Friday, November 18, 2011

How's Your Wife, My Kids?

Yeah. I'm still as cool as this guy!

'How’s your wife, my kids?'

'I’m not married.'

'Yeah, I know.'

Not every day, but more than a once a week, I had this conversation with one of the kids I worked with in my early days as a childcare worker. I was twenty-one. He was sixteen. It was a ludicrous conversation and one I tried to redirect, but eventually I admit to giving up and going along and playing my part. Back in those days, back when I was dealing with fights between kids, assaults on staff, bullying and trying to keep the kids I watched from running away, that bit of off color talk was no big deal.

I moved up in the company from those days and eventually became an assistant supervisor overseeing an eleven bed forty-five day diagnostic program. Then I saw the light, realized the futility of middle management and transferred to the maintenance department where I have comfortably stayed for the past six years. Sometimes I miss the early days, miss the action, miss the kids who would tell me to go eff myself.

Weird, I know, but the challenges with those kids made the job rewarding, made it fun. I was on the move constantly and I felt like I was helping kids, teaching them how to survive without physical fighting, without lashing out verbally. The greater challenges meant greater reward when they made progress.

Now, we have primarily autistic spectrum kids, kids completely unlike those jail-house kids I worked with as a fresh kid myself fourteen years ago.

The funny thing? The other day, I got to trot out the same conversation, the familiar conversation I had so often in my first days. This time it was between me and on of the staff, an overnight supervisor where I work, with a guy I’ve known for about a decade.

He likes to joke, for some unknown reason, that his two boys are really a product of me messing around with his wife. He asks on occasion for child support and the conversation plays out in much the same way, much as my early conversation played out with the kid I used to work with.

This time, my friend said to the room of people that it was terrible that ‘my’ kids had to grow up without a father figure because I was such a bastard due to my delinquency and lack of financial support. I waited for that heartbeat of silence that filled the room, then, (and I deliberated and struggled with myself in that briefest moment, really I did) I hit the slowly lobbed softball.

‘But at least they have two great mother figures at home’.  

Juvenile? Yes, I called him a woman and that is juvenile but I’ve never claimed maturity. He sputtered and hit me and then with a smile admitted his error, knowing that because I am immature, I will of course torture him for the next year for his misspoken words.

It wasn’t the funniest episode and certainly, reading this back, is one of those, ‘you had to be there’ moments, but it cheered me- quite a lot. I get nostalgic and this was a connection to a time when I felt better about the job I did with kids, when I was idealistic and thought I was changing the world; a time when I was young and ‘How’s your wife, my kids’  was funny shit.

I miss those days.

I guess it’s a good thing, then, that mentally at least, I can still channel that earlier me whenever I want. My body matures, but mind, my mind is still stuck in the eighties.


Julia Rachel Barrett said...

I stopped maturing at 19. Decided at age 19 that was it. No more. Some days it works better than others.

MT Nickerson said...

19 is such a great age, Julia! Wish that I had made it to 19 before I stopped maturing :)

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

See? You can make a joke!

MT Nickerson said...

Yes, but how many can I make laugh at said joke? :)