Saturday, November 19, 2011
There are the cranky and inept adults who have power over our time and space; there are the peers who confuse us with their own hormonal unpredictabilities--there are anger and insecurity and sex and humiliation and often all of these things gurgle up in a crazy salad before mid-morning! There are inequities, bullying, abuse, privilege, and myriad social strata and bureaucratic structure to maneuver on a daily basis.
What I have learned about myself as a mother is that while I did pretty well with younger kids and babies, teenagers are my speciality. I am learning that Teri is pretty darn good at adolescence too. Neither one of us can be shocked, scared or sucked into drama and we are fierce and informed advocates. My motto is stolen from Anne of Green Gables: tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it--and a good motto for the all-or-nothing-life-is-over-and my-existence-is-doomed stormclouds that surround the teens.
The fact is--life truly is pretty damn crappy for many struggling teenagers. LGBTQI kids are much more likely to end up homeless and kids who come from unhealthy households are battling through the typical turmoils of teenageland with both hands tied behind their backs. They need the basics--a warm bed, good food, and a roof over their heads; but they also need some things the more privileged take for granted: someone to ask them about their day and listen, someone to advocate for them, sit with them at the doctor's office, help with homework, or even model how to solve problems without it being the end of the world. You might be amazed at how normal can seem so unsettling...
What happens when spilled food is not an emergency, but merely a mess to clean up? How odd that two adults can solve a disagreement quickly with humor and a hug? How strange that an altercation with a teacher can result in an adult advocate sitting down with the school folks and working out a solution? What if there was always enough soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, milk and heat? What if no one asked for anything in return? What sort of strange world is this?!
Teri and I are woefully ordinary people, not the slightest bit heroic. There are good days and more challenging ones; things we can control and things we can't. Talking, hugs, a pan of warm brownies, a walk through the neighborhood--we cope in rather boring and ordinary ways. I can't really speak for Teri but for me, I feel for all the world like a 100% grown-up who remembers very clearly what it felt like to be a teenager or a kid just trying to move in the world. I don't have to relive or retrieve anything because this middle-aged adult is who I am now (and besides, I have my own bucket of perimenopausal hormones to contend with.)
But the way I see it is that we can either be a help or a hindrance. Either I can participate in a positive way in the lives of people who need and struggle or I am supporting the systems of oppression. It isn't really that hard--I just have to stay present, compassionate, responsible and aware. Adolescents need us--not to throw them to the wolves and hope the strongest survive--but to care enough to provide the basics.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
We have made some additions to our lives--both in actual people (or person) and in activities. We throw a "Wednesday night Drop-In" or drop-in as it has been shortened to for all our kids, family, etc. who want to stop in for a big, hot meal and some conversation. It is low-key in every sense but the food--which tends to be PLENTY to feed our young adults, their starving friends, and whomever...the living room is overflowing, the candy bowl gets emptied and there are plenty of dishes for the two of us to do after the house clears out. It gives us the chance, however, to keep in touch with all their lives and to connect and grow together as the expanding family we are. We are so grateful for those who are close and feel the pang of missing those who are so far away.
We have also turned over what was our spare bedroom to a previously-homeless teenager--a young gal who got kicked out of her already rocky home world when she came out as queer. She's working to finish high school and deal with the crappy realities that have been her life so far. When the opportunity presented itself, Teri and I just knew it was an of course moment for us. After all, this is the sort of family we are. It just isn't enough to say that we have certain values or to state our beliefs from some obnoxious soapbox, it matters more that we actually live them. So, we're getting back into the swing of gallons of milk and empty orange juice pitchers in the fridge--teenage moodiness and energy with a queer twist. I cannot help but exclaim: how lucky are we?! The universe just keeps offering up amazing adventures. Besides, how could we not adore this complicated creature? She is incredibly good for the likes of us.
We have decided that we just need to say "Yes" to things--at a time when the whole world seems to be shuddering and contracting with fear and insecurities, there are so many ways that we can all just roll up our sleeves and jump in--whether by holding a protest sign, or taking food to the homeless, or serving on a task force, board, or volunteer project. Chances are, however little one thinks they have, they have enough to share--whether it is time, food, money, a ride, or an offer of help. Stick up for someone who needs an ally, a friend, a mom--it is amazing what can be done with bacon, pie and compassion...