A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting on the couch working on my laptop when I heard a thumping noise outside in front of my house. At first, I dismissed it; Northside is often noisy and our old walls are thin. But the noise persisted, growing closer and louder. Finally, I got up, opened my front door, and found two kids I’d never seen before jumping up and down on my front porch. What in the world?
The ensuing interaction went something like this:
A: What are you doing?
Kid 1 (age 11): Trying to get the kittens.
The back story here is that Northside has a stray cat problem and we usually have a new batch of kittens living in and around our house each Spring. This year’s litter was likely born and now resides underneath our front porch. They are awfully cute, but the whole situation stresses me out. One time, I burst into tears when we came home to find tiny momma cat nursing her three even tinier kittens on our porch step. What kind of life will they have? ANYWAY.
A: You can’t take the kittens. They’re feral.
Kid 1: What’s feral?
A: Uhm…it’s like wild. They’re wild. They aren’t used to people. Plus, they need their mom right now to eat. They’re not nice cats.
Kid 1: They’re mean cats.
A: No, not exactly.
Kid 2 (age 9): So, they’re yours?
A: No, they’re not mine. They don’t belong to anyone, but they live here with their mom.
Kid 2: Oh.
A: What were you going to do when you caught them?
Kid 1: Keep them.
Then, they sat down on my driveway and started playing with a bug. I sat next to them on my porch step, and they told me about their day at the community pool and their various solo adventures fishing in the Mill Creek and roaming our neighborhood’s streets. I was struck by how comfortable they were with me, a complete stranger, and how eager they were to tell me stories and ask me questions.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about how important my job as an adult is…how important it is to be thoughtful about what I say to young people. These kids were completely taking my word for it, letting me define words for them and accepting my explanations without question or argument. I don’t remember ever being that way—I’ve always had questions and arguments—but I’m sure I was. The responsibility is daunting and somehow exciting at the same time.
Also, I’ve been thinking about stocking popsicles for next time.