So, in lieu of a lengthy blog post, here is the one sentence version: A 13 year old neighbor girl who we have known and trusted since the day we moved in to our house stole at least one, most likely both, of my daughters' ipods from our home. It is a long, involved story with layers, as these things seem to often have, but that is the gist of it. At this point we have only Eloise's ipod back.
Although Matt and I wanted to keep the drama of this away from the girls, it quickly became obvious it would be impossible to deal with the situation without them knowing. We have since decided to keep them in the loop on every update, hopefully in this case honesty will prove to be the best policy.
The girls know that this neighbor girl, a girl they looked up to and adored, took their ipods (we believe she did take both). They know she has been to our house since she took them and pretended she didn't know where they were. They know she lied about it to all of us several times. They know, since getting Eloise's ipod back, that she erased all of their photos and videos and put a ton of seriously inappropriate music on it.
They know this girl, their friend, is no longer allowed in our house. It is painful and confusing and sad for them, often all at once. They still want to play with her, of course. They are trying to negotiate ways to see her without her coming to our house or them going to hers (as a side note, I never allowed them to go to the neighbor girl's house). They constantly ask me "why would she do that?!" with a mix of anger and tears.
Matt and I answer, "sometimes people make bad choices. She isn't a bad person, she just made a really bad choice." The girls nod, they appear to be trying to understand. Iris has related it to a time in her life she made a bad choice.
Iris, who is riddled with anxiety in general, is really struggling. She now believes (with even more fear than before) that people will break in to our house. She needs constant reassurance that all of our windows and doors are locked. That her mom and dad will keep her safe. That when she leaves the house she isn't in danger.
Iris cries because all of the special videos and pictures that she and her sister took with the ipod are now gone. She remembers the special times she documented, all lost.
Eloise cries because she wants to stay friends with the neighbor girl. To say Eloise adored her is a vast understatement. Eloise adored her.
And here is the tricky part: as far as we can/could tell, the neighbor girl adored our girls, too. As far as we can tell, the neighbor girl is extremely remorseful, though still not completely forthcoming with the facts of the story.
The neighbor girl is stuck in a bad situation at home. Her family emigrated to the US from Somalia when she was young. She has a single, absentee mother and appears to be surrounded by family members who are headed down a bad path.
My husband, who is demonstrating an enviable capacity for compassion, believes that our family could be instrumental in helping this neighbor girl, giving her some guidance that she may not be getting anywhere else. That we can help her learn her lesson from this offense, but also do more to be a positive influence (or continue to be the positive influence) and not just write her off.
My husband believes in second chances. This neighbor girl is lucky because I, on the other hand, as a general rule do not, especially when my "Mama Bear" comes out. I am not saying this is bad or good, it just is what it is. As I said, my husband has an enviable level of compassion.
As for now, as of this writing, we're still in the middle of an investigation. The police are involved, there is still more to the story that has yet to be unravelled. We are still waiting for an honest explanation from the neighbor girl. We are still crossing our fingers (but also realistic) that Iris's ipod is returned.
We have no idea how to be a positive influence in this girl's life from this day forward, though I know my husband will figure it out.
We are working with the girls, and probably will be for a very long time (especially with Iris), to right their sense of security and trust. To help them come to a place of being at peace with what has happened.