The Thread Between Mother and Daughter
My daughter started running at 11. The first time she was gone a weekend. The last time, at age 16, she was gone for months. In between those runs, I sent her to treatment programs, wilderness programs, out of state schools, anything and everything to keep her alive. She spent a total of 3 ½ years in various treatment facilities or juvenile corrections.
There is nothing in the world like the feeling of your kid being missing. Wondering if she is dead or alive, hurt and needing you. The pain is immense, but not as bad as the pain when you realize that the whole routine has gotten “normal”…”Gee, she’s gone again”. I never stopped worrying, but self-preservation required I sleep and attend to life while she was gone.
In the end, I gave up on trying to “parent” her. I sought to maintain the relationship. It was hanging by a thread, but that thread was precious to me. It was the only link to her, the only way for her to find her way home. I simply explained that she knew how to live in my house, what was required. She had a choice to stay or go, no police, no hunting for her, no chasing her. Her choice…and she left…but the thread remained.
I never refused her when she showed up again. This time was at 2am , drunk, half naked in winter, crying hysterically. This was after being gone for months. Where had she been? How did she get in this condition on my door step? I didn’t care, just welcomed her back in again. Her words that night were “I’m done mom. I can’t take it anymore, I want to come home”.
The thread got stronger. I quit being the enemy, I just shut up and let her suffer the consequences of her actions. Her choices, her consequences. I never, ever lied to her. If I knew the cops would pick her up or that she’d be returned to juvie, or if I didn’t know what would happen, I always told the truth. The thread got stronger.
Today she is 20. Her life is not what I had hoped it would be, but she has not been arrested in a long time, she is working through the court process to pay her fines, etc. She has a baby girl, my only granddaughter. She is a good mom. She loves me, comes over every day, asks for advice on baby care, etc. I was with her when her daughter was born. We have a great relationship and that is what I found was the most important thing.
Whether or not she finished school didn’t matter. Whether or not she did drugs or drank didn’t matter. Whether or not she had sex, with who, etc didn’t matter. I could not stop her from doing those things and though I know they are risky and dangerous….I didn’t want to lose her forever. I wanted the relationship, so that is what I fought to keep. I managed to do that while also protecting the rest of the family from her dangerous and destructive behavior, by allowing her to make her choices and leave. If it’s her choice, she can’t hate me anymore, nor blame me and with me out of the picture…she had to realize it was herself doing this to herself and it worked.
Put your pride down, put your demands aside. Think about what is important and get creative. Ask your kid what they need from you. Surprisingly they often have very good, sane answers to that question.
My daughter took responsibility for her own life at the age of 12. There was very little I could do after that, but try to keep her safe. Locking her up kept her breathing and I’d do it again. Trying to regain control of her was a losing battle that I surrendered. It sounds like I became a door mat, but not at all. It’s a long story, but with some luck, lots of love and thinking outside the box, hopefully others can leave a place for their kids to come home too when they are done with the streets.
I love my daughter and I’m proud of her today.