Tuesday, July 04, 2006

 

Patience, Patience: The trouble with trying to make a difference

I've been inspired to tell a story that perhaps I shouldn't, but I think its telling in terms of understanding the complexities of trying to help high-risk kids. I say "high-risk" a little hesitantly. I don't like labels, but I use those words because I want you to understand that these kids I’ve chosen to mentor have been through so much, and I’m out of my frame of reference (i.e., I have no idea what I’m doing.) As I have said, both parents are not around and haven't been around for about 5 years. The kids have been with a guardian, a woman who often cares for children who no one else will.

Sister Josephine actually inspired me through her work with children. She understands their pain and needs because she's been there. Anyway, if you didn't already know, she is the reason I decided to mentor these kids. If she can welcome them into her home, why couldn’t I mentor them? Last weekend, I wanted the kids to come over. It's been two weeks since we went to the movies (I needed the break) and I thought it was time to get together. Now Stephen is 10 and Johnny is 11. I'd bought Johnny a cake for his birthday, so I thought I'd buy Stephen a cake for his.

I left a voicemail message that I wanted to have the kids over for most of (last) Saturday. They should expect to “work first and play second.” It’s important because I know we seem like zillionaires. And although life is not fair by any means, I think it’s important that they see that work that involved in making our life seem easier. (Actually, I was going to have them help my husband work in the backyard). Sister Josephine called me back with an emphatic “No way. I don’t want them working like that.” I get that. You never know how the story could be misconstrued into something that gets the kids taken away. So I suggested working with academics first. “No” she said. “The boys did fine”, then she say, “They did well in school.” Play only. I must have left a bad impression before. Who knows?

But, on my way to pick the kids up, Sister Josephine calls me again to tell me that she is too busy. The boys are cleaning up. "But I bought a cake for Stephen," I said. "I understand," I told her. “This is a busy time for me too.” Sister suggested that I just bring over the cake, and oh by the way, could I just tell them I'm not taking them with me because I'm so busy. I was floored. Thankfully, by the time I got there - late because I wasn't sure how to handle all of this- she had broken the news to them. Stephen then wanted to know, “Did I buy the cake?” Curious question from a ten-year-old, don't you think?

My girlfriend, Sophia suggested that I just do the best I can and that is all I can expect to do. That the situation will not unfold exactly as I would imagine, but that's life. Of course, she's right. I'm still a little shocked and hurt though. But again, that's life. And I certainly can’t complain because I’m not trying to take these kids in. Maybe I'll try again next weekend.

As for Nicholas’ comment from my last post, I understand the need for a male mentor. I seem to be struggling with the basics. I can introduce them to men who I think they’ll respect, but I can’t force a relationship. I’ll continue doing what I can. I may make a difference or may not. That’s not why I do it. (Thank goodness, because I don’t seem to be making much headway.)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

 

Mentoring and the Movies (Cars)

I took Stephen, Johnny and LO to see Cars last night. We started with pizza and then had just enough time to get to the movie theater. Since it was my party, I paid for everyone. Now I see why folks with big families don't go out much. We had me, Mr. Jones, LO, Stephen, and Johnny. ($40 for the movies alone!) I was trying to make it a low maintenance evening. Going to the movies means that I don't have to supervise much, but today I realize that the extra hassle saves me a lot of money. The younger of the two, Stephen, just turned 10 this week. I better get him a cake since I got Johnny a cake for his birthday.

Next time we get together, I have to remember to review our 'game plan' first. The same issues keep coming up and I need to nip them in the bud. The kids think I'm a millionaire, and I suppose I am compared to their experience. That means they always want as much as they can get on the menu, and always ask for extras. I remember on a few occasions when we were going to the diner, Stephen cried because he wanted pancakes, bacon, eggs and toast. We originally agreed to pancakes and bacon. A small point, but I have to draw the line and the fact that Stephen would cry about the thing makes me realize how important boundaries are. Johnny, on the other hand, has some kind of eating issue. He treats food like a drug. It's his comfort. He eats too much, too fast and still seemingly can't get enough every time we get together.

When we got to the movies, Stephen and Johnny ran to the video games, begging for money. I'm thinking, "Are you crazy? I just paid $40 to take you guys to see a cartoon!" I guess I can't say that though. I did say "no way." If I had it to "do over," we'd have a conversation before the restaurant and the movie theater about how we will and won't act. Anyway, I tried my very hardest to give my full attention to all kids, and tried to have 1-on-1 talks with everyone.

The boys definitely gravitate toward Mr. Jones, the African American male figure, who is a laid back as can be. And he is a good match for the older, Johnny. Johnny is becoming hard in his preteen years. He is used to getting in trouble and being yelled at because in general he doesn't listen and can do things he shouldn't. What he is not used to is having to spar with Mr. Jones intellectually. That, my friends, is fun to watch.

In the movie, there was a preview of a kid who had to eat worms. At one point, they put a worm in the microwave. Johnny wanted to know what would really happen if you put a worm in the microwave. I suspect he might have tried it if we gave the wrong answer. (He still might.) Mr. Jones went into this thing about how there is no point in answering the question because a child shouldn't do it. And if a child did, he would get in big trouble. So Johnny wanted to know what would happen if an adult put a worm in the microwave. Mr. Jones said that adults wouldn't do that. The two went back and forth and eventually, Johnny just gave up. Phew! That was close.

The kids had fun. They talked alot as they do when they are excited (including LO), and we got them back home just after 9 pm. An evening well spent.

Chinese contest: LO was so cute! I'm not sure why they call it a "speech contest" since the kids addressed the group in Chinese: Principal, teachers, students, this is our lesson and we will recite 3 poems. Then, they recited the poems. When it was over, LO bowed. Class is over for the summer. They'll resume again with the regular school year.

Friday, June 16, 2006

 

Chinese Speech Contest in 1 1/2 Hours

It's too much for a mother to bear! He's the only non-Chinese kid in his class, so you know I've got to bring the video camera. All this for 3 minutes of pleasure...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

 

Mentee Update

For those of you who remember all about my mentees, here's an update. I probably haven't seen the boys in at least a month. I called Sister Josephine, their current guardian, and asked if I could take the boys to see the movie, "Cars" this Saturday. What do I know about "Cars" - nothing. Doesn't matter. It looked like a cartoon, so it can't be too bad. I had to leave a message on her voicemail since it was probably around the time the boys were being put to bed. Sister Josephine called me at work today. When she told the boys I called, they were so excited! I guess they thought I dropped them (like a lot of other adults in their lives.) Apparently, they jumped up and down, shouting "Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Jones." I shouldn't have let so much time go, but things happen, you know? I may invite LO's new best friend. We'll see...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

 

You May Find It Amusing that...

a good friend of mine (my age) who I've known for years, feels inexperienced in the ways of love and so asked me to give her sex advice and tips. I don't know what the heck she was thinking!!! Remember, I've been married for a decade and have exactly one child. It's not clear I know (or remember) what you're supposed to do. (just kidding) Anyway, I tried my best to talk about ways to be sensuous without actually getting in trouble. Nothing nasty, just fun things you can do together to create intimacy just beyond friendship. Massages, guess that food (chocolate, cool whip, fruit, sugar, and combinations), skin on skin (touching feet, hands etc.). Then I got to thinking, I'm really reaching here into the DEPTHS of my memory. That is a dag gone shame! But that's for another blog.

I figured I could at least go that far since I only have two people reading the blog.

Cheers.

(BTW, LO has his Chinese "speech contest" on Friday i.e., reciting 3 poems with his class and his first piano "recital" next Wednesday. Thankfully, I'm keeping myself calm and in check. Hopefully, it will last. Remind me to bring my video camera.)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

 

Has it been THAT long?

Gee. I guess I haven't blogged since February huh? I have no particularly good excuse. Just busy at work and at life and this blog stuff doesn't seem to pay very well. (ha, ha) Anyway, I do have a few personal stories that I haven't written up, so perhaps this week I could 'get it together.' There is hope after all. And I'm realizing that good things come to those who pursue their passions. Without going into detail, I've been working on one project that I'm learning so much from. And, of course, I love those personal stories. So, whether I'm tired or not, I need to get back to it.

Just as an update, I haven't seen my mentees in several weeks. During the last few weeks, I keep seeing and reading these stories about children in foster care. One principal of a particularly high-risk facility said in an interview that the one thing she would hope for her kids is that they have at least one adult who could be there for the kids' whole lives...I got the message. I've also had some family crisis (what's the plural of crisis?). You know how that goes. I'm trying to be there for a few family members. I'm not going to get into that, but I just need to do all I can. It's after midnight on Sunday and I need to keep my job, so

SEE YA!

Friday, February 24, 2006

 

Still Working...

Still working on that Personal Story guys. My big challenge is going to be keeping this project going. I'm going to have to step my networking up, but I really want to stay in my comfort zone. I have had many very helpful conversations lately about how to procede with this project. (One very interesting conversation during my SIX hour visit to the hair salon last weekend.) I'm very focused on one of them because I don't want this project to just fizzle out. I've put too much work and heart into it at this point. And, as you may have noticed, I haven't seen my mentees in a few weeks. I guess I've been calling Sister Josephine, their guardian, at the last minute (the same day) and haven't heard back from her. So I'll need to get back on the horse with that too. My job may get less crazy in about a week (Let's hope so because I'm starting to have to pry my eyelids open during the day). Last but not least, my cousin called this weekend. She's planning on spending the weekend with us. Well, here we go...

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