Monday, July 27, 2009
Stitches, Germs and Faux Hangovers,
If I were teaching a class to prospective guardians ad litem, in the list of things that make situations complicated I would include dealing with people who lack critical thinking skills and self control. I’m not being snarky when I say that. One of the simplest things people could do to lower the level of melodrama in their lives would be to actually listen to the information given to them and think about what it means before acting on it.
Non critical thinkers tend to screen out what they don’t want to hear and glob on to what they do. And if you don’t say what they want you to say, they frequently will combine sentences, drop words, find alternative meanings to the words you use and in general, “translate” what you say into something that comfortably fits into their existing world view and manner of dealing with life. I’m not talking about simply not understanding “legalize” or court procedures. I am talking about twisting the simplest, most straight forward comments.
And then they immediately make decisions based on that translation as if death will occur if they don’t move fast enough.
Example: GAL – “Your child seems to be struggling with the difficulties you and her father are having communicating. My suggestion is that you the two of you consider taking a co-parenting class and perhaps taking Little Daisy Mae to a therapist to help her to work through the transition.”
Translation (as told to the father by the mother within an hour): “The GAL says you are impossible to talk to and that you are screwing up our daughter so bad she needs to go see a shrink!”
Several things are happening there – first, the mother didn’t hear what the GAL said – she only heard what she believed in the first place. Second, she raced to the other parent (and probably multiple family members including his mother) to fan the flames and try to score points. Third, she misquoted the GAL. Fourth, the father is now convinced that the GAL is unfair and feels like he has lost face so he gets defensive towards the GAL and everyone else. Fifth, chances are, the GAL won’t know what happened because the father usually won’t know how to approach the situation for fear of making the situation worse. This is one time when it is helpful to have the second parent be a hot head because those guys will pick up the phone and let you know in no uncertain terms that they will have your license because you are unfair and libeled them.
I am making mom be the heavy but it is just as often the dad.
It is hard to avoid these types of scenarios. It isn’t practical in a custody/visitation case to be able to only speak to the parents when they are both together. In the first place, that could cause a brawl. In the second, when you make home visits or have meetings with the parents in private, there just isn’t any realistic way to have them both there.
When I put things in writing, I make it a practice to give copies to both parties when I can. By that, I mean the same letter is sent to each with the other’s address clearly on it, Dear Mom and Dad, etc. Sometimes that isn’t practical or prudent but to the extent that you can do it, sometimes that helps.
Of course, if you don’t make things exactly even, you’ll still get the outrage on one hand and the gloating on the other. And it is rarely exactly even. And as a GAL, if you thought that was your role, you’d promptly lose track of looking out for the best interests of the child.
So I got a call this morning (and retrieved four messages from the night before) concerning a custody case where one parent refused to turn over the kids to the other and was in the process of skipping town.
I quickly drafted Motions to Reconsider the last Orders, rushed off to court and … the earliest date they can hear them is in late August.
I also had a home visit, today. I love home visits and always tell people I love to see the babies and the dogs. And it is true. On this visit, they met me at the door and cautiously asked me if I was afraid of dogs.
Oh get serious.
Anyhoo, to my delight they had a “puppy.” A Rottweiler puppy, as it turns out. Now, I love puppies but I have to say that this was a strange situation. I have NEVER been afraid of dogs but this one just stared and stared at me. Unblinking. I didn’t know whether it was going to attack or what. My girls have soft, sweet eyes. This two year old pup’s eyes were hard as glass.
I turned my head sideways and didn’t stare at him but then I wondered if I was giving him the wrong message. Moreover, I couldn’t see if he was going for my face if I wasn’t watching him.
The owner kept saying, “Oh, he just loves to be petted! He’ll do it all day.”
I really wanted to get down and snuggle in his face but he just looked so… hard … that I didn’t dare. I felt fear well up and I doused it down, immediately. I think dogs can smell fear. This was a completely new sensation for me. Like I said, I don’t recall ever being afraid of a dog. And I don't understand why some people fear dogs. I just don't get it. But today... hmmm.
About that time, I glanced past the dog’s face and his short, docked tail was going a mile a minute. I still wasn’t sure about getting my face down by his big jaws but felt better about it. He was sure a sweetie.
Well, now I don't feel so embarassed about my wimpy hangover from Friday night. Turns out, I wasn't hungover. Husband got hit with the same symptoms, last night. Happily, I am not a pathetic lush. I am just a walking petri dish, apparently.
Pearlie goes in to get her stitches out in about an hour. I am going to leave Evelyn at home because they’ll have to do some handling of Pearl to get her to flop over and be still, and Evelyn would likely be in the middle of it.
More later. Maybe.