Sunday, November 23, 2008

Speaking of court...

I suppose we made some progress. Things are certainly nearer being once and for all done. I'm sure there will be a wedding soon. Sometime after December 8 (the next and probably last court date), to be more precise.

I met with my attorney before heading to court and she asked me if I was nervous. I told her that no, I wasn't. I'd thought about all of this and decided some time back that since I've no "story" to keep straight, only details to remember, and I've based (or tried to) everything I've said and done on what I've always believed (that kids always come first, that one should work at being nice no matter what, that Truth ultimately takes the day), that there simply wasn't anything to be worried about.

She said, "You know, I can't tell you how many times we've worked so hard, thrown ourselves into arguing every detail, just done all that we could think of to do in order to achieve what seemed to be the only reasonable outcome, only to have it fall through for no apparent reason. Only later, sometimes much later, have we seen that it worked out just the way it was supposed to all along. The right thing happened, we just couldn't see it at the time."

I nodded. "I'm good with that."

She said, "I am too."

I'm glad to have this particular attorney.

Of course, that didn't prevent the near panic attack that happened when they walked into the room. I held my breath until my heartbeat didn't hurt anymore, figuring that either I'd wake up to EMTs standing over me (oh, wouldn't that have been fun) or the silly organ would get back to it's business and leave me alone. What happened? The latter, of course. Who needs that kind of drama? Besides, I haven't had a panic attack since back in the first week after I learned what was about to happen to my family. Not a place I want to go again. Moving right along...

I don't have much to say about the actual proceedings. It was surreal. And I think I may just have to get comfortable with feeling like my limbs are being removed with a dull and rusty cheese grater, since the sensation doesn't seem to be subsiding much. Or at all. It might be marginally better than panic attacks, though. I'd have to think about that and get back to you if you were to want a definitive answer.

I think the judge is a remarkable guy, level-headed, whole-heartedly on the side of the children, focused on upholding the law as he's been entrusted to, as one would have to be under the circumstances. I observed some of his other cases late in the morning and again in the early afternoon. I don't know how a person would maintain objective speech in some of those cases. Really.

A mom was asking for counseling help with her 11 year old daughter, a child she had just allowed to go live with the bio-dad (the split was recent) for about two weeks just prior to their court date. When asked why, she said that she and her daughter had difficulties, that the child pushed constantly to get her way, that it was easier not to have to fight with her and that it seemed like her dad's place might be a good breather for them all. She admitted, when pressed, that a kid saying, "I wanna go live with dad" is not a threat. (It was her best example of "threats made.") The judge, at his most adamant during my observation, leaned a little forward and said, "She's eleven. You have no control over your eleven year old? What will you do when she's sixteen? By allowing her to do this, you have just confirmed that whenever she wants to push you like this, it will work. She will use this on you forever. [pause] This is what we would call bad parenting. The state does not look kindly upon the splitting up of siblings." And he ordered the child back with her mother and brother, to receive counseling, and the parents to work more on this.

I wondered if the mom, with her very shiny, very long, black as midnight hair had finished high school. If she understood the difference between a preteen upset with the enormity of emotion in the situation vs. the amount of control the child feels she has over the emotion, the situation, or herself. I wondered if the mom ever had anyone help her process those feelings that were bigger than she was as a kid, or now, when she's the grown-up in charge.

The dad was quiet. I wondered if he, with his forcibly squared and constantly re-squared shoulders, understood that his daughter needed to stay with her mom, in no small part to help her know viscerally that one does not run away when faced with feelings of chaos and frustration, a skill her own parents weren't modeling for her. I wondered if he knew this but couldn't follow through, just as he (or they or she) couldn't (or wouldn't) follow through with keeping that child's world safe with mom and dad under one roof. I wondered if he knew this but did what he felt he could do: take the child and allow her some breathing room, even as he may have grasped clearly that it wasn't a permanent thing. I wondered what he would tell her about the day in court and why she had to go back. It's certainly not unusual or wrong for daughters to want their daddies or for dads to want their baby girls. Would he tell her that her mom was making them all do this? Would he tell her that it was the (big, mean) judge? Would he say that this was the right thing for now, that he loves her and wants her more than he can ever put into words, but that her mom has been the constant in her life? That it's important to stay put and work through the hard things because she has people who love her more than life and will do good things for and with her and always push for the best for her, even if it's hard and that one day it might be his turn to be on her bad side but how she feels about him has nothing to do with how he feels about her and that it's the same for her mom? Would he tell her that he'll be there for her whenever she needs him? That she can always talk to him about anything and that he hopes she'll talk to her mom too? Would he offer to help her talk to her mom? Would he?

I see them still, standing at that table, both holding a shared and scared breath. I want to stand behind them and whisper the thing they need to hear. The thing that will help them to be whole, to be unafraid, and to be the heroes their kids need them to be.

The (ex)couple who took turns making accusations of certain acts taking place in front of the kids or rock-throwing? That's pretty much fear too. There wasn't much leveled that day that seemed to have any basis in reality. Accusations of failure, inadequacy, most cases were about one parent being terrified that something was slipping inexorably from their grasp(s) and could never be replaced. The depth of emotion was black and heavy and I don't know how the people who work there, including bailiffs who act as combination security detail and social workers, manage to show up every day and not go, as Martha Beck says, "totally barking postal." And again, I am so sorry that anyone would ever, for any reason, need them.

Would that there were some way to snap one's fingers and fix the tremendous amount of pain in that place. If for no other reason than to stop the ripples it slams the whole of society with. Couldn't we all use something more hopeful than that?


whitney in ky said...

Wow! What an insightful post. I surely needed that and sent it on to a few friends. Such wisdom. You amaze me.

Carolyn said...

I have a few friends I wish I could leave you in a room with (maybe a courtroom, observing) for a day or two. Failing that, I wish I could shake them for what they're doing. (Not that it would help them any, but I might feel better.)

May God bless you, and comfort you, and be your stay. You are walking your road with much grace and I count it a privilege to pray for you.