Sunday, January 9, 2011

Diamond in the Rough

My 16 year old daughter has seemingly made it her life's ambition to befriend the sort of children that others see as odd or different...the sort that don't fit into the generic teenage mold and thus are labeled "outsiders". She brings them home and introduces them to me expecting the same sort of judgement by me that others have always given them. Now and then she does bring someone home that I just don't cotton on too very well and I let her know that. Nothing more than a feeling that makes me pause and think...hmmmm...but most of the time they are good kids (for the most part) they just choose to dress differently, style their hair differently, pierce body parts that make others cringe...things like that. Look past all that outer decoration and there is still a teenager in there with all the normal teenage angst and drama. From all the ones she has brought home, one has stood out and has become a regular visitor and occasional overnight guest. His name is Kelian.

Kelian is 15 years old and a giant among most of the other 15/16 year old he's surrounded by at high school. When I first met him he had long crazy hair that was a different color nearly every other week. He is sweet, has a beautiful smile, and is one of the most helpful boys (teens) I've ever had the pleasure of being around. His laughter is contagious and he abhors wearing shoes. It's not unusual to see him outside in 3 feet of snow wearing flip flops. Yes, his feet are cold and yes he bitches about it...but he won't go put shoes on no matter how cold they get. Don't ask me...I don't understand it either.

Kelian's home life is not an easy one. His mother drinks a lot. (one of my regulars) and his step father is abusive. Both of them are heavy into the biker culture so there are tattoos, piercings, metal studs, lots of leather, and big biker boots as part of the ensemble. His step father is well over 6 feet tall and his mother is around 5'3" and so Kelian is somewhere in the middle of these two in height. He also cares for his mother a lot when she is drunk and the step dad has left the house. The stories he has told me leaves me shaking my head (as if I don't have my own stories but I'm not a child anymore and he is) and I so much want to do something for this boy that is getting a shitty start in life.

Did I mention he has been in and out of boys homes, been on probation, has had run ins with the law? All of this was before we met him (though he was still on probation then) and most of it can be attributed to a child left on his own to entertain himself how he chose. He chose to shoplift...and drink his mother's alcohol. I decided the best way I could help this boy was to invite him into our family...give him a little "normal" (whatever normal means) and give him a place where he can let his guard down and just be himself.

One more thing I forgot to mention about Kelian. He is gay.

Kelian knew he was gay since around age 10 when he realized he just didn't care much for girls and always seemed drawn to boys. Of course growing up in a house with a biker Harley Davidson gang member was hard enough all by itself...but trying to convince his step dad that being gay was in any way a viable option in his life was something else. His step father threatens to "make him a man" by way or another all the time. Not sure what he means by that. He shaved Kelian's long beautiful hair as an act of punishment a few months ago claiming that men don't have long hair...conveniently forgetting that his own hair is well down his back. The hypocrisy is not lost on Kelian.

His mother says little in front of her husband but has told me during a drunken moment that she only wants Kelian to find someone to love and be happy with...and she doesn't care if that is with another man. I felt she was divulging a deep secret of hers that the alcohol loosened the end most mothers realize they still love their child no matter the life choices they make. Some mothers...not all.

Since Kelian has been spending time with us he appears to have blossomed (at least in my eyes). He loves to come over here and just be himself. Nobody makes fun of him here. Nobody averts their eyes away from him. Nobody whispers after he has walked by. He watches T.V. with us and shares our dinner and goes to the movies with us. He sleeps on our couch when he doesn't want to go home...and wakes up in the morning in a bright mood. I find it hard to equate him with the kid that is failing school, fighting with anyone that looks sideways at him, or hates to mention his family to anyone but us...because I believe he now sees us as his family as well...extended family at any rate. We are his and he is ours...generally speaking.

And though it was my original intent to help Kelian..he has also helped us grow in many ways that previously we couldn't. My children grew up in a culture in which being gay is a serious offense. Not to say there are no gay people in Bahrain, of course there are, but they keep their sexual identity a secret knowing what can happen if the truth were out. My older boys especially had a harder time adjusting to Kelian's "defect" as one son first shockingly referred to it. After a lecture from me...he was sullen for awhile...but now seems to have gotten past it. Even if he doesn't accept it inside himself...he knows better than to say it out loud around me. This is my house...and my guests are treated with respect. I might add that this is a good way to get your children to be more accepting of people that are "different" etc...invite them over and befriend them. Kelian is a sweet lovable kid with us...and he happens to be gay. It's hard to be hateful and prejudiced against the known (someone that is gay) opposed to the unknown (the mere concept of being gay as a form of deviance).

When I asked Kelian how he met my daughter he told me that he saw her in the hall at school a few times...but it wasn't his nature to approach strangers...fearing judgement...but to his surprise one day she marched up to him and introduced herself. They have been good friends from the start. I have seen him stand by her during her most trying times when school bullies were calling her and her brother terrorists etc. I've seen him literally hold her hand and drag her in to the doctors office to get a shot because she is terrified of needles...and not letting it go even though she squeezed so hard his fingers were red. I've seen him help her and all the while I know (because I have been there) his mind is busy with his own problems, his home life, his "chosen" lifestyle that makes his world pain filled and miserable. He has told me that she helps him as well. In school she is the first to stand beside him when others dare to point a finger. He declares her willingness to "take a bullet for him" as he describes it "totally awesome". My daughter has never been one to shy away from telling someone exactly how she feels. (stories there people...stories there)

I tell you this story about Kelian for two reasons. I want to shine a light on a boy that has forever had the light taken away merely because he is different. He was labeled a loser, a reject, a lost cause by those whose signature apparently matters...and he craved someone to just look at him...really look AT him rather than his file full of his failures...and see the boy that lives inside. When I first met him I could see how he prepared himself for my rejection, it was a fleeting look on his face that he quickly covered with his usual bravado and "I don't give a shit" demeanor...and was left without words when I smiled (a rarity for me, ask anyone) and welcomed him into my home....and then welcomed him to come back anytime. In those early days he was constantly ready to be pissed off and find reasons to leave...but now...even when he gets pissed..or my daughter gets pissed (they do argue now and then)...they separate for awhile....then it's back together again. And I think that is the absolutely best thing for realize there is someone ready to stick with him through the rough shit as well as the fun.

The second reason is because I was an abused children were abused. For most of my life I couldn't help myself or them due to location and laws...but now I can...and I do. I told myself some time back that if I were in a position to help a kid that clearly needed it...even if it was to just open my home and our lives too that kid and give them a place away from the drama and abuse...just for awhile...then I would.

It hasn't all been easy. I had a rather scary evening with his mother over him one night...and he does have issues to work through (don't we all) but for the most part I think it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Kelian is a joy to be around and he has taught us so much about taking people for who they are...and incorporating that into a friendship with a little something extra.

I realize that helping a troubled teen can have it's serious consequences...they are volatile emotional creatures that are likened to a ticking time bomb seconds from going off at any given moment...but the reward for me has been well worth it....and I hope for Kelian it has meant something too.

When I was growing up I wanted someone, anyone, to look at me and give me a moment of their time because it can make all the difference. Someone did actually and I will write about him in a future post...but for now..I want to there a Kelian in your life or do you know of someone like him that could use a Big Brother/Big Sister (or If there is..did you hold out your hand to help..or wish you had? If you did...what was the result?


Jaz said...

This was a really nice blog post!

janice said...

I'm thankful there are folks like you and your family offering a safe environment for this young man. Kudos to you CoolRed!

Monica in DC said...

I had a "non-mom mom" growing up, someone who took me in when I needed it, someone who cared and did not judge. You are awesome for being his "non-mom mom". Every kid should have one.

unsettledsoul said...

This is how the world is supposed to be.

Lat said...

That is so beautiful,Coolred! I'm so glad you are around for Kelian,and he for your child..and you.

I love this,
"Kelian is a joy to be around and he has taught us so much about taking people for who they are...and incorporating that into a friendship with a little something extra. "

There's so much humanity here!

Becky said...

Thank you for sharing this story, absolutely beautiful.

Serenity said...

I love how your blog posts are (almost) as long as mine and that mine's also called my rant (though in my language) ;)

What a beautiful post! Imagine how the world would be if we had more people like you and your daughter! I'm not sure if I've ever met anyone who was "different" and wanted to belong -- I'm sure I've met them, actually, but I'm just not sure if I recognized them and wanted to make them a part of my life. I'm not the same person I was a couple of years ago, although I am just as kindhearted as I was back then, but if I'm perfectly sure that I would willingly love and appreciate someone like Kelian in my life. It would make my life so much richer!