A little boy ran up to me while I was sitting at a table at KIPP's play ground. "Are you a stranger?" he asked me. "No...uh...I go to UT," I replied, neglecting to point out the visitor badge I was wearing. He looked puzzled, but then satisfied and ran back to his group. I walked over to some of the teachers who were standing outside in an attempt to feel and appear less strange in the new environment.
Luckily, Lauryn's class came out a few minutes later. I asked if she wanted to stay outside or go inside. She chose outside, but later came to regret this decision. She and her friends were playing with "slime," a sticky and stretchy mix of glue, detergent, food coloring, and glitter. We called this stuff gack when I was a kid. Lauryn's friend started explaining to me how she started her own slime business. Another one of her friend said she sells bookmarks. I tried to redirect the conversation back to Lauryn, but a few kids surrounded me, so we were separated by a few feet. I figured it might be easier if I just spent the day as part of the group, instead of trying to address the downpour of questions about why I was here, and how kids get mentors. Part of this was because I wasn't sure of the answer, but another part felt strange about the title at all.
This morning I overslept for rowing practice. This never happens. I've always been one to take too many things on at the same time, but the stress of this was usually muffled by the loud praising my mom always gave me when I let her know my load was getting a bit heavy. However, my mom recently received two promotions at her job--so her schedule is much more crammed. My dad doesn't usually play a huge role as a supporter, but he doesn't usually require much attention either. He's having some health issue right now though, so the traditional father-daughter roles (to whatever extent they were there before) are now flipped. I joined rowing because I needed something to help regulate my life when I didn't have my mom and a strict 7+hour school day to do so. One of the most useful skills you develop as a rower is the ability to ignore greater and greater pains while you focus on moving the boat. This skill can only develop if you believe that what you are doing is something you must do. I guess what I'm getting at is that I believe I developed this skill beyond a healthy amount because it seemed like I had to.
Flashing forwards to tonight's musical, I watched Lauryn shush the boy sitting next to her several times throughout the performance. He was talking while other kids were singing. She, on the other hand, seemed to know her moves and lyrics better than most of the kids around her (though I may be a bit impartial), though she was sitting in the back row. A strange thing that happens when you're a bigger kid: people treat you like you are older than you are. A strange effect of this: you grow to meet their expectations. Watching Lauryn reminded me of myself as a kid. Teachers treated me like I was older, so I felt I had to act that way, which didn't leave much room for praise. It is infrequent that someone will commend you for doing something they believe to be your duty. For me, this meant rowing was beginning to feel very thankless. As captain I have to make sure people show up to practice often, which leaves very little room for error on my end, and little room for gratitude on the end of my teammates. Of course Maretta has to show up.
However, the fact that something is my job doesn't make it easy, and a little positive feedback always goes a long way. This morning when I overslept, one of my teammates pounded on my door for 10 minutes until I woke up. After the row, another one came up to me and said that she'd been really worried when I wasn't originally on the dock.
I met Lauryn's mom tonight. Lauryn and I talked about what our plan were for tomorrow. She said she wanted to go inside. Her mom mentioned that the weather would be beautiful tomorrow, but Lauryn said she wanted to spend time with me without all of her friends. When I first heard this, I felt like I'd failed her. I was here to show her love and I'd passed it on to her friends instead. However, after reflecting a bit, I was proud of her for recognizing what she wanted, and also felt happy that she wanted to spend more time one-on-one. This means I will get another chance tomorrow to share some of the love that my teammates passed on to me this morning. After remembering how far that can go, I'm excited to share it with her.