Sunday Reflections: Flex time
When the library closes and my family goes home full of cake and baby snuggles, I’m going to the coffee shop down the street, where three or four teens will be waiting for me. I’ll treat them to hot cocoa or a latte, while my husband nurses a cold and settles our kids down. The teens and I will talk about I’ll Give You The Sun (at their request), then we’ll talk about NaNoWriMo (at mine). It’ll be dark when I get home, but that can mostly be attributed to the time change. My kids will still have plenty of energy and will be eager to tell me all about their cousin time.
This is how my teen book club works now that the participants are actually teens, not the eleven or twelve year old middle schoolers who had ample after-school time when we first started gathering. I’m busy – but so are they, perhaps even more so, and they have a lot less autonomy in their schedule choices than I do. So we meet at odd hours, off hours, off-site, in the shoes I garden in, in clothes fresh from Sunday morning family obligations, or in workout clothes. We skip months, and then find each other again, usually at their request.
I flex my time for them, more than I’ve probably ever flexed my time for work in the past. But this is the kind of work I don’t mind flexing for. I’m happy to flex for them because I know that what we’re building together will stay with all of us. It’s a connection forged over a love of reading, of sharing what we love, and now that we’re talking about NaNoWriMo, maybe we’re moving into yet another phase. These teens are fantastic, and if it costs me an extra hour of my Sunday, so be it. We’re building community together.
We talk a lot about being where teens are, but what we don’t often discuss is that we have to be willing – at least on occasion – to be there when they are there. Yes, it does cause some friction when it comes to work-life balance, which is why I don’t make a habit of holding general office hours at the ice cream shop on Saturday nights or volunteering to work every evening shift. But when it’s worth it, it’s worth it. Responding to an expressed community need by adding an extra hour on to my weekend shift a few times a year is worth it. Skipping I’ll Give You The Sun to the top of my TBR pile was worth it. And getting teens excited about writing their own books is worth it.
I just hope my kids save me a slice of birthday cake.
About Heather Booth
Heather Booth has worked in libraries since 2001 and am the author of Serving Teens Through Reader’s Advisory (ALA Editions, 2007) and the editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Servcies along with Karen Jensen.
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