Two birthdays, two Christmas’…I asked Jacket what she wanted for her birthday that’s passed and she said “Play-Doh” looking toward the closet where it used to be. “No” her mom said “She wants another iPad”.
She got Play-Doh. Jacket also said that she’s into Barbies and her mom said that she has tons. So I got her the very obnoxious Barbie pool- it was on sale. I also got her several books and craft sets- things that if I don’t see her again, I can give to Sandy and Clementine. I tried to buy things that Jacket would use-up and they would not be desirable to resell. I’ve taken all of the plastic coverings off and when/if they start on their way over, I’ll write Jacket’s name on the top of them all.
I also kept in mind that Jacket’s mom doesn’t like messy stuff. Although I wanted to get Jacket tons of glue and glitter, I stuck to sticker books and puzzles. I got her a cute, $8 suit case to put everything in to keep tidy. I tried to find things to expand her mind in all the time she spends at home alone (Jacket’s mom told all of her family she moved to Florida too).
I can’t stop thinking about how Jacket told me that her mom still makes her wear diapers at night. Her mom snapped back that kids are supposed to wear diapers until they’re 7 or 8. I didn’t know how to respond so I just told Jacket that it was okay.
I’m thinking through this. It’s very complex. Part of me wants to put off thinking about it until Jacket and her mom actually show-up again.
I do expect a repeat performance in which Jacket’s mom cuts off again. This time, I won’t be so scared of it. My ultimate goal is for Jacket to know how to find me should she ever want to, or need to. I think this is almost accomplished. I worked facebook into the conversation yesterday and made sure Jacket knew that I had a page. If they come over tomorrow, I’ll try more arts and crafts and write my last name several times and make sure she still knows how to spell it.
The fact that Jacket is in school and not being hidden in a basement somewhere lets me sleep better at night. Jacket’s mom has already told me about some of the arguments she’s had with the school administration (aka taking her out of school all the time for prison visits) so no doubt she’s put herself on their radar. I’m so glad this family is back on someone’s radar. The responsibility and pressure feels lifted off my shoulders.
In terms of having Jacket’s mom around my girls, I’m not worried. It’s when she brought over all of the other family members in the past that it was a problem, but she knows I don’t allow that anymore. And her one sister who chain-locked me out of my apartment and insisted that my friend Stefanie stand with her the bathroom with her while she took a shower (why was she taking a shower?) because she thought people were following her- she has since died. And there will be no watching of horror films on my computer on Sunday afternoons. I’ll just say that I don’t allow my daughters to watch scary movies. She’ll accept that. She’ll add chaos, no doubt, but I’d like to think that my girls can handle it. This is New York City, crazy acting people are everywhere. And now’s probably a good time to thank all of my friends who have brought THEIR children around Jacket’s mom over the past 5 years. :)
So what WILL I do differently?
1. I’ll always have an extra adult on hand (thanks upstairs neighbor “G”). Jacket’s mom has never raised her voice in my apartment or anything, but if I perceive something as too crazy and I can’t get them out quick enough, I’ll have someone take the girls out for cupcakes or something.
2. Shorter, less frequent visits. This is a lot harder than it sounds, especially when I’m thinking every visit might be our last. Jacket’s mom already asked to come over both this Saturday and next Thursday. However, I said it’s one or the other (but in nicer words).
3. ANY statements about skin color will be dealt with sternly and followed-up with positive books/videos (e.g. Lupita Nyong’o and Elmo’s new clip). Her racism isn’t typical- her husband (and Jacket!) are black. It’s something that she seems to use when she’s upset. I predict she’ll be very sweet with Sandy and it won’t be an issue.
I’m VERY afraid to ask the internets for advice…but if you have anything positive to add, I’m listening.
If Jacket and her mom come back over tomorrow, Elia is going to come. Elia is the ONLY other person in the world Jacket’s mom isn’t paranoid about. It’ll be so great to have the extra support- morally, logistically, etc.
Apparently Jacket’s school has days where the kids where pajamas to class. This upsets Jacket’s mom. She just can’t wrap her head around it. She said that Jacket will NOT be wearing pajamas to school.
When I went to visit Jacket’s dad in prison, Jacket and her mom were in the visitor line outside. I said hi. Jacket started jumping up and down but her mom freaked and said "You’re not supposed to be around us". Whoa. Okay, that is news to me so I said "Really? I had no idea. I thought we left off on good terms? But okay." And I got in the back of the line. Jacket kept sneaking in smiles and waves and I’d wave back. I might have blown a kiss or two. I kept trying to hide my tears.
After a few minutes, Jacket’s mom came back and started talking, blurting out updates on her family and asking me a million questions. I think she was just so shocked to see me she needed time to come to me on her terms. I totally forgot that she pretended to move to Florida so she started talking about how they just moved back to town and the ipad was stolen in Florida. Welcome back I told her said not to worry about the ipad- it lasted longer than I expected it to. Jacket’s mom asked me why I was there and I said for work, I sure as hell wasn’t going to say “To see your husband” after her less than friendly reaction to seeing me.
Fast forward to her inviting herself over to my apartment, so long as no one was there- especially Asia. It’s part of her racism and all her other issues. I arranged with Asia to pick up Clemmie while I was in the car with Jacket and her mom (Sandy was at a family visit). Jacket’s mom is soooooo paranoid, she yelled at the driver to stay back and had her and Jacket crouch down in the car so Asia didn’t see them. This is how they live there life- hiding and lying to everyone about everything. She said absolutely no one knows where they live (I believe her) and she speaks to no one. She was upset that I didn’t remember a little girl that she met when we all went Trick-or-Treating 2 years ago. Apparently the little girl gave her a dirty look- and she’s still hung-up on it in a very bizarre way. It took me almost 10 minutes to redirect her to a different topic.
It appears Jacket IS enrolled in school. Jacket told me about how much she loved her school, her teachers, her friends, their books, lunch time, etc. Her mom interjected “No you don’t. You don’t like school”. Sigh, I think mom doesn’t want her to like school because she probably didn’t. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget how fucked-up the situation is.
Jacket glowed. She took my hand immediately. It felt
I had to restrain myself from asking her Do you remember this? And that? And this person? And when we went here? but it was clear that she remembered a lot. She wanted to see her old room and we sang some familiar songs together. Jacket LOVED Clementine and carted her around like a little doll. Clemmie reciprocated the love. We all painted together and did some puzzles.
Jacket’s mom invited herself over this weekend and next Thursday when the kids are out of school. We’ll see if they show up.
Jacket’s dad is being released next week after 20 years in prison (yes, she’s a conjugal visit baby- I’m still waiting for someone to make a documentary on that cycle). I’m going to visit him this week. We met once and had a good rapport. It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve seen Jacket, I figure I don’t have anything to lose.
- Sandy: Uh oh.
- Me: What baby girl?
- Sandy: Uh oh.
- Me: What's 'uh oh'?
- Sandy: puzzle?
- Me: what?
- Sandy: puzzle?
- Me: the puzzle is okay. Go back to sleep.
- Sandy: Clementine sleep?
- Me: yes, Clementine's asleep.
- Sandy: Clementine eyes.
- Me: Do NOT put your fingers in Clemmie's eyes. She's sleeping.
- Sandy: Shhhhh.
- Me: Yes, be quiet. Night night.
- Sandy: Airplane?
- Me: yes, that's an airplane.
- Sandy: more?
- Me: more what?
- Sandy: more socks?
- Me: you have socks on.
- Sandy: Clementine, socks?
- Me: no, she doesn't need socks but that was very thoughtful. Night night, baby girl.
She’s STILL wearing 6-12 month pants. She wears a 2t top though like Sandy. I’m really getting my money’s worth out of her clothes!