Monday, March 22, 2010

But what if my morals are horrible?

Recently I was considering a job offer for a position I'd really like to have. Lots of organizing of paperwork (which I'm quite good at if it's other people's paperwork, not my own), answering phones, and dealing with the public. But after fiddling with the application over a few days, I realized that there's no way I can make this thing work.

Maybe I can apply in the fall, but this summer my son's summer program operates only from 8am to 12pm, Monday through Friday. So I could work from 8:30 to 11:30 -- this place is open to the public from 11-5 Tuesday through Saturday. Uh, yeah. Not going to work.

So I'll just keep on volunteering and eventually I'll apply for a job when my kids are older. Bummer, but it's also OK. (putting on my best Rosie the Riveter smile) I'll just be the best gosh-darned volunteer they've ever seen.

Uh, no. I'm a touch too grumpy and cynical for all that open enthusiasm.

The director of this organization is someone I know very much on an acquaintance level -- I really know his employees a whole lot better than I know him. His employees are all grouchy women who make comments under their breath or roll their eyes as they answer the phone in their best "Hello Good MORNING!" voices. I fit right in. (They know their stuff too. It's not all complaining and attitudes, but when it's that sort of a day the office politics don't phase me.)

Some of the employees know about my struggles with Saul, most of them know that he goes to a special program and everyone has seen that I drop everything if he needs me. Not many of them know the details. I've told them enough to let them know that I'm not being a drama queen, but that my family has some serious stuff going on from time to time. Not always -- right now we're in a great run. Saul's on the honor roll and is mainstreaming every day in a 32 student class.

So the other day I went to the director's office to say that although I appreciated the employment application, upon further consideration, I just couldn't commit to sending it in. I told him that I really enjoyed working for his organization and that sometime in the very near future I really would like to apply for a paid position, but for right now I just couldn't swing it. I mentioned that my son's summer program prohibited me from working much of anything this summer, although I'd volunteer here and there when I could. I also said that come the fall, I'd be more available as the school days lengthened.

He asked if there was another summer program, maybe a city-run camp, that my son could attend. I sort of chuckled and said, "We've tried those before. Something of a disaster. He doesn't do well in groups and all the summer programs are large groups of loud or competitive kids. This one in the mornings is run by his school and is part of his therapy. As he gets better and older, I'll have more options open to me."

(There's a big part of me that HATES putting this on Saul's shoulders, but on the other hand, the truth is that I CANNOT do much of anything as long as he needs a trained, responsible adult looking after him. But I feel as if I'm constantly shrugging my shoulders and saying, "You know.... My son.")

The director says to me, "You need to be there for your son. It's OK. Look, if you want, come in at 8:30 or 9. We don't care if you're here when the place is open. Get the messages off the machine, do paperwork. It's all helpful, and if we had one person doing it, it would be consistent. We can get someone else to answer the phones."

Wow. That's cool. He's being really cool about this. The volunteer coordinator made it sound as if I couldn't come early.

Then he continues, "Your kid comes first -- your family. Do what you need to there." I nodded a bit. "After all, this is the only time they've got you. You don't want your kid in some city camp learning things from the city teenagers."

Didn't you just suggest a city camp?

"While he's young, you want him learning your morals from you. You know?"

And at this, I nodded quickly, thanked him again, and fled the office. Completely confused me, that comment about morals. What if I have terrible morals? He's a gay man living in a public monogamous relationship -- what if I'm opposed to such things? He wouldn't necessarily know from our few contacts. What if I'm spreading vile filth while taking care of my somewhat disturbed son? (He doesn't know the nature of Saul's condition either.) Is this all good advice?

I have no idea why that one phrase stuck in my head when the conversation was really about a job application, but it keeps floating back into my brain at odd times. I think my subconscious wants me to come up with some rejoinder rather than just nodding and fleeing. Haven't got it yet.

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