I haven’t been keeping you all “abreast” of what’s going in my life but this blog wasn’t created to keep you all up-to-date on everything…it’s a dumping ground for all the things I can’t say and for things that are on my heart…this post being one of them.
To catch you up to speed, I have been continuing one-on-one therapy with M and will continue to do so and I’ve just been…here. Not doing a whole lot or making a lot of “progress.” M would probably beg to differ as I’ve started working again. DON’T get excited because it’s nothing like what you might be thinking. I’ve started babysitting again. Just one to three times per month for two to three hours at a time for a four-month-old baby boy. Some of y’all might be going, “WTF?! A CRAZY SUICIDAL DEPRESSED OVERLY ANXIOUS NEUROTIC IN CHARGE OF A BABY?!” Cool your jets, kids…because I love kids, especially babies and while I may be crazy, anyone who truly knows me and my heart knows I wouldn’t do anything stupid in front of/with a baby. It’s not even a thought that ever crosses my mind. My own therapist, knowing all the shit she does, has said she would trust me with her child. If that’s not a good endorsement, I don’t know what is. I’ve had 15+ years of childcare experience and I don’t need to nor do I want to list it all here…but suffice it to say, “That bitch is gooooood.” I have mad skillz.
I’ve been watching a four-month-old baby boy, D, for just about a month now…just a few times so far. I usually watch him in three-hour chunks so I usually get a feeding, some play time and a nap, which suits me just fine because snuggling a sleeping baby feels better than popping a Xanax. Baby D has a 13-year-old sister, LL. D’s mom is NOT LL’s mom…but they have the same dad. So D’s mom is technically a first-time mom and that couldn’t be any more evident…she’s not a bad mom at all, it’s just very obvious that she hasn’t been around kids much and lacks experience with babies.
I watched D earlier this week and it was a later shift than I usually do. I usually watch him in the late afternoon but this shift was a dinner to bedtime shift, which was fine with me. Both mom and dad went out, so it was just me, baby, and big sister LL. LL had gotten in trouble for something earlier in the day and was in her room when I got there but she came out after mom and dad left. D had just finished eating so I was burping him, and LL sat down and just started talking to me. A 13-year-old…talking to a 29-year-old. Not a bad thing but definitely something I hadn’t done in a very long time, if ever. She sat down on a stool near where I was sitting with the baby and she stayed there…just talking to me…for three hours. She even mentioned at one point that she had never done that with her dad or step-mom (who, even after five-ish years, can’t even say the child’s name right). When she said that to me, it made me really sad. I may be almost 30, but I remember what being a teenager was like…it’s a time in my life that, unfortunately, was very hard for me and probably won’t ever be forgotten. I hope I am able to stay with this family for a while because I would love to be a…a “positive role model” doesn’t sound like a really good thing to say given my history but…maybe I could at least be someone she can talk to, confide in, feel comfortable with…because I’d rather have her talk to me, someone older, someone who’s been around the block, someone that’s not a part of her family, than have her keep all her feelings inside. Speaking from experience, bottling up all that shit doesn’t benefit anyone.
I’ve become a cranky old fart over the last ten years or so, despising today’s teenagers. They piss me off. They are disrespectful and don’t even know street names anymore because their heads are always down, texting or playing games. I stumbled upon a Facebook post a few months ago of a teenage girl that was SO heartbroken because her parents bought her the wrong color iPhone for Christmas. I would have taken that damn phone back to the store and told her to stuff it. Pissed me off, that post did.
But while talking to LL…I didn’t feel like I was talking an ungrateful, ditsy 13-year-old who has no idea what the “real world” is like. After last Tuesday night, I think she taught me a lesson…to not write off all teenagers so quickly. (However, I will continue to write you off immediately if your pants are around your knees instead of your waist.)
She started out the evening just asking me about my piercings and tattoos, if they hurt….expressing her desire just to get her ears pierced. She asked me a few questions about how I grew up and what it was like “back in the day”. (Man I felt old saying stuff like, “Back in my day, we got actual report cards sent in the mail…you know…pieces of paper a real person puts in that thing called a mailbox? My parents could not just log on a computer…we had just started using computers back then!…to check my grades and check on any missing assignments the minute first period was over.) She talked to me about makeup and boys, asked me what I was allowed to do at what ages…what I think about certain things. We talked about our love for scary movies and loud music. Nothing sticks out as “major” or a big deal…just girlfriend chit-chat. And, much to my surprise, conversation flowed easily and naturally because the next thing I knew, her parents had returned home three hours later and I was all, “Whhhaaatttt?” It was very evident to me, by the end of the night, that LL did not have anyone to share/talk about this kind of stuff with. I’m sure she has her little school friends but they are probably just like her…curious and need/want someone older who is not family to just talk to without the fear of being judged or “tattled” on. It didn’t take her long to start opening up to me, it seemed…which I took as a compliment because it’s hard to engage any teenager in a conversation that doesn’t involve talking via computer or cell phone and in any conversation involving real feelings that does not involve gossip about what the most popular girl in school is doing. It was obvious she just wanted…even needed…to talk. I came away thinking that she’s probably a lot like me…shut down a lot at home, not encouraged to talk and/or invalidated when she does talk/share her feelings. For three hours, I just empathized with her, shared a little bit about myself and my living situation…how even at almost 30, I completely “get it”…because even at almost 30, I sometimes feel like/am treated like I’m 15. Life, no matter what age you are, isn’t butterflies and rainbows all the time; there are still bullies and I wouldn’t even say that it gets easier (but I didn’t tell her that…she’ll figure it out soon enough).
In a nutshell, LL’s biological mom is around (as in she lives locally and wants to be involved) and from what LL has told me, she’s quite sane and functioning, doing just fine. I didn’t know her father had full custody of her until last week because custody is usually given to a mother…and even then, there’s usually a joint custody agreement. LL’s father (who is also baby’s father) forbids LL to have any contact with her biological mom whatsoever. For the life of me, I still don’t know why. LL says her mom has a great job, she has other children and is not a “dead-beat mom” with drug or alcohol issues or anything that would normally prevent her from having custody or at least be in LL’s life. LL doesn’t even get to see her every other weekend…in fact, her father has forbidden contact between LL and her biological mother until LL is 18. I felt absolutely horrible (and astonished!) at this because at 13, a girl needs a mom and/or a positive female figure in her life and baby’s mom, LL’s step-mom, doesn’t seem to fulfill that role. This poor 13-year-old…being the psych major I am, I can just see all the mommy issues that may come up later in life for this girl…and it makes me sick…and only strengthens my resolve to attempt to be something for her, hoping her family situation doesn’t fuck her up more than it already has/will.
I have, thus far, skirted around telling LL the real reason(s) I’m at home and not working, choosing to watch her brother instead of getting a “real job”. 1) I’m still learning to trust her and her family as I’m sure they are doing with me. 2) I don’t know if those kind of topics (depression, suicide, etc.) should even be discussed with a 13-year-old, especially when I’m not family/her parent. I don’t want to give her a subliminal message of, “If she can do it [suicide], I can too.” (This would be totally different if it went in the direction of, “If she can overcome suicide and adversity and come out on top, I can too.” but I haven’t made it that far in my journey yet, so that message isn’t there to share.) I’ll have to ask M what she thinks regarding these topics and how one would go about discussing them with a teenager who is not family…if it’s even appropriate at all. LL’s parents seem to heavily supervise anything she has access to…like the internet and such, which isn’t a bad thing, but I don’t want her parents to look down upon me for “opening the door” on certain topics, of which their daughter may have been ignorant of before I came along. [Annotation: I have not and don’t plan on ever talking to LL like I talk to my therapist, divulging my feelings and thoughts. But LL is curious so if it gets to a point where she asks me what’s going on in my life and why I am where I am and why I am who I am, I don’t know what’s okay to tell her and what topics I should refrain from mentioning given her age. I’m sure there’s a fine line and I plan to find and identify it before saying anything to LL. I am just trying to say that I’m here FOR LL, for her to talk to and trust…not for me to talk to her as if she were an adult/friend. I can skirt around things and “dull” the intensity of my feelings but I refuse to lie, to her or anyone.]
I know I’m still new to this family but it astounds me how people will act one way in front of others (me) and then you find out that they are so not that way behind closed doors. My heart broke for LL. Not only can her step-mom not pronounce her name correctly (it’s not hard…I was able to do it just fine the moment I met LL), she is quick to correct anyone that says LL is her daughter. “No no no, step-daughter.” I get that that’s the truth, but how demeaning and unloving does it feel for LL to see and hear that on a regular basis…having her step-mom, someone who is going to be in her life for a long time and already has been up to this point, take no “ownership” of LL. Sure, there is no blood connection, but she is, for all intents and purposes, the mother figure, especially since she forbids LL to have any contact with her biological mother (which I don’t understand, but she’s not my child…not hers either, apparently). LL is at a crucial point in her life and if there is not a strong female figure in her life, shit’s gone get real pretty damn fast. And if she doesn’t trust her parents or talk to them, she’s either going to do a lot of bad shit behind their back and/or she’s going to bottle up all of her feelings because she doesn’t feel like she can trust/talk to them and that, in and of itself, will lead to a lot of bad shit. I can’t imagine being 13, in a split household, no contact with her seemingly sane biological mother, a brand new baby brother and a massive attention shift. It doesn’t sound like LL was ever the focal point in her father and step-mother’s life even before the baby came along, and she’s definitely not now. She’s expected to help out with the baby…during my second time watching D, her father said she could not go over to a friend’s house because he said she had to stay home and help me with the baby. I’m like, “Dude [I didn’t actually say this!], I got this…srsly. I’m cool. It’s a gorgeous day…let her go play.” If I didn’t have 15+ years of experience and know what the fuck I’m doing, y’all probably shouldn’t have hired me in the first place. Jus’ sayin’. There also seems to be a lot of double standards in the home. LL is not allowed to watch TV at all on school days…fair…but her friggin’ 4-month-old baby brother gets to watch TV all damn day and I shit you not people, he does. I have never seen a baby that young able to stare at a television screen with any semblance of attention. And I am, at my age, going DUMB watching the shit that’s supposed to make him SMART. Trust me, when he gets older and can play a little more, that shit’s not gonna happen on my watch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a TV whore myself…but I’m also an adult who can make my own decisions and granted, I have no kids and therefore have nothing to offer/say to someone who does, but I don’t agree with using TV as a babysitter, especially when you go out of your way to hire a motherfucking babysitter. Jus’ sayin’. LL is expected to live up to very high standards…standards that, even at my age, I’m not expected to meet. And there is no positive reinforcement for all that she does…which I can TOTALLY relate to. Example: I will empty the dishwasher without being asked. No problem…something I should do anyway. But instead of a thank you or acknowledgement of some sort, I get chastised for putting the cups away still wet and not taking the time to dry them off more before putting them away. Okay…let’s ignore the fact that I just emptied the dishwasher and tidied up the kitchen for you without being asked…let’s focus on how wet the cups are (that will be dry by morning due to a little thing called “evaporation”). LL gets treated the same way. This child is expected, without being asked, to perform many feats…but instead of thanking her or rewarding her, everything she did WRONG is pointed out to her. I can just see the therapy sessions now. My heart seriously aches for this girl and I want to shake her parents and tell them, “Look at what you are doing to her! You are going to fuck her up in ways that will be irreparable if you don’t rectify your parenting methods. Trust me.”
After three hours talking to LL, it seemed to me that she just really needs someone to talk to. Anyone. But preferably someone she can trust, someone that won’t rat her out. (Don’t take this to mean I wouldn’t tell her parents if I thought she was in danger and/or engaging in dangerous behavior. I’d give it some serious thought first, not wanting to break LL’s trust but depending on the situation, if telling her parents saves LL’s life…fair gamble/trade in my opinion.) After three hours, I saw a beautiful, intelligent girl who is SO awesome, but her parents don’t know/see that because they don’t let her show it. If she were given an opportunity to just be herself (not “no holds bar”/no rules…but just if her parents would lighten up a little and see what a beautiful young lady they have growing up in their home), she would truly astound her father and step-mother. I’d put money on it. Because she IS awesome and beautiful and she made me rethink my disdain for teenagers…because she is proving me wrong. I just want to scoop her up and hug her and tell her how beautiful and awesome she is (she is on the boy’s wrestling and football team, kicking ass!) and how she has the potential and “balls” to be and do anything she wants. I want to tell her that the world needs more girls like her and how grateful and humbled I am that she chose to open up to me, a perfect stranger, so quickly. But doing that showed me how much she desperately needs a strong female in her life. And if I can do/be that female, I would love to. I may be fucked up and crazy but by golly, if I can save ONE teenage girl from the insecurities and doubts so many teenagers experience today…or at least help make it bearable, I’m all for it…give me the job, sign me up.
This will require some thought and probably a lengthy discussion with M and possibly LL’s parents, but I want to be able to be here for LL whenever she wants/needs, not just when I am over watching her brother. It appears that the child has no e-mail or cell phone, so I’m not sure how she would prefer to go about communicating. I prefer writing over talking on the phone (I can’t hear to save my life and writing gives me more time to edit myself and turn the profanity filter on), so I’m hoping to possibly be able to communicate by e-mail. It doesn’t have to be deep discussions of the heart…it can be that, but it can be as simple as, “Hey LL! How are you? How is school?” Basics, girly chit-chat…the things she’s not talking about with anyone now. I’ll be damned if I let one more teenage girl grow up thinking she’s not worth the gum stuck to someone else’s shoe. How she is being treated and listened to (or not) now will impact (probably even predict) what she will be/act like as an adult. Look at me…living proof of what it will do. And I am F to the U-C-K-E-D UP. If I can have any part in preventing someone else from ending up like me, I would love and relish the opportunity. She is a like a sponge at 13 and the smallest and most trivial things matter, even though they seem petty to us as adults. They matter at that age whether you want to acknowledge it or not. And whether or not you listen matters. If you don’t want to hear about how the most popular girl is being a mean snob, she’s not going to want to tell you about the new boy she met who is pressuring her to have sex.
My original intention for this post was to be an open letter to LL but clearly that didn’t happen. Some more thought and discussion will have to be given as to how I will be able/allowed to communicate with LL because I don’t want to go behind her parents’ back. If nothing else, I hope she knows that when I come over to watch her brother, I’m there for her too…not to watch and babysit her, just to talk and listen.