Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Horrifically Difficult Choices/My Answer Was No
Last night, 12 West Elm rather than Petterino's. Mark, my voice coach, has a weekly gig there and it was in danger of being cancelled. Truth be told I like Petterino's better - the food is great, valet parking is free, Denise as emcee is very funny and keeps things lively, and I like the novelty and variety of having a different lineup of singers every week. It's also fun to sing to an audience of 100+ patrons versus just a handful of folks. But loyalty won the day and so I went and spent $27 on parking, had just a single glass of wine and had an OK time. Sang two songs: Autumn Leaves (French and English) and also Sondheim's, "Losing My Mind". I was told I "slayed" Losing my Mind. Makes sense. Grief has made me a better, more believable singer and that song hits very close to home.
Hmmmm....what to talk about today. One thing on my mind to share is a recent decision I made about my youngest daughter. Most of you know we have had struggles with her. Her road to adulthood has been heartbreakingly hard. She has been in out of programs - at last count I think she has had no less than fifty different professionals assigned to her in some capacity (therapists, caseworkers, doctors, coaches, etc). I won't share grizzly details (see I'm learning to be measured!) but suffice to say it's still fingers crossed with that child. Much of my own work and growth has been undertaken so that I can be a better mother to her - sufficient to her need.
Most recently, she moved back home under a pretty strict contract we both agreed to. March 1st was a date chosen where her compliance with the contract would be reviewed and a determination made whether she could continue to live at home, continue to receive support from me (car, phone, room/board, health insurance, etc). Everything I read about addiction and the road to independence, everything I'm told by experts would have me asking her to leave at this point - would have me cutting her loose, sending her into the world to figure things out herself. And I get the whole "get out of the way of your addict's recovery" advice. I am fully aware that by cushioning her with support, I risk paralyzing her, letting her be suspended in time, somewhere between a child and an adult - not growing up. I'll bet you could cite numerous examples of the baby of a family never being launched into the world, still living with their parents as adults, never making it on their own - the parents making excuse after excuse for not letting go. It's obvious they're not doing the kid any favors with their enabling behavior. We all know families that sing that sad song.
All this swirled in my head on March 1st. A comment from M.'s counselor, "Are you prepared to kick her out on March 1st?" repeated over and over in my brain. A discussion with my sister who knows the play by play with this child, going back to when she was a baby. Mental comparisons to when I was her age, having dropped out of college, returning home with my tail between my legs, only to be told by my parents that I could stay for just two weeks - that I had to get a job and my own place to live. What a huge "gulp" that was! I took a bus to Boston (we lived on Cape Cod - Plymouth actually) and found a job through an employment agency. I scoured the paper for a place to live and found three guys looking for a fourth roommate - wealthy college students going to Harvard with a spacious apartment in Cambridge. They were happy to have me as a roommate. I became their Cinderella, cooking, cleaning, even giving them back rubs. And I was dirt poor, sometimes with just enough money to buy myself a hot dog and a coke for the entire weekend. Never looked back. Never asked my parents for a penny. My adulthood was launched.
I thought about those years - in retrospect I'm grateful I was kicked out of the nest. But, truth be told, I was much better prepared than my daughter for that kind of harsh love. Well educated, healthy with no addictions, my self esteem solid, I was a warrior and ready to take on the world. I was also a very hard worker. Am I selling my daughter short to make that comparison and draw the conclusion that she lacks the same survival skills? My heart tells me with certainty - if I launch her in that way, she will not make it. And by saying "not make it", I mean she could actually perish.
It comes down to what I can live with. I'm faced with two tough choices. If I continue to support her, I could stunt her growth. If I ask her to leave, the risk she won't make it is, in my opinion, very high. So, Sarah, the question again. "Are you prepared to kick her out on March 1st?" I guess the answer is obvious since today is March 6th. The answer was "No." She awaited my verdict. What I told her is, "You are my daughter. I love you and there is no way I can cut you entirely loose - ever. If I end up enabling you that is something I will have to live with." A voice told me that now is a time to pull her even nearer, that it's still my job to mother her closely. She is not OK. I can't help her if she isn't under my wing. So, when you ask me how she is and I shake my head sadly because it's a constant struggle, know that I'm suffering with this decision. As parents we are often asked to make horrifically difficult choices. My friend has to decide whether or not to put cochlear implants in her deaf son. It's also a horrific choice. The reason he's deaf is because he got meningitis as a baby. Children with implants have a much higher risk of meningitis - it's not a small risk for him, a child with a propensity for it anyway. It also means she will have to vaccinate him and she's a holistic mother for whom the thought of childhood vaccinations is a nightmare.
My challenge is to keep searching for the middle ground - pulling my daughter closer, trying to compensate for the deficits she feels (I have not been the best mother to her despite loving her fiercely) while continuing to hold her accountable. I did take away the car. She now busses it everywhere and knows that car privileges are for those who act responsibly.
Your challenge today could be thinking of the whole enabling thing. It's a loaded word and enabler is a descriptor that none of us want to be tagged with. And yet, if you have to make a choice between enabling and rolling the dice with someone's future, what would you choose? I've decided to err on the side of enabling, err on the side of caution. Worse case, I'll have a lifetime companion!!! Is there someone you're enabling? If so, are you OK with it? I'm thinking it's not the worst thing in the world.
Picture is of my daughter, Madeleine