She is wild, my girl, and does wild things.

I have been thinking a lot about how I could have been different as a parent. This is a torture unique to parents, that even when we know that we have done our best, however flawed, we scrutinise.

Youngest Daughter has returned to care. This has been an agonising journey. I have had to recognise that the damage done to her in her first three years of life and subsequently by her birth mother, has had cumulative impact over time, exacerbated by the dreaded hormones. I will always be here for her and love her no matter what. At 15 and a half, she has decided that she can do whatever the bleep she wants and bleep everyone. She loves me and protects me from her excesses by choosing not to live with me.

My heart breaks over and over again. Living with the grief of watching a loved one struggle and be the cause of their own suffering is deeply sorrowful. It has taken me some time to unravel the tangled threads of thought and trace back to what is mine and acknowledge the grief. I share this here as I understand there are many parents who are perplexed and shattered by their children’s choices. Whether or not I agree with hers, I still love every molecule of her.

I have had substantial practice over the last ten years of letting go. It is agonising to do so when you know they do not yet have the skills, knowledge or ability to understand the world, or only from their own limited perspective. Letting go is so very hard when all you want to do is keep the loved one safe, even from themselves.

Trusting that she can keep herself safe is a constant practice. I have to pep talk myself through moment by moment. When she is missing for days and the agency that has care of her is ringing me to make contact. When I coach her back to them and they don’t let me know she is home. When no-one tells me she is missing and she and I have been chatting so I have no idea. It is bizarre and strange and cuts through to your centre as a parent.

My challenge is to keep her alive long enough for her to want to be alive. Let her know that I believe in her until she believes in herself. Tell her she is my shining girl until she sees it for herself. Keep the faith until she finds it. Love her always and hope she discovers she loves herself.

Hold her in the Light with me, for all those children for whom we wish a future, a life they love and are proud of.

In the photo, Me in the background, Youngest Daughter, Eldest Daughter and Middle Daughter.

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What spare room?

I have been keeping a spare room. Daughters have slept in it, mother and friends. It’s been good. I’ve kept the animals out of it because not everyone can sleep with a stack of furry bodies. But no longer. Youngest daughter has moved back in and it is now her room. Where will I sort my towels?

There’s been me and three dogs and three cats for the last six months. While what precipitated this alone time was heart-breaking, I have been happy living by myself with my Fluffy Floozies (ergo, ‘fluffy floozies’ collective description for said furry peeps). Now I have to share again.

Oh, I want to, happy to do it, more than happy. It’s just confronting. It’s been 30 years since I lived alone and as a young woman, didn’t do so well. As myself now, did absolutely fine, better than fine. Who knew? It’s been a revelation that I can live happily by myself. I hope it’s equally a revelation that  can live with my youngster again.

So, no spare room for awhile. Day trips are us for the rest of the family. Sharing a bathroom again. Ugh. Oh well, I’m thrilled to have her here, we will see what the future brings.

Straight-talk parenting

There’s benefit to being a straight talker. People know you mean what you say and say what you mean. Even Youngest Daughter, whose behaviour has been off the charts for nearly three years.

Saturday she went to stay with a friend. I spoke to the mother to make sure it was okay. Then there was some story about the power bill not being paid and no longer able to stay there. Then, gosh, all the phones in the town were flat so she couldn’t call me to come and pick them up, so they slept on the street. Oh yes, you read that right. I was also supposed to believe that story.

I was so glad to have them safe at home, that I focussed on that. Now that some semblance of sanity has returned to YD, I have let her know how nonsensical her story was. She at least had the grace to appear embarrassed and guilty. Good grief. Sleeping on the street! Splutter!

Do you know, if you met me, you would not expect me to have a ‘wayward’ daughter. As a heroin baby, who went into foster care at 5 months for ‘failure to thrive’, then to carer after carer, until coming to me at 3 1/2, she was so angry, so mad at the world, and so full of grief that it was bare survival for both of us for the first nine months. She had thought the previous carers were her family and was absolutely broken that they had given her away. She was convinced for a long time that I must have seen a photo of her and demanded to have her. Her birth mother made it worse, so much worse.

Poor sad baby. What she does know, except when she is crazy and convinced I am exaggerating (her own favourite pass time), is that I am truthful and while she might wish that I would be less honest at times, she knows that she can trust what I say. That’s something isn’t it?

Of course, quite often this means that she tells me more than I want to know. I often feel like putting fingers in my ears and singing lalala loudly. At least she tells me. Right?

So I told her straight up that she was not going to be able to complete Year 8. Year 8, dear God. I gave her the options the meeting at school came up with and she actually chose the one best for her. Oh my goodness, thank you God for great and small mercies. We still have to apply for all the programs and cross our fingers and our toes (our eyes and our noses) that she gets in. She is happy to try to get her life back on track and get some more education (she’s at grade 5 level).

Through all the traumas and events that have happened in my life, YD is the cause of so much angst and concern, so much pain, so many tears, so much upset. I know that how she is a reflection of how she feels about herself. Whenever she is in trouble or upset, she runs straight to me. That’s got to count for something, doesn’t it?

It is so sad that she feels so bad about herself. I understand how all that has come about, all the abandonment, manipulations and abuse that has occurred to trigger that in her. What I don’t have is any way to fix it.

There is no fixing. I have to have faith. Faith in her resilience. Faith in how much I love her. Faith in her own light within.

I wish for her only happiness. To live a life she loves and is proud of.

Keep the faith.

Parenting Teens and Education…Sigh

How do I tell my daughter that she needs to move schools, again?

When starting Year 7 she dropped as a very tiny fish into a very big pond and was simply overwhelmed. Her response was anger. When confronted or felt she was being made wrong, she attacked. She has always been good with her words, they are useful lashes. Now she adds swearing and name calling to her verbal violence.

Otherwise, she simply walks out of class or refuses to attend. Usually she takes someone with her. She is one of those students you’d rather yours didn’t associate with. Yet and yet, she is the most gorgeous girl, who can just shine when her world is right.
Her world is not often right and I feel so sad for her. With foster care, abusive birth mother, challenges of permanent care, she has a well-developed lack of self-esteem. She hears everyone as making her wrong, or hating her or deliberately trying to sabotage her. It has taken extreme effort to get her to agree to go to counselling.

How do I tell my girl, who perceives rejection everywhere, that people actually do have her best interests at heart? They are actually thinking of her and wanting the best for her.

I don’t think I can ever convince her of that, so where to start? If I say that she is disrupting classes, disrespecting teachers and leading other students astray, that will confirm her every belief. I cannot say that. If I say that she is in year 8 with the education level of a grade 5, she will shrug and say she doesn’t care.

I don’t care what other people think. I don’t care that they point the finger at me and say how she turned out must be my fault. There is no fault here. There is a child who is suffering. My concern is for her happiness, that she is living a life she loves and is proud of. My concern is that she learns to love herself. That seems to be a tall order at the moment. Her conflict with everyone is evidence of the conflict within herself.

What is wonderful about her is how much she cares for her friends. She wants to bring home every person who is in trouble. What is wonderful about her is how in the moment she can be, enjoying life as it is happening. What is wonderful about her is just how tough and resilient she is considering all she has been through. What is wonderful about her is how compassionate she can be for others.

Perhaps that is somehow the key. You can only be of assistance to others if you take care of yourself and have something to offer. This is something wonderful about her. How could she ongoingly have something to offer those that need her support? What would she need to have to support others? How would she get that? They are big questions and I do not know how else to have her consider them.

If she does not see a future for herself and a need to provide for that future, how can I convince her? What if she tells me all the bad stuff and I tell her all the good stuff about this year? Where will that take us? How will that get us to the conversation about moving schools again? Obviously this requires much more thought, heartache and creativity. I do not have an easy solution.
Do you?
4 Nov 2015

Poor little lost girl: Parenting a teen

There are times when the mountains in life seem insurmountable, don’t they? Problems seem to pile up and up and it just seems that you will never get to the top of the pile and down the other side. I am watching my teenage daughter go though this at the moment. Feeling helpless as a parent is probably the absolutely worst feeling. Watching your child suffer and not be able to fix anything for them.

My Youngest Daughter is 13 and a half. An awful age. You’re not a child any longer and far from an adult. You are desperate to do what you see older teens doing but your damn parent won’t let you. You are beyond desperate to just get out and “live your life” and beyond frustrated that you cannot. Coupled to that is early childhood trauma for my baby. She is my permanent care child, having been removed from a drug-addicted mother at three months and alcoholic grandmother at 5 months.

A baby of a drug-addicted pregnancy she was born with rage she struggles to control. Anger is her main fuel and she can easily flash to rage. This spirals in endless circling between extreme highs and lows, self-hatred and loathing, cutting and abusive behaviour. She was passed from carer to carer until she came to me when she was three and a half.

For the last ten years I have cheered her on and despaired at her destructiveness. Once when I made her clean her room when she was seven, she was so enraged that she stole all my treasured rings from my jewellery box and threw them into the dog yard, then denied knowing what happened to them. I was so heartbroken that someone we knew had come into our house and taken my rings that I sobbed. She watched and said nothing. I finally twigged that it was likely to be her. I insisted and she went and ‘found’ a ring. I walked down to her room and by chance noticed a flash of gold in the mud and straw out her bedroom window. I recovered them all. We went to the police station for the Sergeant to speak with her about the seriousness of it all. She never admitted taking them.

This little baby was never cherished until she came to me. She never had anyone to croon her preciousness to her until I came along. We played the Baby Game, where she got to be the baby, for many months during her fourth year. She still opens her big brown eyes wide when we talk about it. It helped but mostly too late. Those bonds and attachments have to form before the age of three for children to be able to function fully and make future attachments. She has Disorganised Attachment Disorder, which can look like Oppositional Defiance Disorder, a little like Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD and ADD. It’s none of those. It’s just that no-one loved this baby as she should have been loved, at the right time to wire her brain successfully. Consequently she has extreme difficulty in managing her friendships, has rages and impulse control issues and faced with all of that it is no wonder she had difficulty learning.

What to do? There are times I am truly stumped. There was the day she did not go to school because an older girl threatened to “bash” her and she was too scared. I had people looking for her everywhere. Thank goodness we live in a small town and she is recognisable and people care. She was home when I finally got home. I couldn’t hug her hard enough, I had been that worried. She’s going to school tomorrow though so I guess she is not scared anymore. I really don’t know what happened.

Teen years are cruel enough, when every emotion is so intense. Add trauma and disconnection to that, in addition to being the only visibly Aboriginal child at her school, you start to get the picture of how tough things can be. We had to get an intervention order on her birth mother last year as she lost the plot and got really scary. Poor baby. How is a girl, still really a child, to assimilate all of that? The answer is, she cannot.

One of her teachers wrote to me, to say she had to be removed from class as she defied him. He shamed her, in front of the whole class. For a girl like her, she had no alternative but to defy him. My response to him was to say that his reaction to her was not in her best interest. Oh, I understand that teachers are over-worked, I understand that the school is doing it’s best with the resources and knowledge they have. I understand all that. They don’t understand my child. She is intrinsically Aboriginal. She feels keenly being singled out and shamed in front of a class. Any child would. My child, who appears to be the only obviously Aboriginal child at the school, feels it intensely. I know shaming her was not his intention and it is what happened. She left. Then he wrote to me and told on her. This is just one of many times this has happened.

What to do then, what to do? We hang on. There are times that I feel that I am hanging on by my fingernails. I am not someone who likes to argue or do battle. She is. She feels that all the world is against her and tries to pick fights constantly. She is so determined to be right all the time that she hears people making her wrong, whether they are or not.

The worst thing? I can’t fix it for her. I can only remind her that she is likeable, she is loveable. She can choose to like herself and practise it. That is what makes the difference. Not what you look like, not what you have, not how long your hair is or how perfect your make up. Not who you are friends with, or who you are not friends with. None of that makes any difference. Choosing to like yourself and practising that, is what makes the difference. If we like ourselves and we practise treating ourselves better, we stand half a chance of being happy.

She is my fourth teen. The most challenging. It’s like being on a scary ride and wanting to get off and knowing that if I jump, the pain will be worse.

The hardest thing in the world is seeing your child unhappy and knowing that they make themselves that way and not being able to fix it. The hardest thing in the world is to see your child hurting and in pain. The only thing to do is to hang on. Keep loving her. Keep seeing her adorableness in the face of her fury. Keep her as safe as I possibly can. Stand firm and be her rock. This is all I can do.