Reflections & Ramblings: Volume Twenty-Seven
Today is day ninety-two of quarantine for our family here at Boys Town. The teenagers that live with us have been in our care and under our roof every one of those ninety-two days. This is, of course, along with our own two boys. At first the prospect of staying home with them everyday seemed daunting, and it felt like I was running completely off of adrenaline as I trudged through the beginning of this quarantine-life. The boys, being home from school, were thrown off of their normal routines. The girls were home from school with nothing to do, and Sarah was sick and quarantined from the rest of us. But after a few weeks Sarah recovered and we adjusted to a new normal.
Boys Town provided a teacher for each home on campus to help finish out the school year in a reasonably normal-as-possible manner, which was a huge blessing to us. We came up with activities to do at home each day and parks to go on hikes in. We saw two of our girls graduate from high school, and another leave successfully back to her family. And we watched every single Marvel movie in chronological order as a family (all 23!).
Our family was briefly featured on the news, along with the teacher that worked in our home, to explain how we were continuing school. One of our graduates, Shelby (although they mistakenly called her Shelly) has a short interview while the rest of us are shown eating lunch together outside in the courtyard outside our home.
Over time our home grew together as a solid unit, and I must say, I’ve really quite enjoyed this weird time. Of course I would love to actually step foot in a restaurant or grocery store (something I haven’t done since early March), but this has proven to be such a rewarding time of relationship building and focused skill-building with the girls that I think I will always look back on this time and cherish it for the rest of my life.
We returned from our yearly Boys Town family vacation to Okoboji last night. Boys Town administration was able to work it out, with extra restrictions, for all the homes on campus to still go this year. Three homes at a time with mindful restrictions about distancing, food prep, and sharing space with two other families. It worked out very well and I’m so thankful for the experiences we had together and memories made as a family.
This was the first year that we have brought both of our boys in the four years that we have gone. Sarah and I were quite nervous about how Micah, our son with special needs, would handle the whole trip. Micah is someone who likes to know exactly what the plans and schedule is, and then stick by that schedule perfectly. To mix it up causes a lot of emotional stress and he has a hard time regulating all his emotions. Vacation at a lake is not a place where the schedule is 100% predictable. Weather can change those plans quickly, and it did when we first arrived. Although it was in the mid 90s, the wind was too strong for us to initially go out and Micah really struggled to accept the fact we wouldn’t be going out on motorboats right away. This made me very wary for the rest of the trip knowing that the next day there was an 85% chance of thunderstorms due to tropical storm Christobal.
Micah had a few tantrums while we were there, but overall he handled most decisions fairly well. As Micah has gotten older he has really become more oppositional to any sort of decision or authority. This is something that constantly aches my heart deeply to witness, and it can be extremely hard to manage in the moment. It can also feel very embarrassing, but that’s not as much of an issue for me these days. But it can feel defeating and really spike my own anxiety. I’m thankful for the girls in my home always being understanding and patient. Seeing the girls interact with Micah over the years has been one of the most eye-opening realizations that people in their essence are just built for love. I’ve witnessed it over and over. The concept and theology of total depravity is a sham.
Anyway, we returned last night after three wonderful days at Lake Okoboji. While we were gone, the rest of Boys Town started up their Summer Enrichment Program, along with summer school. So for half the day the girls go to school and for half the day they go to summer enrichment. So this morning, everyone packed their backpacks for the first time since early March and I drove them to school to drop them off. This is the first time they’ve been out of our house and out of our care the entire quarantine. It’s somewhat hard to adjust to. The house is quiet. Micah and Ezra are still both here, but their big sisters are back to a semblance of normalcy (though now with masks).
We are still technically in quarantine here on campus. No families have visited their kids. We haven’t been allowed to go into stores or restaurants. We don’t gather in large groups. But even as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in Nebraska and around the country, there has been a shift in what feels “normal” now. And a part of what feels normal to us now has been having the girls around all the time. And do I enjoy the bit of rest that comes from not having to be with the girls all the time? Yes. Of course. But it does feel like I’m losing something in it all. Kind of a closing of a chapter within a chapter in our lives here at Boys Town.
There are all sorts of things I could say about the current events happening now in our country as well. And if you happen to be reading this and wondering if I care about what is going on in the world regarding racial justice and equality, I can promise you I care very much. My heart aches for all the injustice I’ve seen and read about recently. I am in strong support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and have been for many years now. Understanding privilege and equality and the history of racial injustice in this country has been very important for me for almost a decade now. It’s taken a lot of listening and learning, and then speaking up and putting my beliefs into action where I can. Of course I am still learning, too. And recently my eyes have really been opened to the history of the police force in America, and how much funding goes into it, and how many police officers there are, as well as just how widespread the violence from police towards people of color really is. And these protests have been extremely revealing to show how the concept of just a few “bad apples” is nonsense.
Our family watched Just Mercy together last week. I actually may come back and talk more about that, and how we’ve been experiencing this time of unrest in our country together and what it is like for me as a white straight man to talk through some of this with girls of all sorts of backgrounds and experiences of their own.
But anyway, I say all that to say that I stand with those who feel frustrated by a system that has oppressed them for centuries, and I am doing my best to help break the chains of those systems by working with teenagers impacted by systemic racism, injustice, and inequality.