place a little bit of it at the end of this portion. I hope to see Sid in the PGA someday.
" It doesn't matter if it rains or shines, the birds will sing"
A few short lessons I have learned while working in this school.
If you tear someone down, you better come back with twice the support and be the first to say good job. Plus be first to apologize.
Approaching someone with you arms figuratively crossed is like approaching them with a wall. Approach them like you are going to hug them and you both will get something from it.
Always be willing to apologize or don't even get involved.
Emotions are good, they are natural. Its how you deal with them that can be bad.
Labels on people are like labels on beer bottles. They can be peeled away.
Kids are kids.
It takes a man to say, "I'm sorry." It takes a real man to actually be sorry and learn from it.
A real man will fight through shitty situations without thinking about if he going to win or not. Because its not the "w" that counts. Its the seeing it through that matters. Sometimes you just lose.