One of the few talents I do have in this world is that I am apparently a good listener. I say apparently because I'm also quite the talker, and those are usually mutually exclusive. Yet for some reason I always get kids (and now, young adults) who like to talk to me, tell me their problems, vent their frustrations, and sometimes spill their guts.
There is not a day that goes by that I'm not listening to some kid's story about life's injustices, the mean girls in school, the basketball play that went awry, or the fact that mom got arrested again. I hear it all. So much so that the Guidance Goddess once remarked that I'm like the middle school bartender...the kids sidle up to my desk and spell their guts.
I'm just not handing out drinks. Although sometimes I may need to go home and have one of my own.
Today was no exception.
My Happy Little Portable is in the parking lot next to the end of the 8th grade hallway so I get anywhere from half a dozen to about ten eighth graders who drop by in the morning to eat breakfast and talk. One of my regulars is Sparkle Girl who I had last year (and I thought hated my guts like her older brother did about nine years ago). This family has issues - no dad in the picture, mom has major health problems and can't work, and is hearing impaired so communication is with the older brother who is more or less acting like the parent for Sparkle and her adorable little brother who is in sixth grade. Sparkle has potential. Lots of potential. What she doesn't have is food. She mentioned, off hand while eating her free breakfast, that they had run out of food in the house last night so all she'd get to eat was what she was getting at school.
And this isn't the first time I've heard this. I had arranged a few months ago for her and the little brother to get on our FUEL free food bag program, but the bags don't go out until Fridays and I wasn't sure when the EBT card would arrive for these kids and who would actually be able to go shopping with it, especially if older brother was away working. So, I made some calls and got an extra food bag sent home. It's not much, but it's something.
Then Guidance calls and asks if one of my kids from last year, Waif Girl, could spend the day. Waif was having a BAD day due to social media bullying, which is really just the tip of the ice berg with her. Mom hasn't paid the bills in a while so the power and water has been shut off, mom is staying with some "friends", and Waif has been staying with a friend and his mom for a few weeks. Mom isn't being really good at checking in with Waif, so it sounds like she's been more or less dumped and abandoned. Waif wanted to be out with me, away from most of the other kids, and after collecting her assignments came out and spilled her guts and did her work. Again, another kid with an amazing amount of potential but the grown ups in her life aren't acting like grown ups.
Then my phone starts to buzz and it's Skater Squirt, who is now 23, complaining about his boss (who is really the winner of the lucky sperm award and wouldn't have a business if it wasn't for daddy's money). Skater Squirt texts me about his frustrations on a job he was working on today (having to wait on a contractor, the order was messed up, the boss measured wrong again, etc.) I text back during my planning and convince him that the world isn't going to end, and maybe it's time to revisit that application for the fire department he was talking about.
And then, when I wasn't acting like a therapist, I was trying to get kids to do their work, dealing with 8th grade math issues (I hate 8th grade math), and trying not to lose my patience with a kid who wanted to get suspended in the worst way.
So I'm the Middle School bartender....come tell me your story.