If you haven’t followed our story about Lucy (a wife and mother of 2) who is hosting Maria and her two children Juan and Julia, you can back up and start reading here. You may also be interested to read about how reunification went when Julia was finally reunited with her mother and brother.

This post is about trust and what happened directly following reunification. It shows how reunification wasn’t a magic pill to fix everything. Their situation is still hard, and it will continue to be hard. Learning to live with and trust strangers is not easy for anyone involved. Here is what Lucy has to say:

You are going to need a little bit of background for today’s story.  There have been some tiny things that have happened in the past that color the story.  The little incidents have all been so small that they haven’t made their way into any of the other stories. My daughter is not always considerate about leaving messes around the house.  I will find orange peels in a back bedroom where 

she plays and she will say, “those aren’t mine…you blame me for everything…maybe Juan left them there, he eats oranges.” Now, on occasion, it may be that Juan has left orange peels out, but in general, he is very good about putting plates away and putting trash in the trash can.  Anna is not so good about this.  Not only that, but when she cries that I always blame her, she really and truly doesn’t think that the mess was made by her.  We are also a family that often loses things.  Where is my wallet?  Where is the blue kindle?  Did you see where I left my keys?  My phone?  It happens a lot.

Juan has been using the kindles, and several times, he has accidentally purchased a game.  The games cost $0.99 or $1.99, and it is annoying to have it happen but it isn’t a huge amount of money.  We tried to show him what not to do, and sometimes he would deny that he did it, even accidentally.  Maria was really upset each time he did it.  And then, about 2 weeks ago, he accidentally bought an app that cost $60.  It took my husband several hours to get it removed because on kindles, it isn’t easy to cancel an app purchase.  We think we solved this by adding parental protections to all of the kindles.

Also, my daughter purchased a big jar of Nutella with her own money.  She loves Nutella, and we generally don’t have it around the house because she just eats it with a spoon out of the jar.  The day after she bought it, it went missing.  She accused Juan of taking it, although not directly.  We looked everywhere for that Nutella and couldn’t find it.  The next day, Juan found it in the pantry, in a place where we would have seen it.  My daughter said that half of the Nutella was gone.

Recently, my wallet disappeared.  I knew that I had it Wednesday at the therapist’s office.  After that, I didn’t remember having it although it had been in my coat pocket (kind of shallow pockets for a jacket.)  Maria and Juan aren’t allowed on the upper floor of our house.  They looked everywhere in the lower two floors and I searched the upper floor.  No luck.  I was annoyed that it was lost, and a little concerned.  I checked to see if money had been taken out of my bank account (via theft/credit card) but everything was good.  It must have been in the house, maybe on the third floor.  Then, I got a call from the therapist office (the day after reunification) saying that they had my wallet.  Woo Hoo!!!!  Maria was overjoyed (I am going to say, too overjoyed), as was Julia.  They were so happy that I found it, and yet they seemed even happier than I was that I found it.  I began to wonder if maybe they thought that I thought that they had taken it, and that this was relief that they were no longer suspects.  This insight informs some of the rest of the weekend’s story.

Saturday morning, we were looking for the sugar.  My husband had just purchased a 2 liter sized container of sugar about two weeks ago, and it was missing.  Juan said that he threw the container out because it was empty.  We were incredulous…how does one use that much sugar that fast?  We kept looking and saying, “There is no way the whole thing is out.”  My daughter said that she saw Juan eating sugar directly from the container.  Now, sugar isn’t expensive, but this seemed unreasonable to us.  No one was mad, exactly, but we were kind of annoyed and confused. Clearly (in retrospect?) this is a cultural thing.  We eat plenty of sugar in the form of soda but they consume added sugar in their coffee, their cereal, and in other ways.

Remember, my Spanish is pretty bad.  I can convey easy ideas like “The butter is in the refrigerator”, but not, “I’m not accusing Juan of stealing my daughter’s Nutella, but if you see it in your bedroom, would you please give it back to me?”

On Saturday afternoon (remember, Julia arrived on Thursday), I was putting trash in the outside trash can, and I heard crying coming out of the dryer vent.  I went downstairs to check on Juan. Maria, Juan, and Julia were all downstairs with tear streaked faces.  Juan was sobbing in the bathroom.  I asked what was up, and Maria came out and said that Juan and Julia had been fighting, and Julia wants to move to another town immediately, and not enroll in school here.  She thinks that it would be better to be away from us.  Then …something, something, something, sugar.  So, something about the wallet incident, the sugar incident, and probably the treadmill incident have led Julia to think that she is unwanted and unwelcome here.  Maria and I talked, and she said that Julia wants to move immediately.  *Sigh*  This is impossible for so many reasons.

The truth is, they can leave whenever they want. There just isn’t anywhere else for them to go.  I mean, they could pack up suitcases and head to a shelter, sure, but the shelter is going to be much worse for them emotionally.  Here they have a private room, a private bath, food, and a school across the street.  The family in the other town who is willing to help them said that they were willing to start at the end of the school year.  That is three months from now.

Things are complicated and I knew that they would be….I just didn’t think it would get so complicated so quickly.  Apparently, Juan is lovely to my family, the people at school, and almost everyone, but he is quite defiant toward his sister and his mom.  I wonder if there is some misogyny that he picked up in his home country.  I also wonder if he has merely learned to be kind to the people in power (me, teachers, etc.) and to not be kind to those without power.  I wonder how I can work to disrupt this.  It is true that I am always in the roll of “benevolent aunt” or “doting grandmother”.  I try to always defer to Maria, but I’ll be honest, I catch myself doing “power moves” all the time.  As a brief example, I have found myself holding the paperwork and answering questions of various officials without bothering to ask Maria.  Although I do this to be efficient when I know the answer to the questions, it still boxes her out and I need to be more careful.

We are going to the counselor on Wednesday.  It is a two hour session with part of the time dedicated to each of the 3 asylum-seekers, and probably some time for everyone together.  I already caught Julia rolling her eyes about going to the therapist.  Two hours is not her idea of a good time.  *Sigh*.  She needs it.  Juan needs it. Maria needs it.  They have a lot of stuff to work out about how they are going to “be” as a family.  Although Maria has always done the best that she could, she was unable to protect them from harm in their home country.  I’ll bet she feels horrible about it, and I’ll bet there are some trust issues.

Next week there is news about the coronavirus and we learn more about the ankle monitor that Maria has been wearing.

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