Jacket’s mom is apparently in a fight with her sister and she has sent the cousins back home. I started receiving not-so-subtle text messages earlier today “Do you think her kids are dirty?” . My replies are always written with the expectation to one day hear them read out loud in court:
“I hadn’t noticed. Are you worried about them?”
The truth is, yes, the cousins are always dirty, but not to the extent that I interpret it as a safety issue. The 5 year-old and 9 year-old do not use utensils (they eat lasagna with their hands despite my protests) and there’s never a consideration to wipe their mouths or wash their hands afterward. With no one running after them to get it done they inevitably have a constant layer of food crust on them. It is what it is. I assume it’s a result of overwhelmed parents and children who have spent important years bounced around between foster homes. It’s sort of like they are feral. I can’t make a judgment on how things are going at this moment in the home. God knows I took Jacket to daycare a sticky gooey mess on occasion. I can already hear the ACS hotline worker saying to Jacket’s mom “Well then give them a bath already. There is no case here to accept.”
Of course, Jacket’s mom is winding tighter and tighter since I’m not engaging in her abuse claim - she’s upped the ante (I’m starting to see how I ended up snorting coke in Macy’s). Now the story is that her sister and brother-in-law [the cousin’s parents] are always on drugs. This is brand new. I’ve interacted with them a few times and I don’t have any reason to suspect they were under the influence. I responded, in anticipation of her*actual* drug addicted sisters returning in place of the little cousins, “It sounds like a good idea to keep Jacket away from people who are struggling with drugs. Jacket is our #1 concern.” It sounds a little condescending but in her state of mind, I don’t think the reminder can hurt.
Jacket’s mom just asked me to take the cousins’ 1 year-old brother in addition to the girls Friday night. I guess if she only has the little boy while I have all of the girls it becomes clearer to her that she’s straight up babysitting rather than simply having the cousins “coming over to play”.
I said no of course. Or, rather I texted “I need more practice before I can take him on as well. You can bring him to dinner Saturday night though if you want”. Jacket’s mom is already jealous of the time I’ve been spending with the cousins so she has been asking to come over for dinner every night this week. I scheduled her for Saturday night- that way she can pick up the kids and save me the 3 hours by subway (or $45 by car).
It’s so feast or famine. For all I know, she may cancel the plans altogether.
I’ve been writing blog posts in my head all day but have been too exhausted to even type. Friday night with Jacket and her cousins was a dream and then we all started to fall apart on Saturday. It’s all good though. I’ll explain in pieces over the week.
The three girls fought like cats, dogs and a rabid raccoon. I was able to manage 80% of the competition but the last 20% was like chasing after falling dominoes. I rise to the challenge of keeping my time, affection and activities justly distributed but jeez-la-peeze. One thing that did work was having Jacket and the 5 year-old cousin take turns wearing the Minnie Mouse dress with the oven timer as a cue.
One would think that after 7, 8, 15, or 22 costume changes (10 minute increments each) they would get sick of it, but nooooo. I think they ate up the structure and intrinsically enjoyed the fairness and resolution of “the buzzer”. The girls helped each other in and out of the dress so sweetly and transitioned between playing and re-outfitting without me having to say a word.
We DID manage to meet up with Andrew and Blitzen which was a real treat- more of that to come.
I am able to declare that the 5 year-old [sad-eyes] is indeed potty trained. As soon as we got to my place I suggested that Jacket show her where the extra underwear is. Needless to say, 12 fashion shows later, the princess panties won-out over the pull-ups. For the 24-hours I had her, the kid had the whole toileting thing down with no accidents. I’m not sure why her family keeps her in pull-ups, but whatever. I sent her home in underwear and will continue to.
Not sure what could cause me to appreciate mothers more than being one deep breath away from grabbing a hold of a child’s hair yesterday and shouting:
“Look at me when I’m talking to you, you little asshole. I don’t. fucking. care. if you want to sit in the yellow seat, you cannot run around the damn subway. By the way, everybody HATES you because your whining grates their tits and you don’t shut your stupid pie hole for one shitty second!”
I just realized that I’m going to have the 5 year-old cousin who is not potty trained- at. all. So uncomfortable.
I think I’m going to offer her some cute, new underwear and then put her on the toilet every 30 minutes.
Okay, so I need to not get my hopes up, buuuuut- Jacket’s mom has asked me a couple of times now to take Jacket and 2 of her cousins Friday night.
I’m sure someone in my building has a tent I could borrow, and I was already planning on buying a big $20 sheet of astroturf. I have a BBQ already so we can do hot dogs and ‘smores. Flashlights and glow-sticks. Non-ghost stories…
Jacket’s mom bailed on her agreement that I would be taking Jacket to the zoo with Carrie, Andrew and Blitzen. Yesterday morning I texted “getting on the subway now” (to pick Jacket up) and she responded “we’re not home”. WTF? Fortunately, I wasn’t actually getting into the subway, and intuition told me to start the communication while I was still comfortable on the couch.
Many more ridiculous text messages followed and I refused to be dragged minute by minute through the day of we’re-on-our-way-home-just-waiting-for-the-bus. Knowing how incredibly punctual (or rather, crazy early) Jacket’s mom can be, I drew a boundary I wasn’t planning on by saying that I would have to go on to the zoo without Jacket.
Part of the new situation was that Jacket’s mom wanted me to ask Jacket in person if she wanted to go, and if she didn’t then she didn’t have to. There are butt-loads of things about this scenario that are a bad idea. I’m not going to compete with Jacket’s elementary school-aged cousins, or bargain with a 4 year old, or fuck-up Jacket’s head by even giving her that kind of power.
So, I turned my phone off for the rest of the day and put it all out of my mind. This morning I received a long list of text messages from Jacket’s mom apologizing and asking how she can make it up to me. I don’t plan to respond today.
I just think we need some space. I’ve expended too much energy and time on this back and forth crap and none of it has included seeing and investing in Jacket. There’s more to the story, as always it seems. It’s about Jacket’s dad, but I can’t even be bothered to blog about it right now. I’m pretty much over-taken with an adolescent “What.ever. attitude”.
Jacket’s aunt had her baby and picked up all of the cousins. We postponed dinner until tomorrow night and it’ll be a managable night of just Jacket, her mom and grandma.
Wow has my perspective changed now that I’m thinking it’ll be a chill night with just the 4 of us. Let’s
Don’t judge it, just acknowledge it and let it pass back in and through (as my inner yogi tells me).
Also, I haven’t wanted to jinx it, but so far Jacket’s mom continues to agree to let me take Jacket to the zoo with Blitzen, Carrie and Andrew on Saturday. Really looking forward to that. Even if Jacket’s mom bails, I still look forward to meeting Blitzen!
I decided to get the year-long family pass for Jacket et al. It comes with a card for me and a card for Jacket’s mom-both admits 2 adults plus [any] 4 children.
On Sunday Jacket, her mom, grandma and 3 little girl cousins are coming over for lunch and then I’m going to take them all to the museum. In addition to a little Earth Day celebration in the forecasted rain, it’s an opportunity for me to help Jacket’s mom figure out the location and transportation to the museum, get comfortable in the museum (like she is now at the college), and get them out of my apartment. This last one is important because Jacket’s mom will stay with the kids until 8 or 9pm which is much longer than my preference.
From now on we can always end Sunday visits at the museum- ‘for free’.
Here’s the extra cool part- a speech therapist at work has a friend who is staff at the museum. I’ve passed word out to “work with” Jacket’s mom and to try not to kick her out or revoke her membership for crazy behavior. We’ll see how it goes!
Update: The museum pass I’m looking at comes with 2 cards. One for Jacket’s mom and one for me. Does that make a difference? If she doesn’t use it, I still will (same price as me taking Jacket to the museum myself twice).
Jacket is inseperable from her cousins these days. I’m learing to adapt. I’m realizing that since Jacket’s cousins are [practically] living at her house, they put pressure on her when she leaves to be with me. It’s been over a month since I’ve had Jacket alone and while her mom has agreed for me to take just her a week from Saturday, Jacket’s mom has already told me that one of the older cousins wants to go as well.
Sunday they are all coming over. And by all, I mean the now usual crew of grandma, Jacket’s mom, Jacket and 3 cousins. That’s just how they roll. Grandma had 12 or 13 kids so they are used to moving in large numbers I suppose.
I want to take them to one of the free Earth activities in the city but there are so many uncontrollable variables when we get out of my house- I’m not sure. There are so many things I want the girl to see and experience. They live in a city with so many amazing experiences available but they almost never leave their neighborhood.
I was thinking of splurging on an annual museum family membership for them whereby Jacket’s mom can learn the public transportation route and then get comfortable to return. Since museums are always hosting events, maybe this is a more practical way to get them integrated into the wider community than sending them different places all the time?
A while back you all gave me an excellent list of safety lessons for Jacket. Several of you suggested that I talk to her about sexual abuse prevention (in age appropriate language). I’ve been trying to figure out how to do it without her repeating something back to her mom that might be misinterpreted.
Jacket, her cousins, her mom and probably grandma are coming over again on Sunday (if Jacket had to choose between seeing me or playing with her cousins I’m going to lose so I’m inviting them all). We’ve been having informal story times, so I’m thinking this might be a good opportunity to insert some of the safety lessons. I’m only comfortable doing it with a children’s book that is read out loud with Jacket’s mom.
Book ideas? I’d like to start reserving them in the Brooklyn Library System in the next few days… Thank you ahead of time!
This was just after Duck Duck Goose and before we went inside. I decided that the girls still had too much energy so I asked “Who wants to RUN!?” The girls cheered (ah, to be 4 years-old) like I just invented the best game ever. I ran them around and around like mini-Marines at Basic Training.
Here we are at the end when I suggested that we jump up-and-down on this metal sculpture in an attempt to make as much noise as possible.