Allow me to introduce you to the most frustrating kid alive on the planet. Reginald (Name changed because he would enjoy reading about himself) is the most conceited and narcissistic 16 year old I have ever ran across. According to him he is always right, without fault, handsome, smart, great dancer and even better lover. In reality he never knows when to keep quite, cusses like a sailor, looks like a cartoon character, has the agility and grace of a bull in a china shop and is loathed by women young and old.
Reginald always has his hustle on and he is good. I have watched him talk a school administrator, a cop and a social worker into buying him clothes and bailing him out of every situation he has put himself in. Unfortunately, when Reginald doesn’t get what he wants he blows apart, which is how he came to our door step.
Reginald informed us upon our initial meeting with him that we would be informing us of his schedule when he needed a ride. He also was kind enough to let us know when he would eating and what the meal would be. He finished the conversation by saying he would just be doing his thing and everything would be nice and calm if we would be so kind as to accommodate his schedule. I just smiled and patted the young lad on the back and told him the next few weeks will be a bit of an adjustment for him….
Needless to say, old Reggie has had a heck of time adjusting to the fact that the world does not revolve around his self conceited little butt. For the first time in his life he is being forced to think of others and trying to blend into a peer group. At this point Reginald is doing better, but he still struggles with resisting the urge to hustle his peers and run scams on un-suspecting adults.
I have noticed that kids that come from a neglected backgrounds fall into two categories. The first is shy, withdrawn and soft spoken. They want attention but they believe they are not worthy of any one’s attention. Often when they are praised they become embarrassed, angry or ashamed. They want the attention, they just don’t know how to accept it.
The second group is boisterous, loud and often can be heard telling others how great they are. In extreme cases, like Reginald, they are the center of the universe. A complete lack of self esteem has lead them to the belief that they can only rely on themselves, no one will love them but them. It’s all about me, myself and I. Unfortunately, working with the second group can drive you mad.
Reginald has a long way to go. Humility is not exactly honored in our modern society and I think telling him he is a flipping jerk is probably against one or two of our facilities policies. So what to do?
Patience, love and grace are the only tools that will break past all the crap that he has thrown up around himself to feel safe. Understanding that he is coming from a place where being valued as a person was not an option available to him and letting him know that no matter how bad his attitude gets, we are still going to be there in the morning doing exactly what we did yesterday, being Houseparents.
We don’t pick the kids that are brought to us and the only rule is to give all we have to each one that we come across while hoping and praying it has made a difference. If your living the life of residential child care it’s a ministry lifestyle, not a job and definitely not glamorous.
So in just a few hours I will be listening to Reginald explain why he is God’s gift to all the females in the Washington, DC metro area and how lucky we are that he chose to come live in our humble abode. I’ll then ask him to grab the cleaning supplies and scrub the toilets clean enough to admire his complexion in the porcelain…