I don’t think people are big fans of teenagers these days- I don’t think a lot of adults know how to interact and identify with being a teen, and it’s probably because a lot of teens don’t know how to identify with themselves. Growing up in South Florida, I was always rushing through everything to get to the good part: being a grown-up. Sometimes I didn’t really like high school- I was uncomfortable in my own skin (I was very tall and very thin) and I just wanted to graduate so I could move to Montreal and become a writer.

But the one thing that kept me grounded as a teen was having RKC- Ryan, Kyle and Cristina. I was a nanny throughout middle and high school for a few families, but mostly for The Teems’. Mary and Jeff, who lived across the street from my house, started with having twin boys, and they were the cutest, sweetest little boys in the whole wide world. I did everything with them from the time they were babies- bathed them, fed them, put them to bed. They were always dressed in matching Baby Gap, and they had this baby cologne that made them smell edible! I taught them how to bake and how to do spin art with those machines that whirl the paper around while you add drops of paint and watch it spatter across the page. When I got my license I would take them out for dinner at Burger Kings with those playlands, and people would tell me what beautiful children I had (haha). And they really were- Ryan with his bright green eyes and Kyle with his bleach-blond hair and little glasses (he used to tell me he was the kid from “Jerry Maguire”). Too cute!

And then Crissy came along, this stunning little girl with curly black hair and sparkling brown eyes, and Mary and I “had” a little girl we could dress up in lacy headbands and frilly dresses (and boy did we ever!) I went on vacations with the five of them to Sanibel Island, I was always included in their family parties for the holidays and birthdays, and Mary was like an older sister who would answer my embarrassing teenage questions while Jeff was the pesky big brother who ridiculed me until I grew thicker skin.

Every teen needs a little RKC- Ryan, Kyle and Cristina. Some teenagers play sports or take dance classes or hold part-time jobs, and I was a nanny. Those kids kept me busy and kept me out of trouble. They gave me something to look forward to every day. When Ryan would throw a temper tantrum and throw himself backwards in rebellion (YEESH!) or when Kyle decided he wasn’t going to eat his supper, they taught me patience. When me and the three kids would sit around the kitchen table and make brownies together, they taught me compassion and love. And when they called me “Shen,” they melted my heart and made me feel loved and needed.

You want to keep today’s teens out of trouble? The solution is simple- help them find their RKC.