To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.
Pope John Paul II
Children desperately need to know - and to hear in ways they understand and remember - that they're loved and valued by mom and dad.
Teenagers are not easy to raise, as I am rapidly learning. Lefty is turning 14 next month, and truly I did not start to see the 'teenager' in her until about a month ago. It is not my favorite thing. However, with this nasty virus called 'the teenage years,' some truths have come out...truths that she has seen for years, but refused to acknowledge. My heart has been breaking for her and for the others involved, thus my boring blog posts of late, and references to difficult times that I could not speak of. Life took over, and I have had to do some heart work with my children and myself.
If you have been reading my blog for very long, you will know a bit of my history. For you to understand the crisis underway, I will have to give you a tad more information, so rewind 15 years. The girls' dad was my high school sweetheart. We married a week after graduation. Lefty was born 13 months later, and Boo came 19 months after that. I was a SAHM. A month before our 7th anniversary, he left me a 'Dear Jane' note. Our divorce was final 2 months later, with the judge giving joint custody with reasonable visitation. So that I could work without putting the girls in childcare, we arranged our schedules so that the girls were with me half of the week and with him half of the week. That arrangement has worked out okay for the last 8 years. Don't get me wrong; there have been glitches and there have been times that the girls have said we don't want to do this anymore, we want to live with you. Unfortunately, I expected that since he wanted to have them more than the standard every other weekend initially, he would take care of issues that they were having with his situation. So instead of suing him for full custody, I told the girls that they needed to talk to him. Ask him to change things for the better. Now you need to understand, there has never been any physical abuse AT ALL. If that had been the case, there would never have been a question of leaving them in the situation.
So fastforward to present day events (well, actually to a month ago), and you will see the problem at hand. On our way to school one day, Lefty and I were having a conversation about something that was going to be happening at her dad's house the next day. She was upset about it, and became agitated and began asking some tough questions of me. We couldn't finish our conversation at that time, so after school, it continued. Through many tears and much debate, the bottom line is that she has been heartbroken. Her hurt stems from things that would bother young(ish) girls, but she has bottled them up for years and now the bottle has been shaken, and negativity and hurt are spewing from the top. She revealed that she feels angry and depressed in his home, that she has been neglected and pushed aside because of her 'steps,' she is taken for granted and used as a doormat, and is tired of the 'steps' making fun of her. Sounds like a Cinderella story when put in text...but essentially, she wants the situation to change and SHE has requested to only go there every other weekend.
As the parent, I was torn. I had to make things better for her, but how? And how would Boo factor in? We assumed that she would want the same thing, because she never goes anywhere without her 'sissy.' Chris and I sought legal advice and basically it came down to Lefty telling her dad what the problem was and what she wanted to do about it. Boo does not want anything to change, so Lefty was on her own. Can you say stress??? For Lefty definitely, but I was reeling from it as well. So yesterday was designated as The. Day. I asked her dad to come over for a 'family meeting.' He insisted on knowing what it involved, and so I went ahead and told him. I couldn't really not tell. It would not be fair for him to not know what was coming. Once he had been caught up to speed, he asked if he could just pick her up and go somewhere to talk to her. She was not happy about that, as she didn't want to face him alone. It happened though. Lefty wrote a letter, which she read to him. The emotion in the letter, the rawness of it, broke me. I can only imagine what it did to him. They were gone about an hour, and then she and I went out for a drive to talk. She just needed her momma. For now, the consensus is that she will live with Chris and I full time, and Boo will continue the schedule as she has always known it. I don't know if that will change eventually or not, but the long and short of it all is that Lefty needs to be able to be happy in her home. We will do whatever has to be done to make sure that she is. The saddest part to me, is that when I talked to her dad about the issues at hand, and then when Lefty talked to him, he was honestly clueless to the fact that she was so hurt and sad. Even. Though. She. Had. Told. Him. Before. He said his biggest regret was that it had to come to something so serious for him to really listen and understand the desperation of how she has been feeling. :-(
I don't for a minute think that the hard times with her are over. The new arrangement will be difficult and different for everyone involved, but I am anxious to see if I can see changes in her as the next couple of months go by. She has always been the child with sad eyes, and I have never been able to determine if she just has those kind of eyes, or if she is truly sad. This momma is hoping that there will be a new light there...with a smile that comes more easily to her beautiful face.
Parenting has been the true joy of my life. It sucks when it gets tough, but the moments that are raw and silly and breathtaking are priceless. They are moments to be cherished and remembered forever. When those tough times come along, I hope that I am teaching my girls to handle them with grace and dignity, and from watching Lefty handle this, I believe that with her, I have succeeded.