I’m back in class for summer’s mini-term. Starting is always difficult for me … and making it worse this term is that I am thrown off by starting late. My students all had class the week I was hanging out with T___, but I just got into the room on Tuesday.
And the night started awkwardly and, just when I felt I was finding my feet, working a good rhythm, Josefina walked in and called me out:
“Miss Stacie, can I please talk to you for just a minute? It’s pretty urgent and I don’t want to talk in front of everyone.”
And she was, quite clearly, seconds away from crying.
I gave the class a quick set-up of something to work on and went to see about Josefina.
All last term, I had the sense that Josefina was more ok than not. There was a scary episode when her mother was sick, but things at her house seemed quiet. Not so much. More like smooth water over a wicked undertow.
“I need to find a lawyer,” she said. “I have to start the process of getting emancipated from my mother.”
I’ve been so off base. Every negative thing she’s ever said about parents has been about her father, though. Her mother has always come across as the ‘good’ one, the ‘safe’ one, the caretaker.
The trouble, as is often the case with trouble, is about money and sex. To be exact, Josefina’s got a Summer Youth job and her mother wants the paychecks signed over entirely. And then there’s Josefina’s bi-sexuality. Silly me to have assumed her mother had accepted Josefina’s orientation. No. It seems she’s been pushing Josefina at one man after another in the hope of ‘distracting’ her from her girlfriend. Know that my baby-faced Josefina is all of sixteen and that her mother is pushing her at men … men my age. Should her mother be pushing her at anyone? Obviously, I think the answer is no, but even if you could argue that one with me, should she be pushing her not-yet-legal daughter at men old enough to be her father? Troubling, to say the least.
Apparently there is ugly shouting every day complete with offensive language about lesbians and accusations and threats.
We talked for a while and made a hasty safety plan and an appointment for her to meet with one of the youth counselors. She has since met with the counselor and, for the moment, isn’t moving ahead with emancipation but trying to work out an agreement with her mother about money and privacy. She seemed much calmer by the end of the week, but I’m worried about her.
As always, there isn’t a whole lot more I can do other than keep an eye on her, be ready to talk if she needs an ear, check in with her to make sure things at home haven’t deteriorated. What I want to do is go shake her mother (a bit roughly, even) and shout “WTF!” in her face a few times. These are things I can’t do, however; so I’m left with the many moves of impotence.