After spending a few weeks in Israel my household has been suffering from some serious jet lag. My daughters have been getting up very early.
I woke up the other day to the sound of my kids giggling.
My middle one was saying something, and my youngest was giggling.
I could listen to that sound forever. For a brief moment when I hear that sound everything seems fine and I feel like everything in my world is together.
My girls in Juvie don’t giggle a lot. Actually, I am not sure some of them giggle at all.
There is something loose, carefree and open about giggling.
There is something innocent about giggling.
You giggle when you are safe.
When my kids were babies my heart would almost burst when they would giggle that adorable precious baby giggle.
My Juvie girls are so incredibly guarded.
When they let it go it’s not for a giggle; it’s for a big laugh.
Today in Juvie we talked about choices.
The choices we make.
The consequences they bring.
We acted out situations.
“You always have a choice and that choice makes all the difference.” I say.
We spend time discussing WHAT better choices could have been made.
It takes time for them to figure out what the good choices are.
We follow the acting exercise with a writing exercise. I ask them to reflect on four topics:
1. In fifteen years I hope to be…
2. What choices do I need to make for that to happen?
3. I know I can do this because…
4. Please share a good choice you made.
Each girl reads out loud what she wrote.
It’s sad. It’s funny. Some are totally detached from reality.
“In fifteen years I want to be a judge,” one says.
Another answers, “You need to be like 50 to be a judge and you need to be a lawyer first, Stupid!”
“Really?” She is shocked.
“Hell, yeah. Right, Ms.?”
“Well, that is true,“ I say.
And the first one says, “Geez! Thanks for crushing my dream.”
They all laugh, except one.
She is my tough one.
She will not give in.
Today, she actually wore a wig, acted in the scenarios.
She has a buzz cut, and put on the longhaired wigs, had fun with them, but not too much fun.
She is closed, shut down, and never writes a lot in the writing exercises.
But in her dark brown eyes I can see her goodness.
It’s her turn to read.
“In fifteen years I hope to be alive,” she reads.
It gets very quiet in the room. The air is still.
“Okay,” I say very carefully.
“What choices do you need to make for that to happen?”
She reads from the paper.
“Really?” I say, and our eyes meet.
“You can do better than that,” I say.
She stares at me.
I stare back.
“Are you giving me a stare-down?” I ask.
“Go for it!” I add.
She looks at me straight into my eyes and I look right back at her.
I do not turn away. I do not speak.
I try through my eyes to give her some comfort. I smile at her.
And then it happened. She started to giggle.
This tough, very butch girl who tries so hard to be mean and tough started giggling like a little girl.
“You know what you need to do?” I smile again. “Can you say it?”
“Because the first step is to say it out loud!” I wait.
And she giggles.
I start to giggle. It is contagious and everyone is laughing. We don’t really even know why.
As we calm down she looks at me.
“The first step is to say it out loud,” I say again.
“Tell me what you are going to do to stay alive,” I ask quietly.
“I’m gonna change my mindset,” she says.
“Well,” I say, “I think you just did a little.”
She looks deep into my eyes and nods her head.
“No, I didn’t,” she says, all tough again as if nothing happened.
“Really? Nothing just happened? Are you for real?“ I ask.
I smile at her and there it is again, that little giggle.
“Ms., Stop it,” she says.
“Stop what?” I ask.
“Being you,” she says.
I laugh out loud and say, “Sorry, I don’t know how to be anyone else!
And you know what?” I add.
“I believe that you can and will stay alive!”
She looks at me her eyes wide open.
“Be careful,” I say
“What?” she asks in a bit of a pissy tone.
“Your giggles just might run loose again.”
“Just saying…” and I shrug.
And to that, she tries, but cannot hold it in.
She bursts out laughing a full-hearted laugh.
I have seen light in the darkest of eyes.
In the most broken of hearts.
In the toughest of girls.
Our job, no, our duty, is to never think that the giggles are lost.
Because if you give them space, they will find their way back, catch you off guard, and make everyone laugh out loud in abundance.
Please join The Advot Project for the Culminating Presentation of Relationships 101!
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9th at 10:30 AM
LA Probation Camp Scudder (near Magic Mountain)
28700 Bouquet Canyon Road
Santa Clarita, CA 91390
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