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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Outrageous Sweetness/You Will Fail

Egads....I'm busy again! The new work gig, plus the work I assumed when Mark passed away, on top of all the self care that I take very seriously. And fun (which I also take seriously!) - last night writing group - we had a dozen writers of all ilks. Some were really good and wrote compellingly. Me? I came up empty - couldn't settle into the quiet rhythm of writing. Kids were texting me like crazy and I had a lot on my mind. So, I simply enjoyed the group and played the role of appreciator. Fun to see that our constancy is paying off. James, Liza and I started this group almost two years ago - it's passed the test of time. And tonight, I'll sing at the piano bar - working on some new songs I'll preview there.

Madeleine is on my mind - my youngest daughter. Talked about her at length with a concerned friend last night and I'm percolating ideas to help her without falling into the trap I have in the past - trying to force my kind of change. She is twenty, a young woman - she needs to figure out what she stands for, what her goals are and chart her course. My role has to be that of a supporting cast member not a didactic disciplinarian.

Last night, when I spoke with my friend of her, I focused on her incredible sweetness. I reminisced about her as a toddler who wanted nothing more than to love and be loved. I remember her hugging everyone with almost ferocity as if she was afraid to let them go. She never understood rejection - it cut her to the quick - I remember still the saddest, confused look on her face when people were cruel to her (there was a lot of that in our house). I watched her grow and cope with a world that was too harsh for her sweetness, acquiring an outrageous and hard protective shell as protection. She learned to mask her hurt, learned to return sarcasm with her own brand of it, learned the world was a hard place and to survive she had to be harder and cleverer. I also witnessed her turn her rage on herself.

In describing her, I searched for a story to relate that would illustrate Madeleine's special brand of outrageous sweetness. One came to me. The back story is that Madeleine spent her senior year of high school in rehab. It was a classic intervention where she was summoned to the principal's office to find all the people assigned to her (as well as her parents) sitting there. After an explanation, she was driven to rehab - very scared and angry. She spent the next year in a girls' recovery home under tight supervision. It was a beautiful well-appointed residence that accommodated a dozen girls at a time. Girls came and went - some admitted like Madeleine by concerned parents. Others, court mandated.

Staff told me how good Madeleine was with new girls. They arrived similarly pissed and scared, sometimes almost comatose  balled up in a corner, unwilling to interact. Mostly they were ignored until they snapped out of it (sometimes weeks later) and decided to make the best of their situation. Madeleine was the self-appointed welcome committee. I think she hurt for the new girls, remembering acutely just how distressful it had been for her when she arrived.

Recently she and I talked about her year at Rosecrance - she told me a story designed to make me laugh (which it did). Don't think she realized that it also touched me (brought a tear). The story - when new girls came to Rosecrance and wouldn't talk, Madeleine worked hard to befriend the girl and crack the shell. She seized on something that always seemed to work with even the toughest nuts.

"Hi I'm Madeleine. I have really dark nipples. Do you want to see them?" With that she would, without invitation, lift her shirt and show the unhappy girl her rosy nipples and invariably giggles ensued. Mission accomplished. Ice broken.

Am I a weird mother to think that is the dearest, sweetest thing? The talk with my friend last night made me want to break through to her in a similar way - be there for her in the right way. I won't lift my shirt and show her my nipples or the cafe au lait scar from when I canned peaches and got a 2nd degree burn. What I will do is take another run at this good parenting thing - not give up on the girl. She is wonderful and deserves a rosy future.

All for today. Your challenge today is maybe thinking about taking another run at a problem you may have put on the shelf. I'm reminded that in AA (been told - I thankfully don't have a need for it) the participants are told they might have hundreds of lapses - that it could be the 101st time, giving up alcohol where it finally sticks. Same with Weight Watchers...if I were a leader the first thing I would tell new attendees is, "You will fail. You will fail over and over and over again. Victory is realized by people who realize failure is just part of the process." I have failed with Madeleine over and over again...have failed to touch the spots that need healing, have failed to give her the leg up she needs to make the difficult transition to adulthood (it's every parent's job to help launch). So, she flounders. We need to take another run at this - she needs to be my focus. Thinking sadly about my friends' child's death this past Christmas - an overdose. Enough dead babies.



  1. Sarah, there's so much to love about this post even though the image of what might be Madeleine's breasts is etched on my mind. At the end of reading I thought, "yep, us daughters need our moms to be a mom." I'm glad she has you as her mom. I'm glad to have you as a friend. oxox

  2. Tell your daughter over and over that SHE is smart and that SHE can figure out ways to change the situation(s) she is in to move forward on a productive, joyful path.

    Watch this video, then have your daughter watch it too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFb6NU1giRA
    (esp starting at 7 minutes onward.)