I was a sergeant in the Israeli Army. I wasn’t the best sergeant. I didn’t have good boundaries. I smiled too much, listened too much. I didn’t keep the needed distance. I also had a hard time with hierarchy. I challenged it and found it funny. Time and time again I’d get in trouble for giggling when saluting my commanding officer (who was only a few months older than me) and not being the tough sergeant I should've been.
As a mom of three girls, I am sometimes borderless, about my things, about my bag about my phone, my bed, this might be too much information, but even the bathroom. As a peacemaker and conflict resolution person, I thrive on breaking boundaries, learning to cross over, and living on both sides in peace and harmony. In juvie I am no different. It is hard. The kids I am working with need, crave, check and push the boundaries again and again. They never had them, they do not know how to keep them and they desperately need them.
Can you bring me lyrics to song one asked me?
Way out of the boundary.
And I, the boundary-less teacher want to bring her the moon.
I want to give these kids so much –somewhere in my heart I have this silly thought, if just give them, fill them, replace for them, be for them, then everything will change, they will learn, they will know, they will be. As I look up the lyrics on my computer at home, I peek into the dark, sad, crazy CRAZY world these kids come from. Ironically, when I search for the words to “This is how I Bang” on my screen pop up the lyrics to Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang, believe me this is a far FAR cry from:
“This is how I bang”
If you're looking for me and you can’t find me
You must be tripping ese cuz I'm not hiding
Like scare face said im not a bitch I'd rather die.
Im always Chillin with the ... side by side
Why the fuck you think we both got shot at the same time
We were walking down the block about to get high
Thats when the pussies rolled up and did the drive by
OH NO –This is not out of my boundary, this is out of my world, my orbit my existence. Yet, I print out the words and the words to 6 other "enlightening" songs, knowing I can’t give them to her.
The girl who asked for these words is hard, hard core .
“Did you bring me the songs Ms?”
She looks at me, testing, kind of trying to have that street threatening look that at times, I find as silly as a commander in the army trying to pull rank on me -
Then she says “Can I have them?”
I say. “Not yet ,I need to get permission.”
“I have them, I will show you them at the end of class.”
I then get the oh so familiar roll of the eyes (that is one of the great skills my oldest daughter has mastered in middle school this year! )
“Fine” she says, but I see in her eyes relief , I came through, maybe just maybe I can be trusted a boundary is cautiously crossed by bringing the song she will come towards me .
The class was fun, funny, hard, and a little overwhelming for me.
I am juggling the film crew (that are amazing, but there) I am also getting the girls to commit. We worked with wigs. Wigs are always chaos provoking -and we talked about choices and consequences, all together I was pulled to the edge of my every boundary. But in the end it was a great class, not easy but good.When class is over my girl comes to me,
“Now Ms. ?”
I show her the printed out words, she is a little flushed, and very quiet. There is no thank you, there is no “OMG this is amazing.” There is quiet. I know that quiet. It is the quiet of disbelief. It is the quiet of, “Wow, this lady came through.”
Her eyes motivate me, as I said, I want the world for these girls .
"I will go talk to the supervisor right now.”
“I’ll come with you,” she says.
And we both forget, that really? There is no chance in hell that he will let me give these to her, but when you cross a boundary everything seems possible.
I say “No, I’ll go and then I’ll bring the words to you.”
At this point I am delusional.
I walk into the supervisor’s room, and I am suddenly aware exactly delusional I am, he picks up his head and looks at me. I admire this particular supervisor. He has been with me since I started in the girls camps, he has taught me some very important lessons. He has been incredibly patient with all my mishegas (Yiddish for craziness). He looks at me and in his I eyes I see it, What now? Will this woman ever stop?
“You know how we use music in the class?” I am stuttering a little.
Essentially I know the answer, but yet I continue,
"The girls asked for lyrics to songs, can I bring it to them?”
There is a pause, and he look at me, I think I never stop to amaze him.
“Now why would you do that?” he asks.
“Cause I can.” For lack of anything better to say.
“So can I,” he says.
“I have a printer,” I say.
There is sometimes a point where you know you need to stop, that this isn’t a boundary you need to fight for .Actually this might be a boundary that protects you.
“So do I,” he points to the printer on his desk, and laughs.
“You need to stick to your program, do what you are here to do, give them what you know how to give them, that’s what you need to give them not other things.”
I then rant for a few minutes on how I am at the bottom of the totem poll.
I am not a court-mandated program.
I do not give them college credit .
I am not allowed to give them snacks.
I have nothing to motivate them.
Blah, blah, blah...
He laughs out loud,
"And yet, they love your program," and wisely adds:
“Our job is to teach these kids to give and get, not just for things or rewards. You show up and commit, because you get something out of it. You learn you grow.”
I think, don’t we ALL need to learn that?
He has stepped across my personal border, and I quietly say from my inner self - “I want to give them so much”
“But I want more”
"That is the girl’s job now”
Borders separate us, and give us a reference to who we are to who others are. It is a testimonial to where we came from, and the possibilities of where we can go. Some need to be challenged, fought and truly banished. And others? Well, others are there to keep us safe help us belong, and know our limits.
The thing about borders and boundaries is that sometimes you need the courage to cross over just to have the humility to know that you actually must go back.
I hope and pray we all have the strength a nd the wisdom to do both .