When Biggest reached adulthood she wrote us a letter. We had told her that if we made mistakes that contributed to her problems as a teenager we were sorry, we had always done what we thought was best for her. This was her response. It is our single most precious possesion. Besides the girls themselves of course. It was the most emotional moment I had experienced since the night a couple years before when the news began with "It is 10:00 PM, do you know where your children are and who they are with?" And I burst into tears because the answer was Yes.
Following are excerpts from the letter, Don't mind the Ya'll, it was a stage.
"I know I've pulled a lot of stunts and I'm sure I'll have more, but thanx for always being there, and I'm sorry for those stunts. I know I put Ya'll through a lot"
"I know you think you did some things wrong when I was growing up and I guess you felt you had a little to do with my problems-but you didn't, nothing is your fault.
If I aplogize for everything it will take a book so I hope you know all the things I did I'm sorry for and thankful that Ya'll still talk to me, and most of all I love you very much.
"P.S. Mom I broke your nice red pen writing this, for that I am sorry.... I hid it in the couch.(Happy face drawing)" ( Who does this kid take after : )? )
We were young parents but unlike you might suspect, parents who were not responsible enough, we were over responsible. We were crazed "create a perfect environment for our child" parents. Maybe we should have just relaxed and had a few beers.
In retrospect this is our opinion of things we might have handled differently.
What we did wrong:
1.Overprotecting. I don't mean mean not letting her play with others or participate in sports. We sheltered her a great deal when she was little. We were determined to not let modern culture spoil our childs innocence but it caused her to be out of loop in social situations. As an already critically shy child it singled her out and gave other kids ammunition for teasing. In a less shy and more socially confident child it may not have been as big a deal. I still believe in careful monitoring but relaxed my somewhat over the top standards with the other girls, staying involved and drawing lines and discussing things I find inappropriate.
Also really paranoid worry. We did not let her go on out of town field trips with school ( These were school rewards for honor roll and serving as a patrol.) and would not consider letting her go to the Arts magnet schools our other daughters later attended because it would involve a long bus ride into the city. Yeah, that bad. 3 of her best friends from elementary school attended them and excelled. This is almost unforgivable. She not only was separated from good friends with a common interest, she was/is a terrific writer. We were idiots.
That didn't work.
2. Panic: During middle school she did continue to excel but began to have more social problems with the group she belonged to. We were still more strict than most of her friends parents. I will tell specifics of what happened with her in another post but when we first saw signs of real rebellion the 1st year of high school we panicked. This behavior change was so uncharacteristic and extreme and the change so sudden. (Within a period of 3 months) we cracked down hard, all at once. Tightened up more. But, she had learned the game of "Oh, you think that's bad, watch this". So..
That didn't work.
3. Yanking her out of school and sending her to her Grandparents for a couple months, and setting up to homeschool for the next two years to get her away from her new friends worked temporarily. But while it is not illegal for your child to disobey you, walk out or outright run away, It is illegal to imprison them in your home so ultimately......Yeah,
That didn't work.
4. Using bribery to get her to counseling and try to find out what was wrong. That worked long enough for her to play some games, practice manipulation skills and tell them she was fine and explain she didn't believe in using drugs (legal ones anyway) to alter her emotions, and a lot of other bull until she got what she wanted. So really,
That didn't work.
There are many things we did over the years to try to fix the problem. Ultimately, in this case it was a situation that could only fix itself, in time, when she was ready to remember who she was and relax her own standards for herself that she could not live up to, and to use the self confidence she had gained by false means, in a way that was true to her heart and her real nature. She had created an alter ego that was very extreme and fed by substance abuse in order to overcome her fears and find power. There were several different factors. Besides the bullying issues she faced that began the domino effect, in her later teens she was able to identify that she had a real anxiety disorder. Apparently, from what we can tell, her extreme shyness and attachment to me made the normal response of trying to separate from parents and begin to grow on your own turn drastic. She had to violently separate herself from us and all that we stood for. The friends she made reinforced this behavior. She fell in with a group that new all the tricks to causing chaos in a household. ( The funny side, if there is such a thing is "that didn't really work" either. She is still a Mama's & Daddies girl, her poor husband!). Another possible factor was that she had been an eerily good child. We seldom had to discipline her and the natural reward of how people treat you for good behavior made her a little spoiled. When she 1st started having consequences it was almost like she couldn't believe things weren't going her way, she didn't have a correlation and it really made her angry. And we figured out that she also suffered from severe PreMenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. This disorder when mixed with alcohol abuse resulted in her behavior becoming extremely violent and she made verbal threats to kill herself and us. This made it necessary to call in law enforcement for a Baker Act on two occasions. On one of these occasions earlier in the day she actually agreed on me taking her myself rather than call the police. They would not accept her because she said she didn't want to kill herself while she was there. That was a fun weekend. The second time they said she had a .08 alcohol level, that was probably all it was, she needed rehab. They ignored our pleas that she was behaving abnormally while sober too. Rehab only works if you want to be there. She didn't. When I later discussed it with her she saw the correlation between the drinking while having a bad menstrual cycle herself and we all learned to recognize the signs when she was feeling out of control and leaning toward a binge.
In her own words: "I drank because I could talk to people when I was drunk, I wasn't afraid." She still struggles with perfectionism and anxiety when she can't control a situation. She has learned to recognize it for what it is and is working through that.
It is really almost surreal when I think of her change from one person into another, and I do mean a person who did not resemble my child in any way, and then back into the first person.
An illustration of that happened recently. A few years ago this was a girl who ripped the phone out of the wall when we tried to call 911. Once she was walking to a convenience store late at night and was accosted by a man who tried to push her against the wall. She pulled a knife on him, backed him down and told him she was going to kill him, and he left.
The same girl was married recently. She needed to change her name on her ID. She doesn't drive but works a block away from the DMV. She insisted that I drive her there. Her new husband had asked her to keep her middle name instead of her maiden name on her ID. She didn't really want to but decided it didn't matter. I don't really get it but my husband did the same thing and so did I, so whatever. Anyway, while we were waiting she told me I had to stand at the counter with her when they called her up. I said, "no I'm not doing that, you're a grownup." We went back and forth about it. She would'nt let it go and I finally agreed. I knew why I didn't want to walk up. I had cried a little bit at her wedding but it didn't really seem real. As we approached the counter I had to suck it up. It felt like this was the moment I was truly giving my daughter away. She was losing our name. She didn't fully belong to us any more. If walking up there with her seemed weird it was bad enough, but I was praying the clerk wouldn't look at my face and see me welling up. And then I realized.....why she wanted me... standing there.
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