I thought I had a great idea until I spoke to a friend.
“Are you nuts?”
Nuts seemed like a short but exaggerated word. All I did was tell her that Charly would be coming to spend six weeks with us this summer.
“What do you know about this Charly?”
“Well, he is a friend of a friend and was a camp counselor at my kids camp last summer. The camp wasn’t open this year, so when I asked the boys which of the counselors they liked and thought they would have fun travelling with, they said Charly.”
“And you are bringing him into your home?”
“He’s a physics, chemistry and math teacher who has the summer off. I don’t quite consider him a stranger but it’s not like I know him, know him. He is a friend of a friend …”
And the doubt set in.
Here I thought I was having a great idea. Summer camps have become so expensive in Miami, I thought we could invite Charly to live with us, speak to the boys in Spanish, and take them out for adventures here and there. HE would be our summer camp. Joe had insisted on a male role model for the boys. The benefit to Charly would be experience working in the United States, and traveling the entire East Coast as part of our family.
Did I do something irresponsible and stupid? Am I too naïve and trusting? All of a sudden from thinking it was a brilliant idea, I became concerned I invited a child molester into our home.
Granted I am the person who has a headache and thinks it’s a tumor, my kids have an infected mosquito bite and I am convinced it’s flesh eating bacteria. I am alarmist by nature, and scenes from “The Babysitter” flashed through my mind. I was a horrible parent.
It’s sad that we live in a world where we have to be careful and yet we do. I have helicopter parenting tendencies though comparing to some of my friends I am very laissez faire.
On a Huffington Post Live Panel I participated in, a child services expert said it would take over 250 thousand hours of a child standing alone on a corner for that child to be kidnapped.
My fearful side said: “Odds don’t count when it’s my child.”
Charly had already made plans, tickets were purchased, my boys were excited.
There is no cost too big for my kids’ safety.
I spoke to my boys, on and off, about appropriate behavior, inappropriate touching, and we even acted out if someone they knew told them to keep a secret. We had these conversations way before Charly’s plane ever landed making it impossible for the boys to make the connection between these talks and their soon to be BFF.
The closer we got to Charly’s arrival, the more nervous I became. Not only about the offender stuff, but what if he was just a pain? What if he complained all the time? Or wanted to go out to party? Drink? Smoke? Did I really know this guy? What on EARTH was I thinking?
We went to pick up Charly at the airport with a little trepidation. It was going to be a little strange for all of us, and I knew there would be an inevitable adaptation period. But as soon as he came out of immigration, Charly sported his signature smile, carried a teeny tiny suitcase and went straight to say hello to the boys first. He brought with him all sorts of gifts including books in Spanish, amazing olive oil and manchego cheese (just the cheese made it all worth it!). He was easy going, flexible, and just so grateful to be here.
The next morning I walked past his bedroom and saw his bed was impeccably made.
Okay, this might work.
I was wrong.
This did more than work, this was probably the best risk we ever took. In the ensuing six weeks Charly became a part of our family. He was equally comfortable with Joe, the boys, me or any combination of us; he became my running buddy, the boys climbing guide, and Joe’s apprentice.
The boys Spanish improved a million percent. They are not fluent, but they sure know how to express themselves. Even Fearless who generally refuses to speak Spanish could be heard saying: “Charly, lánzame muy alto” (Charly throw me really high) in the cutest accent I’ve ever heard.
We visited much of Joe’s family in the northeast; Charly’s presence was such a gift, everyone could see it. In fact, there is a chance he is coming back to the United States to work with a family teaching their kids Spanish. And while here, he did the drink the cool aid and is training for his first marathon which wait for it, wait for it … is in Miami in January.
I confess, we kind of pressured him. If he ran the marathon I would too. Joe then said he’d run the half and my sister in law, if recovered from an injury, would run the half as well. My mother in law jumped on board and said she’d do the 5k with another of her daughters and of course my boys (with potentially their cousins) would run the 5k as well.
All of a sudden, his effort to run was a catalyst to everyone’s effort.
He signed up for the marathon the day before he left making our goodbye easier as we knew we’d see him again. Though I was undoubtedly sad. Charly had become a little brother to Joe and I, and a big brother to the boys. And since his departure we have been keeping in touch daily through WhatsApp and Twitter (@charlypuede).
So in a world where the local news is full of hideous stories, and the mistrust we have of one another sends us running into bubbles of isolation, I just wanted to share this story. Because sure, our bubble might be safe, but it’s also sterile. We would’ve missed out on so much had we not taken the chance on Charly, a family fitness weekend being just one of many.