There is a situation at camp today.
A situation is a very broad term used in Juvie and by my kids there, for basically anything that is going on. It could be a box of eggs falling in the kitchen or a fistfight. It can be something silly or something really bad.
In Israel when we talk about THE SITUATION, which we call THE MATZAV in Hebrew, we usually are referring to one situation. That is almost always referring to security. It is clear, direct and very real.
In Juvie when there is a situation, it means you are going to have to sit down and wait.
Today when I arrived they told me, there is a situation.
I know the drill. I need to sit in the lobby and wait.
Usually I am not told what the situation is or was.
One time there was “a situation” and I actually was not permitted to leave the juvenile detention facility.|
When the girls walk in, I need to assess what happened and, based on their mood and level of agitation, I can make up the story.
Usually later in the day, someone will fill me in.
My girls on the outside, the ones who have completed their time in Juvie, use the word “situation” for almost everything.
“There is a situation at school, Ms.”
“I have a situation in the placement home, Ms.”
“Ms. I’m in the middle of a situation regarding custody of my son.“ Of course, since she is 15 years old, she should not have sons.
“Ms., I have a situation. Can you get me an Uber ride home?”
“I can’t come today, Ms. I have a situation.”
I have learned to ask if it is a bad situation but never about the situation itself.
How can I help?
Is this a real situation, or is it in your head?
Does that really matter?
Many times I will not have a clue about what the situation really is.
I must let these girls just be in the situation and wait until the skies clear.
I have learned to sit through the silence and ask guiding questions. I know when not to ask too many questions.
Today when the girls walk into the room, they are not happy.
When you are locked up, there are many really annoying situations.
I tell the girls:
“This is why you do not want to come back here. You want control over your situations or at least to feel like you have control.”
They are angry.
They are pissed.
I have been here before. I know this isn’t about me, so I ignore the mood and move on with my plan.
I like this group. It’s a good one.
I put on music to do a warm up.
If looks could kill, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.
“Come on, just breathe with me,” I say.
“Let’s move a little,” I ask again.
They drag their bodies up. They fidget and are not into it.
“Come on.” Now I’m begging.
And then just like that, a song they all like comes on my playlist. It wakes everyone up and they all start moving.
I look at these kids whose lives are one long ongoing situation. How strong they must be but also how incredibly fragile they are.
Their mood shifts with every puff of the wind.
I think about my life that is in the midst of three really intense situations right now. I’d like to be as strong as some of these kids.
I remember something a girl said to me last year when we were working on masks. We talked about putting on masks and taking them off. I was telling them that they can and should give the mask a rest, at least with me, because I want to see them, the real person who is behind the mask.
She said, “Ms., when there is a situation, I tighten my mask.
And I gotta keep it on ‘cause that is what keeps me safe. I ain’t saying never take it off, but don’t you think that sometimes the mask is a good thing?”
“Sure,” I answered, “but you need to acknowledge what’s under it.”
“I could do that if I knew what acknowledge meant.“
I laughed out loud.
“It means pay attention. Admit your feelings.”
Now she laughed.
“Like crying like you, at shit that people say?? Ms., no offence, but you are so soft you’d last 10 minutes in South Central.”
“Well,” I say, “I’d like to think that I could last longer. I can put my mask on too, you know.”
That made everyone laugh.
And one added,
“We know you can be tough and put on that bad ass mask, Ms., but it’s like your mask has cracks in it so we can peek in and see you.”
I look at the girls in front of me dancing to some atrocious music that is actually coming out of my phone. The tough angry masks start to crack. The situation is dissolving and, one by one, they start to come back to me.
We all need masks at times. Situations will come and go and we must navigate with the masks we wear to keep us safe.
But, then, we must listen to the music and let it go.
Because, in some situations, that is all you can really do.