Your browser (Internet Explorer 6) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.
X
Post

The Wish to Fix Your Troubled Teen Can Put Her In the Grave

The Wish to Fix Your Troubled Teen Can Put Her In the Grave. Cyndy Etler. @cdetler Troubed Teen

Remember the toddler days, when life was all cute? You told kid what to do—Wash your hands! Go to bed!—and kid did it. Kid ran to you on chubby legs, arms up in your face like, “Gimme a hug.” You even got to decorate kid with ginormous $20 hairbows.

Not so much, once puberty hits. Ginormous hairbow is traded for see-through-crop-top-romper thing. Go to bed is met with Go to hell, or whatever today’s rendition is. Parenting a teen isn’t simple. It’s not fun. And it sure as hell ain’t cute.

What’s a desperate parent to do?

What’s a desperate parent to do? Dr. Phil would have you send your “out of control” teen to RTC, a.k.a. residential treatment center. As a grownup, I get the appeal. Sending your teen away=instant sanity. No more screaming matches. No more hiding your wallet. No more blistered 3 a.m. eyeballs, ears strained for the sound of a car door slam.

But as a former RTC teen, I get something else: while these programs can be great for the parents, they can be deeply not great for the teen. Like, long-term, broken-human, PTSD not great.

Combine pain-in-the-ass teenagers with closed-door institutions, and bad things can happen. How do you think residential programs turn your hellion into a sobbing apology machine? Not with hugs and hairbows.

Combine pain-in-the-ass teenagers with closed-door institutions, and bad things can happen.

For 16 months as a teen I was brutalized—physically, psychologically, sexually—in notorious RTC Straight Inc. When I finally got out a handful of empathetic, respectful adults helped me heal. Today, I am that adult.

So I join Facebook parent groups, right? To share my insights and ideas. One of these groups was called “Support for Parents of Troubled Teens.” I think. I can’t say for sure. That’s the crazy part.

I’d been in that group for about a year. Parents would share what was going on with their kid. I’d offer solutions. Parents would reply, “Wow, that’s perfect. Thanks!”

Then came my big revelation—holy shit, there are no blogs or mags or anything out there for parents of teens! It’s all ads for RTCs! That’s like, the only option! Shocked, I posted about it in some parent groups. Maybe you saw my post. It included these lines:

I was put into a troubled teen program and it destroyed me. Many of my peers committed suicide when they got out. I know today’s RTCs aren’t generally as bad, but: there’s GOT to be help that doesn’t resort to sending teens away, doesn’t there?

When I went on Facebook a few hours later, the “Troubled Teens” group was gone from my list. I couldn’t even find it in a search. Something about my post was so egregious, the group’s moderator needed to extra-super-banish me. But…huh? My post was aimed at preventing teen suicides. I thought this was a group for helping struggling teens?

Yeah, maybe not. That’s the really creepy part.

Check this out. A few weeks before I was wiped out of “Troubled Teens,” I was struck by a post at the top of the feed:

Moderator, if this post is inappropriate, please remove it.

Parents, are you struggling to find the right residential program for your teen? I can help! I research RTC programs so you don’t have to. I will only recommend the best place for your child.

Alarm bells clanging in my head, I posted a reply:

Parents, I beg of you: do your own research. Carefully consider if sending your child to a program is your best option. They can be highly abusive, and hide it behind slick marketing.

The original poster replied, saying,

I agree, Cyndy! That’s why I personally vet each program I refer families to.

I bit my tongue—my thumbs—on my retort: “But who are you? And why should parents trust your opinion?” I wasn’t in it for the pissing contest. Still. Why did the moderator leave that comment up? It was clearly an ad; the poster was seeking customers for his RTC location service.

I understood, two weeks later, when I was banished from the group. Dude who wrote that post was the moderator. He’d created the group to lure customers. You join a group for parents of “troubled teens”? Bingo! Potential client! He could read your posts, gauge your desperation (and bank account), and pounce with a quick DM.

Can I prove this? No. Am I convinced? Pretty much. Because I know how program people work: with kid gloves, Vaseline, and a scam artist’s handbook.

If the goal is “breaking troubled teens,” torture is highly effective.

Okay, do over. I know how my program people worked, and they were shady AF. High level government connections allowed Straight Inc. to keep its operating license, even after lawsuits and investigations cited physical, sexual, and psychological torture. The place used rubber stamps of psychiatrists’ signatures for regulatory and insurance claims forms.

Rubber frigging stamps. Because there was no actual therapy happening, there was only torture. Plain and simple. And, if the goal is “breaking troubled teens,” highly effective.

I can’t say exactly what happens in today’s RTCs, but I can say this: there are empathetic, respectful tools for helping struggling teens. They don’t involve locked door facilities or gazillions of dollars. And they work. I’m literal living proof. Without them, I’d be on the other side of the grave.

Want to learn more about my experiences in Straight Inc? Check out my memoir.

Want blog posts about these tools for helping teens delivered to your inbox? Scroll up and subscribe.

Post

Parents of Teens: This is Why You’re Frantic

Dear Parents of Teen: This is Why You're Frantic. Cyndy Etler. @cdetler Help for Teens

So you’re starting down the path of parenting, and it’s a nice, fresh-paved straight line. Lots of flowers, sunlight, bumblebees. Smiling parents push their high-zoot strollers along next to you.

Second grade, and the path goes curvy. You spot a couple clouds. You smile at the other parents, but they’re focused on their phones. The trees are taller, but at least they have those boards nailed into them, in case you want to climb.

Fifth grade, and it’s not a path anymore. It’s a twisty, rock-strewn trail. The only things flowering are rose bushes. And those other parents? They’ve taken up running. Not jogging, running. They go by so fast, you can’t see their faces. Thank God the trail-makers installed streetlights; it’s starting to get dark.

Middle school, now, and the trail is switchbacks and dead ends. You can’t see the hazards; all the streetlights have been slingshotted out. You feel them as you twist your ankle and bark your shin, stumbling off the trail-edge. Those parents left you behind years ago.

And bam, high school. You’re hobbling blind.

And bam, high school. You’re hobbling blind, playing host to that shiver-spine feeling: you’re not alone out here anymore. Somebody’s watching you. Somebody’s preying on you. But you can’t tell where or who. So you’re desperate. You’re frantic. And you’re right. I’m sorry. You’re right.

This week I did a search for publications, big blogs, that cater to parents of teens. I’m an author, see, and a teen life coach. A veteran alternative school teacher. A former “troubled teen.” I’ve got knowledge to share; I’ve got real help for teens. So I want to pitch some articles. But where the hell are the magazines? Where are the blogs for parents of teens?

They pretty much don’t exist. The glossies deal with babies; elementary kids you can still dress up like dollies. The big blogs, if you’re lucky, throw a nod at middle school. But if you’re looking for help for teens—if you’re looking for help when you and your kid most need it—you’re S.O.L.

If you’re looking for help for teens, you’re S.O.L.

…Unless you can afford to send your kid away. Because that’s the help on offer. Residential treatment programs. Therapeutic boarding schools. Bootcamps. Places that will get your teen out of your hair, in exchange for a shit-ton of money.

Google “help for teens,” and the first four hits are program ads. For “troubled” girls and “rebellious” boys. Underneath you’ll find a help line where teens can connect with teens (alleluiah!), a publication affiliated with Harvard (ok, good…), then a blatant ad for a drug rehab, and a rehab ad pretending to be a “we want to help you” resource. Plus WebM.D. featuring six “sponsored ads.”

So about 90% of the available help for teens is big-money/questionable-methods, and 10% is reputable and benevolent. And even worse, the “questionable intent” programs cloak themselves with manipulative advertising, a fact we’ll dig into in my next post. So yeah. You’re not alone in those woods. The “troubled teen” industry is out there waiting for you.

I posted my findings on facebook, and a mom said this: “When your child is young, it’s super easy to go to a mom support group. You seek advice on sleep and teething and don’t feel judged. But where can moms of teens go to talk about rebellion, sexuality, substance abuse, bullying, and not feel judged?”

Where can moms of teens go…and not feel judged?

Another mom told me, “There are day-by-day apps for parents. Messages like, ‘If your kid’s cranky with a low-grade fever, don’t worry, he’s teething.’ But my friend has 13-year-old son. She’s lost. She’s looking for her ‘it takes a village’ tribe, but they’re in hiding.  No more day by day help for puberty, I guess.”

School social workers tell me there are zero counselors in the area specializing in teens. Parents contact me from the other side of the country, describing adolescent psychiatrists with a 6-month-long waiting list.

You guys: WHY IS THERE NO HELP FOR TEENS? Are we allergic to teenagers? Do we think they’re possessed? Contagious? Is our only option to lock them up and psychologically beat them ‘til they obey?

As a teen, I spent 16 months locked in the granddaddy “troubled teen” program, Straight Inc. When I got out, I was suicidal. When my peers got out, they were suicidal. Many of us followed through with it. I survived, to teach people how to reach teens in a way that helps, not hurts.

On this blog, I’m going to do just that: teach readers how to help teens using empathy and respect.

If you, or someone you know, could use this info, please scroll up and subscribe. Or follow me on social media. Or share this post. And if you know a teen, go give ‘em a hug. Trust me.

Want to read my memoirs about my experiences in Straight Inc? Go here.

 

 

Post

Stealing Sweetness

Have you ever stolen something to fill the hole in your soul?

I have. More than once. First time was—man, I was probably still in diapers. My soul-hole goes way back. First time I got caught, though, I was old enough for those cotton undies with the elastic legs, the kind with that hard, bumpy lace around the edges. So I was seven, say. Maybe six. Too young to be a criminal, but there it is.

I found my drug early in life, and it was sugar. Candy. Dulces. Sweets. Did you know that sugar is one chemical element away from cocaine?

Sugar: carbon, hydrogen & oxygen

Cocaine: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen & nitrogen

My young body knew it. Sugar was the one thing that took me away from reality, that made everything okay. I would suffer for some sugar. When I got sent to sleepaway camp, where I was trapped in an A-frame with nobody who liked me, I had sugar sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’d take a slice of that soft white bread with the perfectly square corners, slather on the margarine, and just dump white sugar in the middle. A ski slope of it. I’d squish the bread edges together in my fist, so now I had a hand grenade; then I’d open my mouth and crunch my way through that sick bready pillow of salvation. I didn’t care what Buffi and Billy thought, because I wasn’t even there. I was high and away in Sugarland.

I had a lot of reality to escape, so I needed sugar around the clock.

When I say “needed,” I’m choosing my words carefully.

My fix was easy in November and December. I just climbed to the fridge-top hiding place and snagged my step-siblings’ Halloween candy. But that left ten dry months in the year. A girl gets desperate.

My heart was busting out of my chest as I looked around that five-and-dime, making sure nobody could see me. Then I grabbed the closest candy bar and stuffed it down my undies. I think it was a Zagnut. Gross. But still. I made it out of the store, into the car and all the way home before someone found me out.

Don’t ask why, once we hit home, a grownup was looking in my underwear. That’s not the point of this story. The point is, I got busted. I got driven back to that five-and-dime. And I had to go in, by myself, and tell the owner what I’d done. I also had to pay him for that Zagnut—25 cents, plus 2 cents tax!—with my own piggy bank money.

That’s okay, though. I got it back soon enough. I learned my lesson: keep the thieving close to home. I graduated to stealing change from my mother’s bag, so I could go out and buy my own damn sugar fix, legal.

Post

Sex is all I’m good for. 5th grade told me so.

I peaked in fifth grade. That was my year to shine. All the boys liked me that year, because I undid the bottom buttons of my burnt sienna top, then tied the corners in a knot over my belly button.

I loved that top. It had gold threads woven through it in a tic-tac-toe pattern. It was made to go to the disco. I was sitting at my desk playing with it one day before lunch, undoing and redoing the buttons, when I got the idea to tie the edges in a knot, like the dancers on Soul Train.

Then Mr. Scheer called lunch so I stood up. And Steve O’Connell looked at me, then Jeffrey Frohan did, then Keith O’Grady and Nick Dimitris did, and I understood what I’d been searching for my whole life: that feeling. It was the opposite of someone looking at me with annoyance, a feeling I knew in my bones. It was someone looking at me like…like they liked me. Sweet-sweet-better-than-candy-bars rush, they liked me.

I’d never had that feeling before. Nobody liked me. But suddenly the cutest boys in fifth grade did, because I showed my belly. Nobody had to tell me that’s why. I just knew.

My disco shirt was my new good luck charm. I started wearing it three times a week. Next thing you know, Jeffrey Frohan was serenading me in the lunchroom with that top 40 song, “Take Your Time—Do It Right.” Everyone watched really closely, especially the girls who always said they had too many for hopscotch, that I should go hopscotch by myself.

Everyone was sitting down except Jeffrey, who was standing right next to me, singing. About doing it. To me. I felt like Miss America. Nobody had to tell me this meant Jeffrey was my boyfriend now. I just knew.

The day Jeffrey came over my house was the first day I walked right up my driveway, no shame. Who was gonna laugh at my shitty house? Who was gonna make mooing noises at my back? Nobody was, because I had a boyfriend with me.

My mother smiled and made us ice cream cones, a bigger miracle than Jesus pushing that boulder aside and rising from the dead. My mother was a snapper and a spanker, not a smiler and a scooper. But a boy was at the house. A boy changed everything.

For one glorious week, I was popular. I was Jeffrey’s, so I was worth something. At recess I had a place to sit: on the sidelines of the kickball game, in my burnt sienna shirt, calling out, “Go, Jeffrey!” when he caught or kicked the ball.

But then he invited me to his house. And told his mom we were gonna do homework. And his mom let us go to his room. And close the door. Jeffrey put on a tape of the Do It song, but I didn’t feel like Miss America anymore, when there was no crowd to watch him sing to me.

I backed away from him in a horseshoe shape, shuffling my butt along the carpet, following the edge of his bed. The more he sang, the closer in he leaned. Finally, I shuffled my back up to the wall. When he leaned in, I had nowhere to lean back. His lips were a “do it” away from mine.

And I said, “No.”

Jeffrey got up and clicked the song off. He opened the door to his room and walked out. When I got downstairs his mom said, “You don’t feel good, Cyndy? I’ll take you home.”

The next day at school, there was no open spot at the lunch table. The boys didn’t get out the kickball. I had to play hopscotch alone.

Somebody should have told me that “No” ruins everything. I never knew.

Post

Kid, bye.

Have you ever felt like your parents wanted to get rid of you?

My mother got rid of me, but good. I had just turned 14 when she locked me up in a warehouse. Straight Inc., the place was called. I was trapped there for 16 months.

Her husband had been beating me up. I guess she got sick of my screams.

Straight billed itself as a drug rehab for kids. The weird thing was, out of of the hundreds of us in there, like three of us had done more than drink a beer, smoke a joint.

But to Straight, every teen was a druggie. At least, every teen whose parent had a checkbook and a desire to disappear them….

My mother told me she was taking me to a boarding school. Picturing green lawns and window seats, I got in the car. I let her and her husband drive me across six states.

But then I stepped into the Straight building, and everything felt wrong. Like carnival music played backwards. The few kids I saw had shirts tucked in, robot eyes. The adults had clenched jaws and clipboards.

I was a strong kid, a loud kid. I was used to being able to at least fight back.

There was no fighting back at Straight.

My mother said goodbye; said she was leaving me there. I tried to bum rush her. Seven people–three girls, four guys–grabbed my arms, my legs, my Levi’s waistband. They held tight.

When I tried to scream, they clamped hands over my mouth. When I tried to bite, it felt like they’d stolen my teeth.

I learned quick that I couldn’t use my teeth at Straight. Or my screams. Or my fight. All I could do was tell those hundreds of kids, “My mother was right. I am a drug addict.” All I could do was lie, and swear it was the truth.

Post

Is it me? Is it you?

I lived the nightmare.

When I was a kid, my mother and her husband abused the fuck outta me.

At 12, I hit puberty and started fighting back.

At 13, I ran away and was homeless.

At 14, my mother locked me up in a “troubled teen” program, Straight Inc., that’s been called “a concentration camp for throwaway teens.”

I was trapped there for 16 months, being abused in ways you can’t even imagine. I saw a lot of blood. I heard a lot of bodies, breaking. I wasn’t allowed to scream. I wasn’t allowed to move.

When I got out, I wanted to kill myself, quickly.

Instead I did it slowly, by having mean sex with guys who hated me.

I started my life with other people abusing me. Then I learned to do it for myself.

Today, thanks to a lot of therapy and a decision to spend my life helping kids like me, I’m way better. Today, my life is almost perfect.

This is a blog about me, but maybe it’s also about you.

There are so many of us who have been hurt by people with power and control.

In my blog, in my books, I describe what hurt me, and how I survived.

If you’ve been hurt, and you want to know how to survive, come on. Get reading.

Post

Boxing for Girls

My husband broke the gender divide down for me. “The difference between guys and girls is: guys fight by punching each other. Somebody wins; the problem’s over. Girls fight by talking to other girls. Nobody ever wins. The problem never ends.”

I know this smacks of gender stereotyping. Apologies. But some traits came down to us from the cavepeople. And is he wrong? He’s not. I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture, but us chicks, we’re like, still too gentle to tell another chick we’re pissed off. Instead, we tell all our friends we’re pissed, and win the fight that way: by making everybody else hate her, too.

One of my teen clients was the center dot in that bulls-eye recently. Let me tell you about her. She’s the definition of cool. Great hair, half smile, and AE clothes, but not too tight or short. She even has a girl name that doubles as a boy name. And here’s the rub: she doesn’t know how fucking cool she is. She thinks she’s a semi-loser, lucky to be orbiting in her mean-girl friends’ circle. Oh, Jordan*.

This awesome humility is exactly what makes Jordan a target. The shitty human is forever trying to boost itself by squelching its superior (see: Adolf Hitler. Donald Trump. All of Taylor Swift’s boyfriends). And the superior, naturally humble and innocent, is easily squelched. At least, the first few times.

Jordan comes to me with the half-smile gone: “My three best friends won’t talk to me, and I don’t know why!” All she knows is the one friend (who, it turns out, is the most popular in the group, because she’s so skinny, and the least popular with the boys, because she’s too skinny) is mad at her. Nobody will tell Jordan WHY Slim is mad, but they’re happy to send texts like, “Slim is SO mad at you.”

Ping! Ping! goes Jordan’s cell phone, each text the same message with new words. Poor Jordan thumbs out, “Why?”–SEND–each time, helpless and confused. I’m working real hard to not pull a Mama Bear on these tweeny bitches.

After a struggle, I manage to pry the phone from Jordan’s shaking hand. And I even get her to listen to me.

Me: “Jordan. Me. Over here. We got this.” If she was the kind of girl who needed eyeliner, it would be smudged all down her face. “Check this out. You know that one guy the girls all looooove?”

Jordan: (sniff) “Yeah.”

Me: “Does he act like he loves them back?”

Jordan: “Um. No.”

Me: “How does his ignoring them make them act?”

Jordan: “Like they love him even more.”

Me: “Exactly! Sad fact of human nature: we want most whatever doesn’t want us. Which is why you’re race-texting back these ‘friends’ who are dissing you. You want them to want you back?”

Jordan: (sob) “Yes!”

Me: “Then be that guy all the girls love. Act like you don’t give a shit. Now. In case this takes a minute, do you have other friends you can hang out with at school tomorrow?”

Jordan: (gulp) “Um, yeah…my friend Tyler and his lacrosse friends….”

Me: “Bingo. Ready? Here we go….”

Cell phone: PING!

Text Message: “Slim said find another lunch table.”

My Thumbs on Jordan’s Phone: “Alrite”

Jordan: “NO!”

Me: “Watch.”

Cell Phone: PING!

Text Message: “And don’t come to her party fri”

My Thumbs: “Got other plans”

Jordan: “Aaaaah!”

Me: “Wait.”

Cell Phone: PING!

Text Message: “JK”

Cell Phone: PING!

Text Message: “Jord, it’s Slim”

Cell Phone: PING!

Text Message: “Want to match outfits tomorrow?”

Me: “See?”

Jordan: Smile. A full one, that time.

Oh, and by the way? I am in no way JK. It was that fast. Lightening. Shit works.

(*Jordan isn’t her real name. Her real name is way more badass.)

Post

The Zen of I Don’t Give a Shit

She pretty much hates you by now.

Let’s just go ahead and rip the bandaid off, k? This is gonna hurt, but only for a second. Ready? Here’s the suck: no matter how hard you try to make people like you, you might not end up liked.

Face that possibility, and it can’t get any worse. So all it can do is get better. See how that works? Either way now, you’re gonna be fine.

The first lesson of Buddhism is this: life is hard. Don’t expect easy. Accept that idea, and boom! Life’s a lot easier. If you stop expecting good, you’re fine when it doesn’t come.

But then, guess what happens? When you stop expecting good, good starts coming. It’s magic.

So let’s apply this concept to high school popularity. You’ve faced the fact that people might never like you (harsh). So you stop trying to make people like you (sad). Now you’re putting out that, “Meh, whatever to y’all” vibe (cool). And since you don’t care if they like you, they start…liking you (sweet).

This is boring and philosophical. We need some color. So here ya go. Meet Jack.

Jack had flat black hair and a Cabbage Patch Kid body. He wasn’t an athlete. He wasn’t a Popular Kid. He wasn’t an anything, officially.

And yet…Jack’s girlfriend was Whitney, the human Barbie doll. Jack was on auto-invite for every kegger.  Jack had the teachers laughing at the shit that got everyone else detention. Because Jack had popularity Zen. He didn’t give a fuck what we thought of him.

Here’s what Jack did, instead of giving a fuck: he left the party to dance, alone, in the middle of the street. He wore a hazmat suit to school one random Thursday. He pinched my boob through my old lady costume on Halloween and said, “Nice falsies.” Then he cutely blushed when I said, “They’re not false.”

Jack didn’t drink, but he was neither righteous nor ashamed about it. Actually, he wasn’t righteous or ashamed about anything. He just…was, and we could take it or leave it. And because of that, we loved him. A lot.

So here’s a review of today’s lesson.

A) They might never like you. Face it.

B) Find other stuff to think about. Anything but Them, and whether They like you.

C) Watch as They fall at your feet.

 

Post

Love Letter, Part II

That scroll is gonna read, “You Little Shits!”

I don’t make a secret of the fact that I like all you guys, and un-like adults. But I thought I’d break it down a little, give you my reasoning. It’s because adults are full of shit. And you’re not.

Sorry to my legions of adult readers out there, but you can kind of fug off.

Okay, back to you guys. Do you know an adult who’ll admit when they’re wrong? How about one who will listen to what you say? Or–this one’s, like, the Loch Ness Monster–one who can “self-reflect” and “claim responsibility”? Yeah, that thing. The one you’re always getting in trouble for not doing. You don’t, do you. Know an adult like that. It’s okay. I don’t, either.

Next question: do you know any teens who’ll do those things? I really want an answer to that one. I want to know how you guys see each other. But first, I’m gonna tell you what I see.

I see teens being bald-face honest about their faults. I see teens calling each other out on bullshit (yes, r/teenagers, I’m talking to you)…and I see the bullshitter coming back with, “Yeah, I see your point.” I see teens not trying to hide it when they’re psyched, or bored, or madly in love. (Oy, with the high school hallways on Valentine’s Day.)

Today I saw some teens who’re taking it to a new level. A friend of mine is a teacher at a juvenile detention facility. I imagine life might suck a little, for her students. I imagine if I were them, I’d be pissed at the world. But then, I’m an adult.

So my friend set up a blog to post her students’ writing. Here’s some of the mind-bogglingly honest, self-reflective stuff they have to say.

From “Lock Up”: “If I had a choice, I would choose to be at C—- (name of facility withheld) because you are safe here and you can still talk to your parents through mail and talk on the phone and you get food three times a day…It’s like home, except you have to stay in a cell and do what they want you to do. You still get to go to school and get to find other ways to get out of your cell.”

Get to. This kid is locked up, and he’s finding stuff to be grateful for.

In “The Boy Who Survived in the Wilderness,” we’ve got the anti-bragger: the kid who, even in fiction, makes the hero not-quite-perfect: “They went outside and hung an old tarp target on a old bale of hay. Daddy showed him how to knock the arrow onto the string and how to aim for the big dot in the middle of the tarp. The first couple of times he didn’t do so well, he missed the target all together. But finally he got the hang of it and before dark Braxton was hitting bull’s eye almost every shot.”

Almost every shot. Not every shot, but almost.

From “Mistakes”: “I have lived with my grandmother for fifteen years and I treated her like crap. I always blamed her for my mother’s mistakes. Now, since I am getting older, I am starting to realize it wasn’t my grandmother’s fault…Now I am sitting in detention because I started blaming my grandmother again for my mother’s mistakes.”

Now just for contrast, here’s what adults have to say about why they’re locked up. This quote, from a nurse at an adult prison, is a Q and A from the Ask Me Anything forum. Yeah, I’m reddit-happy today. So what.

Q: Do you get told what they’re incarcerated for? Is it in their chart in some way, or do you just learn from guards, or their own disclosure?

A: It’s not in their chart, but we can ask the officers or look them up on the DOC website. It’s an if-you-wanna-know kind of thing. If you ask them, they’ll likely lie to you, in my experience.

You see what I’m saying?

Now here’s my no-bullshit: I appreciate all you teens who tolerate my adult-assed presence in the classroom and online. My life might suck without you.

Oh, and PS: if you want to read that blog yourself, it’s here: http://writersontheinside.com/ If you go, leave ’em a comment. I’m sure they’ll be grateful for that, too.

 

Post

Here’s Why You Don’t Suck

Okay, maybe she sucks.

I’m subbing for the librarian, so you know the kids in this class are the good guys. If you choose “library science” as your elective, you’re a poindexter. Truth.

So I ask these scrub-faced seniors to confirm or deny my suspicion. “Does it seem,” I say, “that most adults are mad at you before you’ve done anything wrong?”

They’re such goodies, they think about it a sec before nodding.

“Yeah,” lacrosse-star-guy says. “Soon as you walk into CVS they’re tailing you, like you’re going to pocket a travel toothpaste.”

A girl with Heidi braids chimes in. “All but, like, one of my teachers hates me.” She has a cello case next to her. How do you hate the kid who plays cello?

I’m on a mission to prove the teen-haters wrong. This blog is how I’m going to do it. Here’s exhibit A.

I am stupid. I walk my dogs without leashes. One of my dogs is a master hunter. He was the homeless guy; he’s had to hunt for food. So we’re walking on this path that follows a stream. Next to the stream is a set of woods. Next to the woods is a major road.

A deer screeches across our path and into the woods. My dogs—my precious, everything dogs—screech after it. They’re gone. All that’s left is the woosh of nearby traffic.

Understand me, I am flipping the eff out. My babies will get killed by cars, and I’m helpless. If I go into the woods and head left, what if they went right? Or vice versa? If I’m screaming their names and moving, how will they find me, the moving target? And if military logic says a lost soldier stays in his last known location, shouldn’t I stand still and scream their names? Okay, flipping. The eff. Out. And screaming.

A human figure comes limping toward me from a quarter mile away. Through the woods. In a leg cast.

“I was out feeding the cows and heard you. You okay?” this Superman of a teen says.

“My dogs!” I gack out.

“Oh, they won’t get to the road,” says Super. “That road’s a way off.”

Then he limps his broken ass off through the prickers. The poison ivy. The ticks. In a leg cast. Two minutes later I hear, “They’re coming!” And there’s my babies, barreling at me with slathery grins.

I force this kid to tell me where he lives, practically at gunpoint. I will be giving him that 20 in my wallet.

Pull up to his house, knock on the rattly screen door, and a big guy with a beer answers. I compliment him on the job he’s done raising his son; he goes, “My son? Bah.”

So broken-legged kid rescues two dogs, puts hysteria-lady on ice, and tries to wave off a free $20. In exchange, from the adults, he gets “Bah” and a gun to the head. And it’s teens that are sucky? To that, I say this: bah.