Friday, June 8, 2012
Patience: Social Workers. Judges. Lawyers. And Life.
For those of you following the Lee Family Story, I'm out of town and can't write very easily. There will be a short pause in the story until I return. In the meantime, I will post a few things I have written that I have not yet shared.
I was wrong. Today I realized there is one area in my life in which I am patient.
I’m sitting in the general waiting area of family court, thinking about patience. I have to think about it because every time I come here I have to BE patient. This is a place filled with conflict. A place where troubled moms and dads and parents and new born babies and children all congregate because the parent(s) allegedly did something wrong. Alcohol. Drugs. Neglect. Anger. Abuse. Abandonment. Poverty. Hopelessness. Lack of Education. And More.
It is also a place where people are trying to get their life together – or thinking that they are trying to get it together -- believing that they are entitled to more. More time. More chances. More help. More understanding. More grace.
And sometimes they want less. Less blame. Less responsibility. Less accountability. Less hopelessness.
The people around them have several duties: to protect the child, provide help for parents willing to conform to routine pre-printed court orders, and to try to protect the natural parent-child relationship. Some well-meaning over-worked attorneys try to provide legal help and representation – sometimes spending less than 10 minutes on the case before having to represent their client’s interests in the courtroom. The nuance is lost. Attorneys and judges and social workers tend to revert to pre-conceived (and often well-justified) ideas about the particular facts of the case. It is routine. In part, because the truth is that there are many similarities in the stories that are told in the courtroom.
But humans (or at least American humans) don’t like to grouped into a category. They want to be treated as an individual. Humans don’t want be attacked. Humans don’t want to be told they aren’t doing it right. Humans don’t want to have their children taken from them. It’s natural for there to be a lot of anger and resentment and bitterness on the part of parents and other caregivers when their blood is taken unwillingly.
But part of the test is the parent’s ability to remain calm. To sound intelligent and reasonable. To avoid shouting or name-calling. To recognize the power of the social workers and the judge and the attorneys and to know that they have seen it all before. Acting irrational only feeds into the preconceived idea that they aren’t a suitable parent.
It’s a delicate balance.
Today, the courtroom is crowded with about 200 people. There are no seats. Young men don’t offer them to their elders. Perhaps no one told them about what it means to be a gentlemen. Maybe they heard it, but that isn’t the most important thing on their mind. Most are either a parent or a child waiting to hear their fate. Offering seats to others isn’t the priority.
For my part I have had to learn to wait. Patiently. As a former attorney I used to think I had to fight. To make my position known. To be loud enough to be heard. (I still have to do that at home.) I thought I had to prove my point. To convince people to follow me. To persuade them that I was right. And I still do that to some degree – but more patiently.
Over the years, I have learned it is more effective to wait on God. To wait on his timing. Many times in the past 5 years, I’ve waited or a runaway child to return. I’ve waited on a kid that hates me and sees me as the enemy to view me as the mom I want to be for them. I have watched my children and courts make decisions that I knew were bad and wouldn’t last. But after making my position known, I wait. I tell the child and the workers that I will be waiting if things didn’t work out as planned. Then I let it go.
Which causes grief on the part of some of my other children. They verbally question why I am not “fighting” for the baby that they love. Why I’m not “doing something.” And all I can tell them is that history has proven to me personally that if I am patient and wait, the right thing will happen. Sometimes bad things happen in between, but I know that I’m not in control. Blaming and getting angry does little for anyone.
Now don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that I’m not frustrated. Or angry. That my concern doesn’t show through in my everyday mood and activities. I still FEEL the pain. I have just learned that I can’t act on it. I don’t need to burn any bridges. I can only build relationships. And that takes time. A lot of time.
So I find myself being more patient that I ever knew capable because God has shown me that he is in control of my life and the lives of the children he places in my path. And after doing this for the better part of my entire life, that’s a good place to be.
IF only I could only be as patient with my husband!