Kristina Furey

Just seems relevant

It was the summer of the Spice Girls, 97 or 98 and there was drama on the street I lived on.  Two,  previously good friends, who lived side by side, had found themselves on opposite sides of a divorce case.  One beautiful little boy caught in the middle.  There was a lot of drama surrounding him that summer but most of the time he had his headphones on and was listening to and dancing to the Spice Girls.  “Miss Kristina, listen!”  He had placed his headphones on my ears, I listened to the Spice Girls and smiled at him.  They were the friends he would dance away with, when the world around him seemed crazy and it was starting to get a bit crazy as the school year wound down.  His mother and their next door neighbor, who had been friends prior to either one moving to the neighborhood, had begun to have problems with each other.  There had been a few loud, tense moments between them.   The mother was also beginning to have some loud, tense moments with her ex-husband, who had also been a friend of her neighbor.

The boy was either in second grade or third as school let out and just prior to school letting out he had told his mom, “Daddy drives drunk”.    The drunk driving topic had somehow come up in school in a special “Family Life” class, given by the school Counselor.  He explained to his mother that he had spoken to the Counselor about this and she told him to tell his mother.  She in turn called the Counselor and asked, “Did you report this to anyone.”  “No, we leave that to you,” is what she was told.  She in turn, brought it up to his father, who got irate.  Evidently, one of the friends he partied with, was the woman who lived next door to them and she had taken the ex-husband’s side.  The Mom shared this with me as the tears ran down her cheeks.  “And today, I learned something else from my son.  He has been swimming at his baby-sitters house, while she is inside napping.  There are no adults watching him.  It’s just kids in a pool.”  I couldn’t believe it.  I encouraged her to get a new sitter.  She worked for the Navy.  I knew that.  What I didn’t know was she was getting up at 4:30am, taking her son to the child care provider, using their house key to let herself in, laying her son with his blanket and pillow on the couch, so he could go back to sleep as she quietly slipped off to work.  “How do I find another provider that will allow me to do that?” She had asked me.  

I engaged my mouth before my brain.  I’ll watch him.  As a stay at home mom, I was a kind of “catch all” for kids in my life whose parents had no choice but to work.  I was allowed to be some stability in their lives, when their parents split and had a hard time balancing out the single parent thing.  I immediately wondered if this might be taking on more than I felt comfortable with but reasoned that he got along with both of my kids.  I think she may have seen on my face that I spoke up too soon.   I’m sure she had seen that I watched a couple of other kids and that my home was one where kids where always showing up.  She thanked me for the offer but did not take me up on it.  Instead she found another neighbor, stay at home mom, who had a son that was a little younger than hers and could use the extra income.  It worked out for a few weeks.  Then I was asked if I could watch him.  I said I would.  I got a phone call from the other neighbor who had been watching him, who told me he had kissed her son.  She had some other concerns she ran by me as well.  She was a free range mom, while I was more of a hoover mother.  A Beverly Goldberg type. I was probably over involved.  My own experiences growing up, had a lot to do with me feeling a need to be on guard.  Which is why I considered, “the universe had brought us together for a reason.”  If I saw signs of things, I would kindly let on to his mother.  I was also aware that his behavior might have been completely normal, for him.  I watched and did my best to be there for him.  He did share some things with me that he had witnessed at his father’s house.  I kindly spoke of these things to his mother but not the things the other neighbor had told me, as I had not witnessed anything that would have been in alignment with her remarks.  He did love those Spice Girls and was all about the movie and the dancing.  I figured, they too, may have been brought his way by the universe that summer, for a reason.  

Things heated up all summer long on our block and by the early fall (I believe it was) a bunch of us found ourselves in court.  The mom, the dad, the neighbor (previous friend), the Counselor, some other people and myself.  The mother was filing for full custody.  The ex-friend was brought in as a character witness or something, for the ex-husband.  I was there to tell the judge what I witnessed over the summer, while I watched the boy.  The Counselor who wanted no part of the hearing, was only there because she was subpoenaed.  She had her husband call the mother of the child and tell her she was ruining his wife’s life and going to make her lose her job.  The last thing she wanted was to testify.  

I learned about hearsay, in depth, for the very first time.  All I had to tell the court was what the boy had told me.  What he told me about visits to his father’s house, concerned me.  He was concerned.  He did not want to go to his father’s house anymore.  “His mother has coerced him,” “manipulated him,” was what the man claimed.  Not so.  This child was afraid his father was going to kill him with his recklessness.  At the end of the case, nothing had changed, except that the mother had a lot of debt, she was told by her lawyer had to be paid pronto.  “Do you have a credit card?” The lawyer asked her when she asked if she could be put on a payment plan.  The mother told me, “The worst part is, my son doesn’t feel like he has anyone looking out for his well-being.”  I told her and I told him, he needs to empower himself.  Get him a cell phone.  The next time he feels his father has had too much to drink and will be driving home, he needs to excuse himself to the bathroom, where he can call 911 and tell the police.  He can ask them to drive him to his father’s or If he is afraid of the father (the mother told me she left the father because he “beat the shit out of her”)  He should tell the officers on the scene, why he is afraid of his father and ask to be driven to a safe place.   It’s a shame when a child is not protected by the adults in their life.

As for hearsay, it means if you weren’t physically there, witnessing something, it is inadmissible in court because you can not be relied upon for the truth in a statement you heard from someone else.   That other person needs to be cross examined and if they are not in court, that can’t be done.  So it turns out, I brought nothing to the court room but hearsay.  Totally useless information by their standards.  I was prepared to tell the judge, things the boy had told me.  Things he said happened in his fathers company and fears he had.  It did leave me contemplating the idea of hearsay and I have kept it in mind since, when I have received second hand information from other people.  I try, not to “play telephone” with information someone else has passed on to me unless I can validate it but it’s a very tricky thing, as we are all learning, since the internet came into our lives and it was tricky even before the internet.  Yes, I realize, just about everything in what I have just written, is hearsay.  Most of what we hear in our daily lives is.  So we should be considerate and careful of what we say and breath life into.  I know it is hard to look for the facts.  It’s work, I know.  It requires a bit of patience, which is harder to have when we are anxious or angry but it is a cost well worth paying.

 

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