They're so intangible, thinner than the wisp of curl from a blown-out candle.
But, set out into the center of silence, they seem to take on a life of their own. Even as we form them, they form us.
Perhaps this phenomenon is partially limited to females, but I noticed that when my girls are angry, they talk about fighting the person first. And they do it loudly, as if volume can cover fear and insecurity. The bluffing has a curious effect on everyone present. The bluffer becomes more infatuated with the sense of empowerment they feel, while the witnesses quickly move into survival mode. Everything goes downhill from there. No one feels safe, not even the person trumpeting away.
Of course, my professional duty in this scenario is to "de-escalate the client", but, reaching further, I really and truly hate the emotional damage this stuff inflicts on my girls. They have lived most of their lives on edge, in survival mode. They shouldn't have to. Especially not here. My heart for them all is that they feel safe and loved.
So I am trying to teach my girls this: what we say MATTERS. It has weight we might not intend.
Someone says, "Imma punch her/him." Instead of ignoring it as normal ghetto conversation, I'm learning to ask, "Are you seriously making a threat? Should I report what you just said?"
Then this ensues:
"BECKY! We just TALKING!"
"But did you hear yourself? What did you say?"
This scenario happens a lot, too:
"What the *&%@#?"
"Hey, you're not trash. So stop talking trash, huh?"
These scenarios happen often, but I love the looks of realization that result. I love how their demeanor and the atmosphere gradually softens, as if we all knew all along that words are important... and someone saying so allows us to be our truer selves.
When all is said and done, more is said than done. And power for hurt is always equal to power for good.
"Becky, why you always smilin' at us?" J. rarely causes problems, but she's one of the few that seems to have a built-in resistance to interaction with staff. I was surprised she initiated conversation at all.
"Because I love you guys."
"Aw... we love you, too."
Just a few words, but I hold them in my heart and treasure the quiet acknowledgment that lingers between us because of them.