Sunday, June 17, 2012

What to do When A Big Kid Lands on Your Doorstep/Heart

I have always been mostly terrified of teenagers. I mean, I liked them enough. I thought they were fascinating and funny. People say they're hopped up on pretense and image, but I was never quite so sure. I saw more. I just saw it from afar, because, you know, the whole terrified thing.

I never knew what to say to them, how to act. Being around a new teenager brought out the awkward in me like a bad perm. You may as well have clipped a retainer to my teeth and dabbed some "flesh" toned Oxy on my zits. I felt insecure and dorky. I was sure they all wanted to run away from me and not be my friend.

Then my husband took a job at an alternative high school and I thought, Good for him. He can build relationships with a few kids who need him, bless his heart.

And then one of them moved in to our home. And another one moved into our heart. And another. And they brought friends.

So at this point, it's a little crowded up in here, in my heart. It's full. In a mostly-good way.

Sometimes, people ask me what it's like. Sometimes, they tell me I'm a fool and I'm putting my family at risk. Every once in a while, I can tell that they want a big kid of their own. Well, there's plenty to go around. When you find yours, be warned that they travel in packs. Just know that you'll soon be taking kids you've never met to the Chinese buffet and buying them tacos to-go.

You'll forgo reality tv and book-writing and (gasp) blogging because your free time will be spent driving kids around and playing board games until midnight.

Here's something else you should know: The girls might huddle around the computer before bedtime and search the local police department website. They keep tabs on who was arrested. They giggle a bit too gleefully at some of the mug shots. They know those mugs. They punched her lights out. They dated him.

These big kids, they will wreck you. They won't always be as grateful as you hope. They'll storm upstairs or outside or somewhere when you tell them the truth about certain things. They'll smoke behind your garage. They'll tell you lies.

They'll stretch out on the couch and make you laugh when you're trying to read. They'll eat nasty food. They'll teach you things you never wanted to know about a life you couldn't possibly have imagined.

They'll find the loosest seam of your heart and they'll yank that thread.

They'll exhaust you, exasperate you. They'll crack you up so bad.

They'll go home. Go to jail. Go missing for months on end. They'll avoid your calls. They'll defriend you.

You'll tell yourself you're done, then wonder where they're sitting when the moon lifts higher.

You'll worry every single day about them and pray that they come back. You'll try to ease yourself into the reality that they might never be back, but it won't work. You won't accept it.

You'll have a first row seat to many of their failures and you'll know for sure that there are many more left under wraps. But you'll think about seeing them the next time and you just won't give a rip about the mistakes. You want them back, that's all. You want them safe under your roof. You want to feed them peanut butter cake and heat them a bowl of soup.

Eventually, that day shows up like a rainbow in January. It's never when you expect. There they are, like they never left. They need you now. Who knows why. Who cares.

You laugh at their jokes because they're stinking funny. You find something to be proud of and you say it out loud - I'm proud of you. They'll tell you to never, ever say "fo sho", but you'll believe to your core that they secretly love it when you do. You'll learn the street names for drugs (they'll swear they don't do them). You'll learn a tiny bit about the complicated codes they live and love by.

You'll feel like your very own Mom when they return. This is what it must feel like to have everyone home. This is that happiness.

They'll leave then, because they say they have things to do even when they don't. So you'll wind your way back around the track, again, again, again. You'll hate being there, in that place where they're just out there somewhere, doing who knows what.

Your heart will break a second time, a tenth.

It won't matter. You love them.