My 15-year-old daughter ran away for three weeks and moved back home a few weeks ago. Before she ran off, things had been going downhill with her for a few years. I blame it on the kids in the neighborhood we were living in at the time, they were all unsupervised and from broken homes. Although she knows my values about sex before marriage, I found a pregnancy kit in her backpack last year. We fought about it then. She wanted to get birth control but this is against my belief system and I feel doing so is enabling her to violate my beliefs. I also discovered she is involved with a gang, though not sure to what extent, she denies this, but from the way she gets into fights I'm not so sure I can believe her. She says other girls pick on her, and I think this might be true because she is so beautiful, so she says her fighting is all in self-defense. I have knowledge of her violence, because she took a swipe at me and I had to call the police. Now she's got an assault charge too. I don't know what to do with her, she is a good girl, has always taken good care of her younger siblings, particularly since I divorced from her dad four years ago.
She used to look out for them, cook dinners and keep the house clean, which helped me a lot because I was working and returning to school.
Now that she is back home, she says she wants to make things better, she wants me to trust her again, but I don't know how this is possible after how much she has hurt me and her siblings. She accuses me of over-reacting to everything she does now, violating her privacy, but I don't know how else to regain trust except for her to let me know everything she's doing.
This is killing me and I know I need to take her in for counseling, but I know all the counselors are going to fill her head with how she needs to do what is right for her and I won't stand for this. I need her to get help from someone who is going to back me up on my beliefs.
-- Looking for a Miracle
Trust has left the building. Let us take a moment to reflect on what this means for you, and for your daughter.
It seems that when two people lose the ability to count on each other, the pain that follows initially does one of two things: It strips of us of our ability to stay standing and we become useless puddles of sorrow, or, and I think this might be the case for you, the disaster of betrayal pours through us like a thick sludge that soon hardens and we become less like the human being we used to be, and more like those statues erected for fallen dictators.
We become angry and act ugly. The task at this point, if we are ever to find our way back to sanity again, is to exit this hopeless cycle of ugliness that began when, as I said earlier, trust left the building. But how you ask do we do this?
If we are lucky, and receive our miracle, we might catch a glimpse of the fact that living life as a salty pool of water or a determined but fixed bit of metal isn't going to take us to the limit.
Neither of these states, emotional dissolution or hardened resolve, is going to free you from the limbo you are in.
This first thing that needs to be done is to acknowledge the loss. Your daughter isn't the girl you wanted her to be. In many ways, she is out of your hands, you can no longer protect her from herself. Noting what has gone isn't the end of the story though, it's the beginning. In doing so we set the stage to say good-bye to the way things used to be. It's like surrender. For statue types, this is no easy task.
However, the more we resist acknowledging what has gone and attempt to bring things back to the way they were impossible task, by the way, the longer it will take to move out of the void of limbo. You must remember, nature abhors a vaccuum. It mercifully wants to fill in holes, how cool is that? So let yourself be open to the pain caused by this change in your daughter, which has brought a change in you. In time, you may be surprised at the new life and hope that comes to take up residence in you once again. Doing this for yourself, will increase your daughter's strength to make the changes she needs to make for herself.
Ask Mom is a weekly feature in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. If you have a question you would like to submit to the Ask Mom panel, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. This week's column was written by Patrice Janda, MSW therapist with Cocoon Project SAFE. Cocoon Project SAFE serves Walla Walla parents of teens. For free consultation and support, call 1-877-339-4179.