Generations Day Care Part Seven: Trust
The best gift any adult can give a teenager is trust. Even more valued than praise, when an adult trusts a kid enough to let him do a job that you might not let a sixteen year-old do you give him the sense that he is truly ready for the adult world.
I loved my summer job. I loved playing with the children on the playground of the school. I knew all their names and best yet, the parents all had nothing but good things to say about me. As I said before I was the only guy working at Generations day care. Most guys who aren't parents of the children didn't last long there, they told me.
During the summer of 1999, I was in a six week college oriented program called Upward Bound. It was through Upward Bound that I found out about the Summer Youth Employment Program, and I participated in the summer program as well as doing my job at Generations. After Upward Bound I asked Sarah, my supervisor if I could come to camp a few hours earlier.
Of course I wanted to make a little extra money too. But there was another major reason that was even more crucial than the money...I wanted to eat lunch with the kids. Snack time was ordinarily at twelve-thirty and I was always there for snack. But lunch was at ten o'clock so we Sarah agreed to let me start coming in at around nine o'clock.
I took turns sitting at each table, chatting with the kids while I ate. Lunch wasn't work. It was a time to get to know the kids, to talk about things like video games and TV shows and favorite movies and music. Getting close to the kids was important to me and I formed the strongest bonds with them at the lunch table.
It was one afternoon after Upward Bound and we were down to four kids. Raymond and his two older sisters Heather and Rachel, along with Larissa. Sarah had all ready gone up and Amanda had to leave. Larissa's mother called the day care and told them she'd be late, so Mary, the director of Generations came to pick her up which left three.
Their family was still coming and Mary didn't want to take them all the way back to the day care. This was back before you could get a pay as you go cell phone and Raymond, Rachel and Heather's parent's didn't have a cell phone at the time so if they had been on their way to the school there was no way to get a hold of them. That meant someone would have to stay at the school with them and Mary asked me if I would stay.
Rachel acted up once and for five minutes she sat in the time out chair while eleven year-old Heather and I sat near the door of the cafeteria at Raymond's insistence playing UNO. I played that game so many times with Raymond and the other kids that I actually had patterns figured out in the deck.
"When is mom getting here?" Raymond asked in his usual demanding tone.
To this day Raymond was one of the most serious looking six-year olds I had ever met. Every day, even when he was playing he had the same serious frown. The only things that could clear it were play time, winning games, and the tickle monster. But it was half past five now, and his mother was still running late.
"She is pretty late," Heather said with a worried voice, glancing at the clock a few times.
Heather was a strong kid. She never showed a trace of fear and she was very protective of her brother, sister, and the other kids. But even now, with her long black hair tied back in a beautiful braid, she looked at me searching for reassurance.
"She'll be here." I promised them. “Rachel you can get out of the time out chair.”
Raymond climbed into my lap and fell asleep in my arms and as I sat there watching Amanda and Rachel played a game. I was glad it didn't get dark in the summer as six o'clock slowly crept up on us.
As much as the kids needed me to be strong, I was sixteen. I couldn't leave the kids alone even to call my mother, but I knew she'd want to know where I was. And what if their mother didn't show up? Was Mary still at the day care? Who would I call if it got too late?
Their mother finally arrived at ten past six, apologizing casually as if it wasn't a huge inconvenience. Still, as upset with her as I was, it couldn't compare to how happy I was for the trust my supervisors placed in me that day.