“Gloria, don’t cry!” This is the first thing that I hear as I adjust my many bags around my feet in the passenger side while getting picked up from work in the same trip the girls are getting picked up for visitation. Alice and I swing our heads around. Gloria’s face turned red and the sobbing Geraldine foretold of became apparent.
Alice cooed “Oh, what’s wrong baby?” The girls are wise in that they’ll take a second to compose their words instead of just blurting their sorrows. However I could make absolutely no sense out of Gloria’s blubbering through her tears. Alice seemed to understand her. “Geraldine hit you? Why would she do that?” More blubbering. I watched Geraldine’s expressions, waiting for her to deny it. She just looked forward at Alice. “I’m sorry baby. Geraldine should give you a hug.” Gloria nodded at her sister and Geraldine obliged. I looked forward, watching that the van didn’t touch the parked car as Alice steered us sharply out of the parking lot. “Geraldine, why would you hit Gloria?”
“Then what happened?”
We waited for a response. After a moment of silence I turned back around and watched Geraldine try and compose herself. She sighed, closed her eyes and rather precisely used her index fingers to wipe the creases between her eyelids. She tried again to speak, and repeated the same actions as her face reddened. “Baby?”
Through tears she struggled to speak calmly. “I ate all of Gloria’s fries and I felt bad and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.” I looked away and put my fingers over my mouth, hiding from her my smile as I struggled to smother the chuckles.
Alice tried to console her. “Oh, baby, it can be pretty hard to share sometimes, huh?” Ashamed, Geraldine remained silent, still fighting her tears. What a big girl. Alice explained ways that they could try sharing in the future, like dividing things in half beforehand or having mommy serve them evenly. “Do you think that would help? … Geraldine?”
She sniffled. “Yes, I think that would work.”
Geraldine has too often taken up position as caretaker for her sisters since the start of this court case. She, Gloria, and Gina are almost-five, three, and two years old now. I see in Geraldine’s actions that when they go to Grandma and Grandpa’s she tries to enforce our rules at their place and remind her sisters of how their home is with us and that we are their parents. We found out through Gloria that their grandparents referred to themselves as their ‘new mommy and daddy’, and at the time I felt like something in me caught fire. A trip to the dentist showed that this battle has placed so much stress on the girls that their teeth were dissolving. I’m proud of Geraldine for taking diligence to make sure her sisters are taken care of, and I regret that she has been put into this position where she feels like she needs to be the grownup. At times I even feel like she tries to refer to me as an equal. It’s when I think of the stress the girls are going through under the ‘care’ of their grandparents that I burn inside toward my in-laws.