I felt insecure that working in a group home would somehow convince churches that I wasn’t a good fit there. And then I realized:
I know what it’s like to live with teenagers.
Most parents think “Oh, honey, you’re young. You don’t know what it’s like to raise children or have a teenager.” I live in a house with 6 teenagers and their children. And not just normal teens, but at-risk urban teens. Teens with mouths on them and punches to match. I not only am a mom to them, but a grandmom to their children too, as I teach them how to parent. Of course, it’s different when you raise a child from the womb and then they start lipping back. The point is, I am not completely ignorant to parenting.
I’m great in crises.
I hate that that is something I can even “brag” about. The old Heather would have freaked out, punched somebody in the jaw, or ran away and hid somewhere had she encountered some of the things I have. I know what to do in a medical emergency, a case of self-harm/attempted suicide, when a teen runs away, and when teenagers are beating the snot out of each other. And I am not only trained to deal with these situations, but I m actually fairly clear-headed in them. I know how to make quick decisions that are also good decisions. God has listened to my begging and has given me a great ability to discern.
I don’t sweat the small stuff.
Never again will I complain about a diplomatic deacon, a micromanaging pastor, or hovering parent. When budget meeting goes too long, I won’t cry my eyes out about how my budget was ripped apart (well I hope…). I have learned not to focus on the small things, but to look at the big picture. This also crosses over to disciplinary measures–I am less about immediate consequences for the sake of consequences and more about “natural” consequences.
I rejoice in small accomplishments.
Nope, that doesn’t contradict my last point :). When a teen apologizes or says “yes ma’am” or offers to summarize a lesson, I’m fist-pumping. So they’re not perfect? I shouldn’t expect perfection or a rockstar prayer life. They’re learning. Let’s party.
I am incredibly secure with myself.
We don’t give teenagers enough credit: they are incredibly intuitive. They can spot out every insecure thing about yourself, and call you out on it. After two years of being called out of my name, called out on my inconsistencies, assaulted, and cursed at nose-to-nose…I know who I am. Of course, I’m not perfect, and I am actively working on myself in a few areas; I just don’t get torn down when I’m rejected nor am I offended easily.
I’ve learned some lessons about integrity.
In my opinion, the hardest thing about working in a group home as a live-in is maintaining integrity. When a teenager has a funky attitude and is repeatedly disrespectful, it seems like I’m going to lose my mind some days. But I have to remain consistent in love, faithful in giving my time, and maintain a straight face even when I’m broken on the inside.