Recently I quit my full time job to focus on my family. With a new husband, five boys ages 17 to 10, and the active life that comes with all of that, I was feeling overwhelmed at work and at home. More days than not, I was failing miserably in both places and I knew I couldn’t keep going along that path.
In a profound leap of faith, I resigned right before winter break, without having another job lined up. We couldn’t afford for me to stay home full time, so I knew I needed to find something fast. Amazingly enough, I had a strong sense of peace about what would happen next. Usually one to be anxious and prone to worry, in this case, I just trusted that something would work out. And it did.
Last week I was hired as a part time Social Studies tutor in a nearby middle school. I exclusively help one 8th grade teacher and my hours are 9 to 1 daily. When I stop to think about my good fortune, I can hardly believe how incredibly lucky I am.
Having the job is wonderful, but learning the ropes has been another thing altogether. It’s not that what I’m asked to do is difficult. Quite the opposite, it’s very easy. It’s WHO I am working with that has me perplexed, frustrated, and completely at a loss.
Adolescents are like foreign creatures to me, which is odd because I’ve already raised two boys through those years. We seemed to come through unscathed. Not so with these kids. I have decided that they are like toddlers inside almost adult size bodies.
They are loud and make weird noises. They laugh and giggle at the most inane things. They talk while the teacher talks, they talk while no one else is talking, they talk when videos are playing. Have I mentioned that they never shut up?
They appear to be completely unaffected by anything. If they look at me at all, it’s like I am from outer space. Otherwise, they just stare right through me.
Middle schoolers will do anything to get away with something. That something might be eating ‘hot chips’ out of their backpack, or poking a neighbor with their pencil, or pulling their hoodie over their head so they can hide the earbuds they’re listening to Eminem with. When you ask them to stop, they just give the “you’re such an alien” look. Except, I don’t think they are thinking ‘alien’.
They will say anything to get attention or shock you. Last week, I was told by a student that he ‘loved the sound of my voice’ and ‘thought I was beautiful’. Later, he asked if my husband was ‘dead or alive’. Yeah, they know no boundaries.
I know they are still children inside growing bodies. I know they still have vulnerabilities and fears and worries just like the rest of us. I just wish they weren’t so crusty on the outside and were more open to the fact that I am there to help them and I truly do want to care about them, if only they’d give me the chance.
We have one middle schooler at home. He’s just as hard, if not harder because I actually love him and care more about his well being. Finding that balance of just the right amount of rules and consistency and having the freedom to prove responsibility is absolutely exhausting. On top of that, he’s one of my step sons and I am still figuring out my role as his stepmother. Where and what are my boundaries? How hard can I push? How much can I expect? I think I know what Richard is okay with, but I still worry. It’s a slippery slope.
We still have two more adolescents to go. Hopefully by the time they reach this age (not much longer, I realize), I will have this awkward, confusing, patience testing stage somewhat figured out.
If not, you can probably find me poking myself with a pencil while listening to Eminem as I stress eat some ‘hot chips’.