At my children’s school there is an amazing day called, Multicultural Day. It is really special. Everybody brings a food that represents his or her culture. There are activity stations, where parents and kids do things that have to do with where their families are from.
This year Multicultural Day came right after my niece’s wedding weekend. It was a beautiful wedding. My girls were flower girls. It was magical. But we were all so tired when we got home ,that we prepared for this special day at school in a total state of exhaustion.
I was sitting and downloading Israeli dance songs for the station I was going to do in my youngest's class, while my other daughter was downloading information about baking challah (the traditional bread Jews eat on Friday night and holidays).
“Mommy can you help me?” She needed me to print something for her.
“Sure. Give me ten minutes to finish this and I’ll come.”
One minute went by.
“Mommy, can you come?”
Another minute went by.
“Mommy, I’m waiting!”
“I said Ill be there in ten!”
“Mommy, are you coming?”
Every moment that passed she asked again and finally I lost it.
I stated yelling at her. I was so aggravated.
The funny thing was that as I was yelling, I stopped what I was doing, put down my laptop, kicked off my shoes, yelling, yelling, yelling. As I was yelling, I was totally doing everything she wanted.
She started crying and I said (well, actually yelled),
“Why are you crying? You are getting exactly what you wanted.”
“Stop it! Stop crying right now,” I barked at her.
I was beyond tired.
We all calmed down.
I printed what she needed.
She made the most incredible poster board explaining all about our special bread .My beloved sisters who were still here from the wedding, and a friend of one of my sisters all helped make the dough for 60 challahs. Of course, the next day was beyond wonderful.
Drama…I am good at it .
So are my children.
It must be genetic.
There is a situation, there is drama , then it is resolved.
We cry. Maybe we feel bad (I felt really bad about this one) and move on. It’s over.
In Juvie there is a perpetual state of drama.
My girls in the program live in drama. It is rarely resolved.
There is no let up, no time to breathe, no time to exhale. It is constant movement ,from drama to drama.
“Mommy, you don’t have to yell!”
“Yes, I do. I said ten minutes and you didn’t wait.”
“Can you sit over there?” I ask a girl in one of my groups in Juvie.
“I’m not sitting there!”
“Well, you need to,” I say calmly.
Big massive melodrama; the girls are from different gangs.
They will not sit next to each other.
“I need you to sit next to each other.”
They give me that very dramatic, mad dog look, ready to kill.
“Okay,” I sigh and do my shtick.
“When you walk through the door you are in my gang, and you leave all your crap at the door.”
It is quiet.
These girls do not leave their crap anywhere.
They take it with them,always
the burdens of their nonexistent childhoods;
the trust that has been violated;
the heart that has been broken;
the soul that has been crushed.
“I’m not sitting next to her!” This one is tough.
“Maybe not today,” I say.
Sometimes even a drama queen like me, needs a break from the drama.
“I didn’t want to do this class,” she snarls at me.
"I want to be in the culinary class !"
“Okay,” I say.
I pick the same girl to do the first exercise.
It was remarkable; she is a natural actress.
She was funny and fun and outrageously dramatic. Usually these kids don’t filter the drama to the drama in my class. It takes a few weeks, but the same force of resistance in changing the seat manifested itself in the theatre exercise we did.
We all laughed. Ironically when she sat down, for a second she sat next to the person she didn’t want to sit next to, then she noticed, she got up quietly ,with no drama and moved over.
At the end of the class, I told her I was happy she was in the class. I told her I hoped she would stay.
She gave me a tiny smile.
“Yeah, we’ll see.”
She isn’t going to give in without a fight.
There is no good drama if there isn’t a conflict.
“Mommy, I’m sorry I didn’t wait,” said my older child.
“Mommy, you look really tired,” said my youngest.
They understood. My children and I talk. We hug, we kiss and the drama dissolves.
Of course, only until the next one, but, in between, we love, we move forward, we rest.
“I don’t know if I want to do this drama stuff, Ms.”
My girls in Juvie rarely give the drama a rest. Or have a rest from the drama.
“That’s a shame. You are really good at it,” I tell her.
“Don’t make a big deal about it. Just come. Be with us,” I add.
If I understood correctly, she isn’t happy with someone in the group.
The level of intrinsic drama that goes on between these girls would make Shakespeare pale in comparison.
“Come for you. It doesn’t matter who else is in the class.”
“You want me bad, huh? You want me in your gang?”
“Yes, I do!” I laugh out loud. She heard my words in class I think to myself.
“We’ll see…” and she walks away, leaving with dramatic suspense.
The level of drama in these facilities is incredibly high .Drama is their way of life. Nothing is simple. Stripping the drama away from them leaves them vulnerable and defenseless.
It was my vulnerability and putting down my guard that made me yell at my kids. Not easy to admit but it was me with no filter.
My girls in Juvie walk the world “filterless”. But interestingly the drama is their shield. It keeps them safe.
In my class, I tell them to be dramatic, but let’s filter what is really going on. Let’s touch what is under the drama. Let’s see where it comes from.
Although this is important, no one really wants to do it .
“Will you be here next Thursday?” a voice behind me asks.
It is the girl she didn’t want to sit next to.
“Yup, every Thursday, unless I tell you that I’m not.”
“Is that good? ” I ask.
“We are really good at the drama, Ms., but I think your class will be different.”
“I hope so,” I say.
She walks with me, non-dramatically.
It is calm and quiet for a few minuets. We get to where she cannot continue and she says,
It is too soon for big hugs. I smile at her and look into her eyes and there it was.
Right there for a moment I saw it, the possibility.
For a moment, there she was, everything she could be—a sweet young girl, uncomplicated, drama free, with potential.
I sigh, and buzz the probation officer to let me out.
I look back, and I hope that what I just saw will really be who she becomes ,
and not just a passing glimpse of her possibility.