Being a teenager is tough enough as it is, during that time teens have things like high school to worry about. Things like whether they are hanging in the right crowds and eventually going to prom are what they think about. And aside from school, they pull their weight at home by helping out with chores. Most teens have to take the trash out, help clean the house, or wash dishes.
One child has more responsibilities than your average teenager. Jonathan Gutierrez from Boca Raton has taken on the job of being the caretaker for three members in his family.
“It’s been a struggle, but I’ve been getting through with it,” Jonathan told WPTV. His father, works 60 hours a week to take care of the family financially and during that time Jonathan has taken on the role of caretaker to his family.
The schoolboy takes care of his mother, grandmother, and his little brother.
“He should be worrying about homecoming and school events and going to the movies with his friends and hanging out and everything else,” his mother, Jennifer Gutierrez said. “All he cares about is football and his family.”
Jonathan has the same amount of work that an adult would have. Jennifer has multiple sclerosis and sometimes it is hard for her to move around by herself. She explained that she will have three good weeks and one bad week. She explained that, “That week I don’t walk.”
Jonathan said that, “I usually have to carry her to her bed, help her go to the bathroom, make sure she’s Ok.”
The caring does not stop with his mother, because his grandmother has pre-dementia. Jennifer explained to WPTV that grandma’s short-term memory is decreasing and Jonathan makes sure she takes her medicine, among other things.
Jonathan also helps his brother who has been struggling for seven years. “He’s had what’s called sagittal craniosynostosis,” Jennifer said. “[His skull] was squishing his brain, so they had to expand his head.” From helping his little brother with homework to making him dinner, Jonathan is always there. His mother calls him a “hands on brother.”
Jonathan does not have time to play with his friends because he has to make sure that his family is being taken care of.
His mother confessed to WPTV that without her son, she would not be able to get everything done. “There’s some days I can’t lift my head off the pillow.”
Though he cannot spend time with his peers, he is a part of a group called American Association for Caregiving Youth program at his high school. They have group meetings and also go on outings together to try to take a short break from their stressful lives. This group relates to his stressful life of being a child that takes care of his family.
He talked about his life to Vice News and that video has had over one million shares. His mother hopes it lets other kids know they’re not alone and encourages more programs around the country and world like what The American Association for Caregiving Youth offers in Palm Beach County.
The teenager is sacrificing his youth, to make sure that his family is in good hands, but his mother is embarrassed that her son has to take care of her.
“It’s humiliating, but he doesn’t make me feel that way. I feel that way myself,” Jennifer said. “For him, if I cry, he yells at me, ‘Don’t cry Mommy, don’t cry. This is not something that I don’t want to do. I love you.’”
Jonathan was not embarrassed but happy he is able to help his family. “She tells me every day how much she loves me and how much she appreciates me,” Jonathan said. “It means a lot to me. I love her so much.”