A common complaint among most house parents is the lack of sleep. Truth be told I only average four or five hours of sleep a night. Most doctors recommend between six and eight hours to keep from going psycho and running naked through the local car wash.
A huge part of the problem is stress and the emotional roller coaster we deal with everyday in our environment. To help ease the stress, many of us consume empty carbs, sodas and other comfort foods to feel a little better. Heck, I have lived off of coffee and Twinkies for the last five years. Or there’s the other half of the crowd that have to sneak off on a van run to town so they can slam a couple of cigarettes before going back into the line of fire.
Many people that have never been a House Parent have a difficult time imagining how it could possibly be so stressful. After all, all we do is watch a bunch of kids and keep them from killing each other or burning the place down, right? It’s a lifestyle you can’t possibly know about until you live it, bottom line. People and in some facilities, the administration, belive that you have massive amounts of free time and get to be with your spouse everyday. The truth? There are very few moments in my waking hours that I am not working, doing or hustling something for our cottage or facility. That is true in about 98% of the facilities you will find yourself in. As for working with your spouse? Man, I tell you the truth, if it were not for Christ we would have tried to kill each other long ago. I can’t imagine doing anything else with anyone else, but when your spouse is also your work team mate and you spend 24 hours a day with each other it can, and will get a little funky at times.
Between the caffiene, nicotine, crack or whatever your poison is; mixed with the daily grind of breaking up fights, teachers and paperwork, by the end of the day you just want to turn on the tv and numb your mind with shows about dead people. But on one particular night I had already seen this episode of CSI about ten times.
So I decide to pour the last of the soda into my coffee cup and sit on the front porch of the cottage. I was only out there about five minutes when I noticed a leg sticking out of the window over at the teen boys cottage. I decided to walk over and say hi. I was half way across the street, at 1 am, when the rest of the kid jumped out the window. As soon as he saw me, it looked like he was going to start bawling. I asked him where he was going and he said he dropped something out his window. I noticed the still burning cigarette butt on the ground and asked if that was what he was looking for. Figuring he was beyond screwed at this point, he picked it up and took a drag. We walked over to the porch and sat down for a minute and he started telling me about how he couldn’t sleep.
He talked about missing some people in his family and some of the stuff he thought was his fault for ending up in our facility. It seems he was having a difficult time dealing with some of the other kids in the house and trying to find some space for himself. Without telling him, I knew what he was feeling. We all tend to forget that the kids suffer more than what we tend to give them credit for. Sure they whine, think only about themselves and how the “Now” is affecting them, not anyone else. Pretty much everything I still do when I start feeling sorry for myself or want something that I can’t have at the moment. Like money to pay bills or a new Harley. The one big difference between me and this kid was I go on respite, he doesn’t. He went to bed that night wondering what his Mom was doing and he will go to bed every-night wondering what ever happened to her.
We talked a few more minutes, then I called the House Parents and briefly listened to him losing his freedom for the next week. I then walked back to my own cottage and thought to myself that life is pretty good as I checked to make sure my daughter was asleep in her crib. I can’t think of any other way I would love to spend my life than what I’m doing now, even if I can’t sleep. -Launch