January 21, 2009 at 7:58 pm 6 comments

     I work as a program administrator for a small theatre company that does what I’ve come to call “therapeutic theatre.” The players, people I have come to admire greatly, perform improvisational theatre based on audience members’ stories (it’s called “playback theatre”), and they also do workshops in which the audience fully participates. The therapeutic part of their work is that they are doing all these workshops and performances at homeless shelters, juvenile detention facilities, and group homes for developmentally disabled adults. The participants, through improv, explore their feelings, learn empathy, and become empowered in their own lives. It’s amazing work that takes my breath away whenever I see it.

     Today I spent my morning participating in one of the workshops with juvenile sex offenders. These aren’t 20 year old men who had sex with their 16 year old girlfriends. These are 14, 15, and 16 year old kids who did something bad enough to land them in a locked-down treatment facility. Scary stuff.

     Truthfully, I didn’t want to go today. Sex offenders make me nervous. Young sex offenders, those who have probably perpetrated their crimes on even younger children, really make me nervous. So it was with heavy heart that I attended the workshop today. I suppose in the back of my head, even being the liberal bleeding heart that I am, I was expecting these kids to be monsters, horrible miscreants with big signs on their t-shirts saying, “Stay away from me, I’m scary,” in case there was any doubt. Which I didn’t figure there would be, given the horns I must have thought would be sticking out of their heads.

     The truth, however, is that these kids are just that – kids. They’re babies, really, not even old enough to live on their own. And frankly, they seemed like pretty nice kids to me. On the verge of being out of control sometimes, which was apparent both in their words and their actions, but overall most of them seemed like good kids. No horns in sight.

     What struck me the most as I made the long drive from the inner city back home to my sheltered life, is that somewhere out there, all these kids have a mother, some of whom are probably just like me. A mother who wants her child to grow up to be happy and healthy. A mother who has high hopes for her son. A mother who probably questions her every move with her child, and perhaps replays events in his life, wondering if she handled them the right way. A mother who probably never anticipated the challenges that parenting have brought her, but is doing her best to work through them. 

     A mother who just wants to hug and shelter her little boy.

Entry filed under: autism. Tags: , , , , , , .

But once a year Toy Story

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mama mara  |  January 21, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    My bleeding heart is breaking with this story. No doubt some of these kids were themselves sexually abused. They are really lucky to have programs like yours available to them.

    You amaze!

    It’s hard to even imagine what their stories are – and I suspect most of them do have pretty awful stories that brought them to where they are today. And yes, it is an amazing program to say the least. I’m honored to do their background work!

  • 2. Holly's Mom  |  January 22, 2009 at 3:23 am

    What a sad story, I am so happy to hear the turn of events that made you look at them differently then you expected and also greatful for the amazing program you work for.

    It was quite a day for me! I’m always astounded at the lingering stereotypes I have and don’t even realize it until I am faced with them.

  • 3. Lois  |  January 22, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    This is so sad…especially when you think of all the wanna-be moms who would be wonderful but can’t be…and these children, most with moms who don’t wanna-be.

    I know – I have a few friends who couldn’t have kids but would’ve been the most wonderful parents. I wish they all had decided to adopt a whole bunch of kids.

  • 4. Jesch  |  January 23, 2009 at 9:10 am

    to spin einstein: perception is stronger than reality

  • 5. robinaltman  |  January 24, 2009 at 10:49 am

    You are really wonderful. That program sounds fantastic. I wish we had one in our town. I’m sure these kids have been horribly traumatized, and they need more people like you, who treat them like “just kids’.

  • 6. cordwood22  |  January 7, 2010 at 8:38 am

    I just found this post…after a year:) I might say that Playback Theater is the opposite of TV – It is a powerful soothing entrance into the deeply human experiences of peoples’ lives.


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