I didn't get home until midnight last night. And that's because Peanut wanted to go to a school dance that was being held in one of the county's schools. I told her I'd take her, and then ended up playing taxi service for a few of her friends. Because that's just what I do.
Once I dropped the kids off to shake their tail feathers, I retreated back to school to work in my classroom.... until 9:30PM. It was the only sensible thing I could do, being that I live about 45 minutes away from where the dance was being held, and I was way too tired to drive all the way home and back up to the school later in the evening. I just knew that once I got home, I'd be too tired to do all that driving so late at night.
So, I got to spend some quality time alone in my classroom, sorting, organizing, grading, and generally cleaning up.
Which really has absolutely nothing to do with my post for today....except the part about driving all the kids to the dance.
Today's post is all about those kids. The kids I have become a volunteer chauffeur for. They are the kids that Peanut spends quite a bit of time with outside of school...and spend a lot of time with me outside of school.
One thing I loved, when I was growing up, was the fact that all of my friends loved my parents. They had no problem spending time "hanging out" at my house, because they all felt very comfortable being around my parents...and my they always made my friends feel welcome in our home. Several of my friends also called my mom "mom".
I always swore that once I had teenagers, I would be the same way for their friends.
And, thankfully, that wish came true.
Unfortunately, because we live so far away from where I work and where the kids go to school, it's very hard to be an accommodating host parent, because Peanut's friends can't just come over and hang out. It's a lot easier for me to arrange "play dates" with her friends, and I am always willing to be the driver of such events... so that parents don't have to worry about it, and so that I can give Peanut time to spend with her friends outside of school.
Putting myself in to that situation has given me the opportunity to stay close to what Peanut is doing, get to know the kids she hangs out with, and even build strong relationships with the kids that are her best friends.
Peanut has a lot more friends than those pictured in my little collage, but the kids in that collage are the ones that I've gotten to know the most, and the ones I spend the most amount of time with.
And almost all of those kids call me "Mom", which is one of the most humbling, heartwarming, and nicest things they could call me. Definitely compared to some of the other names I've been called. HA!
Starting from the top...there's Peanut and one of her BFFs that she just became close with this year. He and I actually spent some time getting to know each other during summer school, and it was at that time he and I built our bond. I didn't know anything about him until then, but over the course of two weeks, he opened up to me and shared some of his life situations and history. Due to that bond, he and Peanut became fast friends once school started again in August.
Since August, he's spent a lot of time with us outside of school. I've taken him to ball games and school events. I've driven him home from school several times...just so he could spend some time with his friends outside of school hours. And hardly a day goes by where he doesn't come down to my classroom just to say hi and ask how my day has been. He started calling me "mom" several weeks ago... even in front of his own mother at one point. Which kind of made me nervous. Sure, I love that these kids want to call me that, but I also don't want to upset any mothers. She thought it was funny, thankfully, and also thanked me for volunteering to drive him around to places. She is a hardworking woman, raising a family, and appreciated the fact that I was willing to spend some of my time playing taxi driver to a bunch of teenagers.
Moving clockwise, there's the love of my daughter's life. Holding his adorable little sister, who just happens to be very close friends with Jelly. Jelly and Little Sister go to school together, and it's an added bonus that their mom is also a teacher at our school. Their mom teaches 3rd grade in the same hallway as me, and it makes my life SOOOO much easier when Jelly gets off the school bus at the end of the day and has someone to play with. Especially such a sweet kid who's willing to put up with Jelly's demanding personality.
The boy in that picture is Peanut's current crush. Although, it's so much more than that. They aren't dating....they did last year, but it ended badly. Since that time, they've been rebuilding their friendship and are back to being inseparable best friends. I absolutely adore this boy. He reminds me a lot of Butter for personal reasons, but he is able to put a smile on Peanut's face that no other person can. This was the boy that I had to reach out to when Peanut went through the awful break-up with her ex-boyfriend. He was the only person I knew that would be able to calm her down, talk to her, and comfort her. And that's exactly what he did. In doing so, it made Peanut realize how much she's always cared for him, and how much she wants him to be a part of her life. How much Peanut and he cares for each other is apparent in just spending a few minutes with them.
It's an added bonus that I love his whole family. From an amazingly supportive and loving mother, that I am very thankful to work with being that she has been a great support to me since starting my job. To his adorable and cute sister that adores Peanut, and is able to put up with Jelly so that they can play together. And even his dad who I get to see occasionally that is always nice and friendly to us. Peanut also loves all the members of his family, and it means the WORLD to her that they like her back. It's important to her that she does whatever she needs to do to show them respect and thanks for allowing her to be a part of their son's life.
The picture in the middle is Peanut with one of her closet girl friends. Peanut is very much like I used to be in school. She has a lot of girl friends, but can spend time with guys and it not be awkward or weird. Most of her closest friends are boys. Yet, she does have a few close knit friends that are girls, and the one in that picture is one Peanut spends a lot of time with outside of school.
She also happens to be the only friend from school that has spent the night with Peanut. Peanut has spent the night with other friends, but this one is the only one that has come to us.
That girl is hilariously funny, super sensitive, and is one of a very tiny selection of teenagers that Hubby doesn't mind being around. She's in to video games, is an avid Doctor Who fan, and her playlist of music contains artists such as The Eagles and Queen. She has absolutely no fear or hesitation about talking to Hubby about the new video games out or the latest episodes of Doctor Who. There hasn't been many teenagers willing to do that. Wait, scratch that. There hasn't been ANY teenagers willing to do that. Something about his unapproachable demeanor, I suppose. Which doesn't bother this girl ONE BIT!
Her comfort around Hubby and I makes her even more likable.. if that's possible. She has absolutely no problem calling me "Joanna" (which is tough for most of Peanut's friends because they are used to calling me by my "teacher name"), and occasionally endearingly calls me "Mom".
Just like Peanut's beau, an added bonus with this friend is the fact that she has an amazing mom... and her mom and I are becoming fast friends. We've spent some time together, shared some life stories, are able to randomly text each other for no reason whatsoever, and she and I have a lot in common. Being that I don't have a lot of luck in the making friends department, it's awesome that I've been able to find another parent that shares so many of my interests and personality traits.
The bottom two pictures are brothers. The one on the left is Peanut's friend, and the one on the right is his older brother. Starting with the one on the left, this kid has a very special place in my heart. Of all of Peanut's friends, this is the one that I have the closest "motherly" relationship to.
I got my first encounter with him last year, and met an awkward, shy, hardly said a word teenager. Me, being the loud and talkative person I am, threw him off a little. He apparently wasn't used to being coerced in to social situations, but anytime I was spending time in Peanut's class or chaperoning the school dances, I always made a point of dragging him out of his little corner and forcing him to interact and socialize with his peers. The kids all like him, they were just used to him being shy and quiet.
This year, an offer to take him to a ball game blossomed in to him becoming part of Peanut's close cluster of friends...and spending more time with me. I'm sure, at first, he was thrilled about that.. HA! But, since that game, he has spent more and more time with Peanut outside of school, and it's given me a chance to really get to know the person on the inside. He has opened up to me a lot about his life. He comes to me when he needs advice, support, or just a pep talk to get him through a bad day. He has jumped on the bandwagon of calling me "mom", yet when he says it...it almost feels natural. Like he truly sees me as a mother figure.
I'm not sure how much I've had to do with it, but this year he is a totally different boy. He's sociable and talkative and hilariously funny. He went to the dance with the other kids last night, which is definitely not like him. Last year, he'd rather shove hot pokers in his eyes than attend a school dance. Dances were just a place for him to sit in the corner and play on his iPad. And, now, he's asking to go to dances that are being held in a different school...with kids he doesn't know... with just a couple of his friends there to hang out with.
His older brother just happened to be thrown in to the mix of "friends" simply because of how many times I took younger brother home...and older brother became curious about this "teacher" that was driving his brother around. We spent some time talking about how different his brother had become this year, some of the changes he's started to see in his brother's personality, and now it's become somewhat of an event for him whenever I drive his brother home.
Older brother has jumped in to talking to me about some of his problems, asking me for advice, and opening up to me about his life.
All of these kids have really drove home how important my roles of mother and teacher are. Neither roles are confined to home or school. They intertwine. They reach out beyond the scales of the "normal" definitions.
I made the joke the other day about feeling like the Old Lady that Lived in a Shoe. Although, I was met with several confused faces. It's amazing to me how so many kids had never heard that nursery rhyme. But, it doesn't bother me a bit having "too many children, that I didn't know what to do". I do what I can....that's for sure.
I don't know why, but it means the world to me to have kids, that aren't my own, feel comfortable enough around me that they can open up about problems in their life, ask me for advice, have a close bond with me without it impeding on the relationships they have with their own parents. It's just as important that the parents are OK with the relationships I have with these kids, because it means they trust me...and that is something in this day and age that is very important.
I have a lot of love in my heart. Anytime I am responsible for these kids, they are treated like one of my own. They have all become my extended children. I care for them. I am there for them. And they all know I would do anything I could for them.
But, what I'm truly thankful for is what they've given me. They have shown me love, respect, gratitude, and acceptance. They have taught me that kids are my life. All of them. Of course, my own biological children will always be first and foremost... but I still have the ability to play a motherly role for the kids that are important to my biological kids. It's important that my kids are happy, that they are surrounded by friends. And, if they can be OK with "mom" playing a part in all of that...that is something else to be very thankful for.
I know that Peanut and my relationship is stronger because of all the kids she spends time with. Because I'm willing to go the extra mile for them. Because I'm willing to help, to listen, to offer words of encouragement to them if they need it.
And, I'm convinced that when Butter starts branching out and making close friendships like Peanut has.. I'll do the same for him and his friends. And Jelly, when that time comes.
So, today, I am thankful to have these kids in my life. And in Peanut's life. For we are both better off because of them.