. . . and it's not their genes either. – Dr. C

Goth Girl Image

Part II:  The Story

Unlike most therapists in society who meet with their clients once a week in an office, in residential settings, the kids live and the staff work at a self-contained campus.  Bedrooms and classrooms and therapist rooms are usually within short walking distance of each other.

That means, if you’re a therapist, it’s not unusual to have lunch with one of the teenagers, or to meet with her teacher, or to take a walk and have a private conversation – in addition to a more formal one-hour session in the office.  In fact, it was my job to make sure therapists didn’t linger in their offices too much.  “If you want to know how your kids are doing,” I would tell them, “go see them where they live.”  So, I spent some time where she lived.

I began to see Evie, formally, once a week.  Our first meeting was cordial.  My job was to develop a trusting relationship, and Evie was rightfully cautious.  As I had lectured my staff ad nauseam over the years, the adult is responsible to earn the child’s trust, not the reverse.  I talked to her about things she liked.  She said she liked to write.  I asked what she wrote about, and if she would share them with me.  “Oh no Dr. Cima,” she said, “I’d be way too embarrassed!”  I told her I understood and maybe she would share with me some day.  We talked about her life a little bit.  She told me she loved her mother very much, though she had many “acting out” episodes when she lived with her mom, especially in the last year or two.

I also learned Evie had sporadic, unpredictable contact with her stepfather.  He married Evie’s mother when she was three, and he was the only father she ever knew.  Her parents divorced a year earlier and were more or less estranged for at least two years before the divorce was final.  Evie’s stepfather had a girlfriend, and her mother was not dating.

 Meet Pamela and Tom

I contacted Evie’s mother after my first talk with her.  I’ll call her Pamela.  Pamela lived by herself in her home about an hour from the facility.  She worked long hours in a responsible position.  I asked her if she was able to meet with me, she said of course, and we met the following Monday.

 Over the next several months, I routinely met with Pamela at the facility.  The two of us would have a conversation, and then we would bring in Evie.  Pamela needed her own private time too.  A good mother, she was confidently independent.  She had a good enough paying job that she could afford to pay her bills and take care of her daughter even if her ex-husband didn’t contribute, which was often. For the temperament trained reader, Pamela is a Protector Guardian.

Sometimes, though, she was overwhelmed with self-recrimination about how all this happened, about what happens next, how the ex-husband’s girlfriend “didn’t help,” that she had no interest in dating, how she is responsible for all of Evie’s troubles, how her ex-husband is responsible for all of Evie’s troubles, and everything else that occurs when couples, with children, divorce.  It’s important to keep in mind divorce is a process, not a date on the calendar, and it inevitably involves unavoidable upset for everyone involved.  Evie was Pamela’s only child, and they were always very close.

Evie’s stepfather – let’s call him Tom – was a blue-collar worker and, from the portrayal Pamela gave me, probably a Promoter Artisan.  I never met him, though we did have one conversation over the phone.  From what Pamela told me, over the past three years, Tom has been less and less involved in Evie’s life, missing gifts for birthdays and Christmas, and often not showing up for scheduled visits.  Still, Evie wanted to see her dad.  (See About Evie’s Father in footnotes [i])

Making Progress

By the third or fourth time I met with Evie alone I asked again, towards the end of our conversation, to read some of her stories.  I could tell she was glad that I remembered to ask a second time.  This time she said “okay,” with an apprehensive smile.  She gave me her well-worn spiral binder and she asked me if I could read it right away.  I told her I would.

I’ve read many stories and many poems from children in foster care over the years.  Anger is a common theme, as is fear, and so is freedom.  Despair is almost always part of them.  For many kids in foster care, futures can be dim.  Evie’s was different.  It really wasn’t a story.

When I first began to read her words, I couldn’t make heads or tails of what she was saying.  Her spelling was okay and her grammar was about the same.  She capitalized the first letter of every sentence, every sentence ended in a period, and each sentence made sense.  There were no questions marks, no exclamation marks, no quotation marks – just periods.  After a while, when I read the sentence Where are you going Vlad, I finally “got it.”

Imagine reading a novel, and the person who wrote it deleted everything in the novel except the dialogue.  There was no introduction, no building of the scene, no sense of when or where this was talking place, or even who was talking.  Instead, the first sentence of the story started in the middle of a conversation between two people, neither of them identified, one sentence after another.  I finally realized Evie wasn’t writing a story for someone to read.  She was writing down the conversation she was having with Vlad, like dictation.

What was the conversation about?  Well, for lack of a better description, it was about a “fair maiden in distress,” who was receiving advice by a loving friend named Vlad.  Vlad was heroic, sometimes dark (he spoke of werewolves and may have been one himself according to Evie).  Vlad loved the maiden in the conversation, Evie once told me, “just as a friend, Dr. Cima.”  Nothing sexual about this relationship, at least in her written and spoken words, and Evie wanted me to know that.

NEXT WEEK:  An act of chivalry

______________________

[1] About Evie’s Father

In my one conversation with Tom, I told him he would have to make appointments to see Evie with me, and that I wouldn’t tell Evie about this until he showed up. In the next six months, Tom called my office on two different occasions to arrange a visit with Evie.  He didn’t show up either time.  I emailed him a few times and I left a few voice messages.  I offered to go to his house to meet with him.  He never responded.  It was a choice he made.  This also meant Evie didn’t hear from him during this time either.  She let me know her feelings about this in her ongoing conversation with Vlad


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Comments on: "GOTH GIRL – Part II: A tale from the Lone Arranger" (3)

  1. Dr Cima, interesting to note here your choice to describe and present the client’s mother as a ‘good mother’. That comment perpetuating an old stereotype ‘mothers are to be judged’, held into account by you, society as either good or bad. Yet the biological father is merely noticed as absent. Not ‘good’ nor ‘bad’. Similar framing of the narrative with stepfather, merely noted for his choice in failing to keep appointments or remain in contact with his stepdaughter. Not ‘judged’ either ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

    In regard of your falling back onto a very old weary trope sexist fairy story narrative, ‘damsel in distress’ why not explain it as it is. Evie has an imaginary friend. Take it from there.
    Over to you Dr Cima.

    You might be interested in some excellent work by Dr Paula Caplan (another Big Pharma warrior), her work on stereotyping mothers in American culture, along with the meticulously researched work of Dr Marga Vicedo, (University of Toronto), in regard to an interrogation, hisoty of and analysis of maternal care.

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