By Samantha Richards, 15, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies
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Photo by Jennie Coleman, 15, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies

My mom had always joked that she was going to follow me wherever I went in life. She said that she wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to “screw up.” And when she did I would roll my eyes and pretend not to listen.

But in October 2006, my mom took the position of campus aide/security guard at my school, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies. Her job requires that she walks around during and after lunch, and during the rest of the day to make sure nobody is ditching, doing drugs or starting fires. I was so shocked that at first I didn’t even think her working at my school would be a bad idea. Little did I know that my mother’s employment at school would help me appreciate her more.

She’s there from noon to 3 p.m. every day. Even though at first I didn’t notice a huge change in my daily routines, she was always there—on my way to the bathroom, in the parking lot, in the office. Everywhere I looked my mom was watching and following me like a surveillance video camera, zooming in on all my footsteps. But it didn’t feel like an invasion of privacy. Sometimes it’s a good thing, like when it’s 100 degrees in the Valley, and she brings me water because I don’t remember to pack it in my lunch.

After a few weeks when students started to get to know my mom, people would come up to me and say, “Your mom is such a b—-.” She makes them pick up trash and stop making out. It really hurt to hear people say that about my mom because I love her. Sometimes I would respond and tell people that she is only doing her job and that they should have more respect for people. I’ve asked my mom whether she cares about how people talked and felt about her. She said she liked being hated because that meant she was making a difference.

Sometimes it’s awkward when I see her

While sitting in fifth or sixth period, I often see her pass by and stick her head in the door. I feel obligated to wave back but I am not sure if that’s the most appropriate thing to do. I am torn about how to respond because I don’t want to be rude to my mom and pretend not to notice her, but I also don’t want to interrupt the class and wave to her. When I see her wave at me, I make a subtle gesture—putting my hand on my desk and waving with a quick flick of the wrist.

My teachers will sometimes say, “Hey, I just saw your mom.” While I’m embarrassed that everyone knows who she is, I feel proud that my mom is looking out for everyone’s safety. I even envision my mom as this knight, clad in ivory tennis jumpsuits, prancing around on a white horse saving my school from something sinister.

Sometimes when I am talking with people, someone will say, “Who is that lady who walks around in tennis clothes?” I feel obligated to say, “That’s my mom,” even though I feel slightly embarrassed; my mom’s style sets her apart from the administrators who come to school dressed in dreary suits. My mom, a modern day Jane Fonda, wears neon yellow ankle weights and does reps of arm curls with her water bottle.

Life at school and life at home are completely different. My mom doesn’t run around our kitchen telling me to pick up trash or go to an administrator’s office. When my friends first come to my house some of them are surprised that she’s just a regular mom. She drives me to my friends’ houses, helps me with my homework and supports my after-school activities. It is a shame that people don’t get to see this side of her because she is one of the greatest people I know.

This job shows she cares about me

Even though my mom has been crowned with the nickname “lunch Nazi,” there are some advantages for me since she works at my school. My mom pretty much knows everything that goes on at school and when she is driving my sisters and me home, she shares the daily gossip. My mom makes everything sound so exclusive that I get excited knowing the smallest, most boring tidbits of information, like when a couple breaks up over something stupid, or she catches people making out. However, I really like it when I see my mom at school and she asks me how my day has gone. I was surprised, at first, to know she actually cared about my classes. I assumed that she didn’t want to worry about the problems I might have at school.

To this day I don’t know why my mom took the job. I know that she cares about my education and wants to spend time with me and my sisters, but I have always wondered whether she trusts me. I have never been in serious trouble and I have never gotten grounded or called into an administrator’s office; so why would she need to watch over me at school? I think I finally discovered the answer while thinking to myself late at night. She wants to protect and be close to me and my sisters. Of course she wants her children to receive the best education possible but really I think she wants to know that her children are becoming people she can be proud of. She doesn’t want to be our best friend or our worst enemy, she wants us to be respectable people and to grow up with a strong sense of love, courage and character.
Even though my friends would probably die of embarrassment if their parents worked at their school, I am glad my mom cares so much about her children that she chooses to spend three hours of her day at our school. Being a guardian is the definition of what makes a parent, and my mom is the best parent anyone could ever ask for.

Other stories by this writer:

Behind the scenes with my favorite chef. Samantha, 15, can’t believe she got to interview one of her idols, Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis. (October 2007)

HPV vaccine: a shot of prevention. Samantha’s glad she got the new shots that protect girls from getting cervical cancer. (May – June 2007)