I watched Instant Family today before work. It stars Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as a couple who foster three kids. It made me miss having my kids at home. Watching them try to learn to parent a teen also made me miss all of my other kids from throughout the years. Here is the story of the other kids.
When we moved to Maryland in the mid-90’s we joined Severn Baptist Church. It was a relatively small church, so it was one where eventually someone was going to ask you to serve in some way. There was no option of getting lost in the crowd. We were willing to serve, so that was OK with us. We did one year working with 4 year olds. Well, my wife worked with them, I spent every hour feeling trapped and wishing the hour was up. It was not for me. I was then asked if I would be interested in helping with the youth group. I wasn’t really sure if I would be any good at it, but I figured it had to be better than the 4 year olds, so I said yes. My wife did one lock-in with me(she was pregnant with our now almost 23 year old son at the time. We were very young) and decided the youth work was not for her. I was the exact opposite. I knew pretty quick I had found my place.
Over the next 14 years I worked with the church youth group in some way. I taught Wednesday night Bible Study. I chaperoned lock-ins. I taught middle school Sunday School. I chaperoned winter retreats. I went to camp with them for a week every summer. I did one week of chaperoning a mission trip where the kids did construction and I just tried to stay out of the way. I loved the work and I loved the kids. Some of the best times in my life were spent with them. Eventually, my first group of kids graduated and moved away. I kept working with the youth group for a while, but then it became apparent that we needed to make a change is where we worshiped. The youth group I worked with and loved was gone and I could see that my kids were not happy with where we were. It was time for Mr Alan to leave so that his kids could find their place. We eventually found a new church with a youth group my kids loved. I didn’t volunteer to work with the group at first. I wanted my kids to have their place without me around. I have now gone on a few weekend retreats with the youth group and driven for some other events. It is very different being involved as someone’s dad and not as the random 20 something who, while not cool, at least had the bonus of being closer to their age than their parents. Both of my kids are off to college now and I have no one in the youth group. This might be a good time to volunteer for a few more things as Mr Alan, not someone’s dad and see if I still have it in me to do it. Instant Family made me long for the days when I spent most of my off hours hanging out with teens.
I’m still connected with many of my “kids” on Facebook. Most of them are married with kids these days and I only see them online. I’m always happy to see them doing well. It makes me feel old to see them with their kids, but they are all good people and I’m proud to have been a small part of their lives. I will leave you with a couple of collages of old pictures I scanned from time with them. Just ignore the fact that I messed up and scanned some of them upside down.