Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Community Service Meets the Teen

Report cards came Friday afternoon. So after spending most of Friday evening "discussing" the importance of doing school work and not spending so much time with video/myspace involvement with my two boys, we decided (meaning I came up with the idea and they silently disagreed) they needed to do more community service. Christopher is still trying to come up with what he wants to do; Philip opted to be a volunteer waiter at a veterans' pre holiday luncheon. He thought it would be a quick and easy way to salvage his weekend plans.

Of course first I had to explain to him the importance of veterans, how his grandfathers and uncles and cousins had all served in various wars. He gave me the "OMG, will she ever stop look," then went off to what he thought, I think, would be a pizza party.

I should say here that Philip is a really sensory kid: he has trouble looking at the "subnormal" folk who frequent certain Walmarts, and any shows involving childbirth or poxes or deformity cause him to lurch from the television. He was the kind of baby who couldn't stand seams in his socks or the touch of wool. Very little has changed in that department over the years.

Ten minutes into the holiday luncheon, I get this text:


I had his brother calmly text back:


The next SOS came:


I didn't anwer; I figured I'd tell him the veterans had to stick it out once, too.

When I picked him up, he was flushed and exhausted.

"They're like old pirates," he said, "Oh my God. You have no idea. No idea."

"What happened?" I asked.

"First of all, most of them were missing something. Like an arm or something."

"Right. They were in a war."

Sigh. "And every time I asked them what they wanted to drink, they said, 'how 'bout a Scotch and soda?' Like every one of them and they laughed each time. And they only had soda or water or coffee."


"Then this guy says to me, 'Son, straighten that flag."

"What did you do?"

"I straightened the flag. Then he says, 'Now set me up with those sausages just like you would your best girlfriend.' So I go, What does THAT mean?"

"I think he wanted something extra, right?"

"He winked at me. God. And he had this scooter thing."

"Your sister loves her scooter. What's wrong with that?"

"No, Mom, he had this scooter thing INSTEAD OF LEGS."

He didn't say much after that. I pretty much left him alone and let him spend a few hours cruising myspace.

I think serving that lunch allowed him to learn a whole lot more a whole lot faster than anything he does in school.


Alice P. said...

I think all kids and especialy teenagers should have to do community service like this as part of school and I am surprised its not required. It should be. I agree with you that he learned alot while he spent time with the veterans.

Jacqui said...

I love your definition of "we decided." Very familiar...

Tabitha said...

I am sure he learned so much that he will carry that day with him forever. :) Or at least for a very, very long time. :) Good for you!

Anne Spollen said...

Some schools do require community service, Alice, but if they don't, I think it's up to the parents to make them aware of other folks in their commuinty.

Yes, Jacqui, you know all that advice the pediatricians offer about shared decision making? Sometimes dictators have the right approach.

Yes, Tabitha. Philip reports that he has learned to do library service like his older brother picked.
I think he is still recovering from what he may not have told me about.

Mary Witzl said...

Once again, you've said it all for me! We're going through such similar experiences now, you and I -- and, I suspect, the other parents of teens out there who are trying to do things right. My girls would have flipped out too, but good for you for not rushing to bail your kid out -- he did learn a lot.

My mother set me up with one of the worst babysitting jobs of my life when I was only 14. I was caring for the kids of a single working mother who could barely make ends meet. Her kids were a handful and her life was hellish. No words could have made me less inclined to marry in haste and repent at leisure; that experience no doubt kept me single -- and childless -- for a good long time. I now encourage both of my daughters to babysit, and I'm always thrilled when they end up with real brats.

And you do teenspeak so well!

Anne Spollen said...

I just want them to develop a broader awareness that they are part of something larger than myspace, texting and hair straightening (yes, the boys, too)

The teenspeak is easy - I just type what they say!

Mary Witzl said...

I read this to my three just now and they really enjoyed it -- especially the part about the scooter. (Poor guy, though.)

Anne Spollen said...

Real teenagers! I'm glad they enjoyed it. I get the feeling our kids would get along...