“When I can talk about Destiny, I can go on forever. She is my number one priority,” says Pat.
Pat isn’t Destiny’s birth mother; she’s her Nana and Destiny is her everything.
Having, in Pat’s words, made bad choices and chosen the dark side, Destiny’s parents are, despite Pat’s cautious efforts, not part of the 13-year-old’s life. Pat has been her grandchild’s caregiver since day one. It’s a role Pat has taken on with formidable love and unwavering devotion. Wishing to stanch the wounds of bad choices and escape the suffering of the dark side, Pat holds Destiny close.
“I’ve always, always, always been overprotective with her because to me she’s a gift. God gave me a gift so I gotta handle it with kid gloves.”
Pat has made it her mission to make home a safe, stable and loving place for Destiny. She has, with care and dedication, built a strong foundation of trust and respect with her grandchild. They show their affection every night before bed, as they compete to express who loves the other most.
“I always say ‘I love you more’ ” says Pat, “and then Destiny goes ‘nope, but I loved you first’ and I go ‘I really loved you first’ and she says ‘I loved you before I was in mummy’s tummy’ and then I have to say ‘Oh you got me again.’ “
“She’s a great kid,” Pat gushes, “I’m not saying she’s a good kid because she’s mine. She’s a great kid. She is so easy to make happy. She is very sentimental, she thinks of others before herself.”
But Pat knows her efforts to shield Destiny from hurt and disappointment and defeat will be tested and, possibly, at times even rebuffed as her grandchild enters her teen years and the inevitable pursuit and exploration of independence that come with it.
“I just hate when they get hurt,” Pat says earnestly, “but they have to. Sometimes you can’t be there to fix it and it breaks my heart. Sometimes they have to fix it themself.”
Even though Pat is the first to admit that she can be a little ambitious in her desire to protect her granddaughter – or perhaps because of it – she is determined to empower Destiny with the tools she needs to thrive as an independent adult. To prepare Destiny for the endless challenges, both mundane and extraordinary, of grown-up life, she’s worked hard to nurture the youth’s self-sufficiency.
“We like to teach her home skills,” Pat explains.
Growing up, Pat laments that she wasn’t taught many of the practical skills she is now so adamant to pass on to Destiny. She remembers struggling and having to learn on the fly how to fend for herself.
“That’s why I need to do this with Destiny,” says Pat, “I don’t want her to ever rely on anybody to care for her. I want to make sure she knows how to do everything.”
“She can make you a full course meal,” Pat says with pride, and goes on to describe the many dishes, from scalloped potatoes to pork chops, that Destiny can prepare.
“For 12 years old she can feed you pretty good,” Pat continues, “She’s been able to do laundry for quite a few years now. She’s not great at folding but she will keep your house clean and she will cook for you.”
“She’s ready for the real world. She’s the whole package. I got her ready.”
Pat also emphasizes the importance of school, and of Destiny doing her best with the talents she has. Like many parents, Pat admits she would love for Destiny to become a doctor and make, in her words, a bajillion dollars, but her focus is on encouraging Destiny towards a job that can support her and make her happy.
To Pat, this is key. She always insists that Destiny needs to take care of herself first. She knows that, while Destiny can count on her Nana, she can ultimately only count on herself.
And, perhaps, CityKidz.
Opening Her World
“Other than home,” says Pat, “CityKidz is her life.”
Even after many years, Pat still remembers how she and Destiny first connected with CityKidz. Pat remembers Susan, the neighbourhood CityKidz captain, coming door-to-door and explaining CityKidz to Pat and encouraging her to send Destiny.
But Destiny was only three at the time and the ever-protective Pat wasn’t comfortable sending her most treasured blessing away with strangers.
“I didn’t know the whole picture of CityKidz,” says Pat, explaining her hesitancy to enrol Destiny.
But then, a few years later, some neighbours and parents encouraged Pat to send Destiny, promising her it was safe and a really fun time for the kids.
“And so that’s when I said OK, maybe I will give it a chance,” Pat remembers, “and it was the best choice for both of us.”
That first Saturday when Pat saw Destiny onto the bus from the parking lot of her subdivision, she was all nerves. She waved to Destiny as the bus drove off but, unlike the rest of the parents and caregivers dropping off their kids, Pat didn’t head home after the bus disappeared round the corner. Pat stayed in the parking lot for two hours, waiting and worrying until her granddaughter returned. But as Destiny hopped off the big red bus a couple hours later, Pat’s anxieties instantly evaporated.
“When she got off of that bus the first time her face was like a Christmas tree,” beams Pat, “She lit up.”
Destiny couldn’t stop thanking her Nana for letting her go to CityKidz and talking about the fun time she’d had. She begged her Nana to let her go again and Pat, seeing the light and joy radiating from her grandchild, couldn’t refuse.
“From that day on, CityKidz stole her heart.”
It also opened up her world.
To that point in her life, Nana had been Destiny’s everything. The two were inseparable. CityKidz expanded Destiny’s small circle of security beyond her home and her Nana and gave her a new safe, dependable and fun place to play and learn and grow.
With CityKidz in her life, Destiny grew in confidence. Now, Destiny didn’t rely on her Nana to be her everything quite as much, though her love, respect and admiration for her grandmother were anything but diminished. And Pat, despite her deeply protective instincts, had found a trustworthy partner to help love and nurture her precious granddaughter towards independence.
And so it went. For the next six years, CityKidz occupied a growing space in Destiny’s heart and her life. It was a place in which she felt at ease and at home. The singing and dancing, the stories and lessons never grew old for Destiny. Even as she approached her tween years, Destiny felt she could be happy in CityKidz forever. But she was growing up, and the time had come for her to take another delicate step towards her future.
“I didn’t think she was gonna be ready for it. Because she was so comfortable with CityKidz,” says Pat, remembering Destiny’s transition to our youth mentorship program.
Destiny initially confided that she didn’t know if she wanted to go to CityYouth, but Pat encouraged her to give it a try. Her captain, Susan, agreed that Destiny should give it a go and if it didn’t feel right, she didn’t have to go again until she felt ready.
“She was nervous,” remembers Pat, “but you know what? She took it like a trooper and she fit in there, like a glove.”
Pat appreciated that the leaders knew that the young ones would be nervous their first time and made sure they were comfortable
“That’s a big step for her because it’s her independence,” says Pat.
Speaking with Pat several weeks into the Coronavirus pandemic shutdown, she longs for CityYouth to reopen for Destiny.
“She can’t wait ’til it starts back up again. She barely asks about school anymore but she asks about CityYouth. Through this virus when she found out that CityYouth wasn’t accessible to ther she withdrew. She was really depressed.”
“No one realizes what CityKidz means to Destiny,” emphasizes Pat, “I’m telling you, CityKidz, she needs them in her life. It’s her escape. It’s her place away from everything. She needs you people,” Pat implores.
Unlike too many people in the 12-year-old’s life, CityKidz has never given up on Destiny. Just like her Nana, we never will. Destiny and Nana have blessed us with their trust and their unstoppable spirits, and we can’t wait until we can connect, face-to-face, once again.
“This is something that is following Destiny,” Pat elaborates, “This is her rock. Her second Nana. It’s something that’s never given up on her and she’s not gonna let it go.”
Destiny is still young, and naturally doesn’t yet know what she wants for her own future, beyond CityKidz.
Pat has all the normal hopes of any caregiver for their child: for her to do well in school, to graduate, to find a job that can support her, but also brings her joy and, above all, to be true to herself.
“I just want her to be happy no matter what direction she goes in. I just want her to do the best that she can do. Everybody has hopes and dreams for the kid but I just want her to do what makes her happy.”