Aibileen. Though fictional, I have something in common with her. She tells her story. Different from mine, as no two stories are alike. In her story, she raised kids. Lots of kids. And she felt responsible for those kids. For who they would grow up to be. For how they would contribute to the world around them.
She tells of a time when she ran into one of those grown children. How he hugged her and remembered their fun times together when he was a kid.
I get it. I get what that feels like. To see a kid grow up. To play a role in that process. To be an adult they can look up to. I know because I have had a hand in hundreds (possibly thousands) of kids’ lives (I’m not exaggerating).
Whether for a summer, semester, or several years, I was blessed with opportunities to assist parents in the growth and development of their kids. All of the parents were loving and kind, not like the mothers of Jackson that Aibileen experienced.
These kids, just like Aibileen’s charges, grow. They go from infants to toddlers, preschoolers to grade schoolers, middle schoolers to high schoolers, college students to young adults.
I’ve been there at the beginning; ready to rock them when they cry and change them so they’re dry. I’ve been there to sing and dance and potty train when they prance. I’ve been there in the middle; armed with homework tricks and games like pick up sticks. I’ve been there in the end; chatting on Facebook and cheering them on when everyone is there to look.
Keeping in touch with all of the kids I’ve met and cared for would be nearly impossible. But every now and then I hear stories about these kids. Some still young. Others grown and on their own. I see their names in newspapers, catch a glimpse of them on a television screen, find their name in an online newsfeed. And it never fails. Every time I have to remind myself that they are no longer babies or braces faced middle schoolers. They no longer need me to sing them that one song or tie their shoes the right way. Their world is no longer just their family and me. These days, they are making their mark on the world. The world I knew they would one day contribute to.
Some don’t remember me. Some still talk to me. Most don’t know that I still check in at times. That I still care about the people they’ve become.
This is a big week in Minnesota hockey. A big week for some kids. Kids I can picture in elementary school. Kids I knew back in the day. In a few days, a few of these kids won’t be playing pretend or dressing up for fun. Indeed not. For there is no pretend play in the games they will be participating in.
They’re ready. Each one of them. To take on the world and leave their mark. Everyone has a mark to leave and I’m proud to say that these kids, and every kid I’ve worked with, has made their mark on me.
That’s MN pride.