Letting go is easy, forgetting is impossible. I think of cruel words that were spoken to me by people I really needed, during some critical times in my life. I have let go of the personal part, meaning I don’t think their intentions were for that moment of poor taste to still be in my head 25 years later. So when I hear of situations between parents/teens it kills me to hear the parental responses sometimes.
Recently a friend told me about how her ex-husband became aware that their 16 year-old daughter had been cutting herself. When my friend spoke to her daughter, she told (daughter) that she was really disappointed that (daughter) didn’t come to her and that this needs to stop now. My friend actually chose to make that about how her own feelings were hurt. Anyone else screaming inside their heads yet? She’s hiding something from you because she doesn’t trust that your reaction would be safe or helpful. And you just proved it to her, again.
I didn’t struggle with the self-mutilation demon too much. He showed up a few times but left without much damage. But I remember feeling so completely desperate and alone. The need to hurt myself, to feel this bad because of an outside controllable source, holding a hot curling iron a little too close a little too long, digging in with fingernails, anything to be in control of the root of the hurt. Feeling so out of control of everything in my life that I needed to hurt myself (to be in control of what was happening/how I was feeling) and I needed to feel the pain (to prove it was real? that I still existed, that I could rise above or check out?/maybe even to ground me and bring me back). It didn’t take me long to learn that if I didn’t share my vulnerabilities, they couldn’t be thrown in my face. And I am certain that my friend’s daughter will make damn sure her “secret” isn’t discovered again; she won’t stop. She will make sure no one notices though.
So how should she have responded? I don’t know. I’m so sorry I didn’t see that you’re hurting baby, and I’m going to help you through this?
I talk with my daughters about those feelings. About how lonely it feels when friends turn their backs on you, or a boyfriend is crossing the line too far too often, when you realize you’re in over your head but you think it’s too late to confide in someone. I’ve told them how that’s when they are the most important to me and I promise to be their rock. I’ll set his car on fire for you, honey. I don’t have many opportunities left to “mother” them, so I’m okay with a text in the middle of the day saying “I need to come home. Please come get me mom?” knowing it had everything to do with a new crisis in their life. It was usually news that a much-needed and cherished friend was moving, that happens quite often in Oil Country. Knowing how bad hurt hurts, walking them into that safe place, drawing the curtains, and letting her cry and cry, promising her that tomorrow always comes and eventually the hurt subsides. And until then, you’re okay and you’re not a freak because you’re feeling like this, you are perfectly normal, and I’m right here.
I’ve told them I know what it feels like to want to run as fast I could as far as I could away from everywhere and nowhere. I’ve driven daughters out-of-town with the music blasting, searching for the right place to stop so they can let it out. And I’ve allowed them to be sad and grieve (?) over things they’ve done that they’re not ready/able to talk about yet. But look at me first. I trust you and I won’t dig until you’re ready, if you promise me that you’re okay. “Or at least will be?” daughter asks smiling through her tears. Yes, baby, that’s enough for me today. And I promise you’re not a freak you’re flawed like the rest of us, you are perfectly normal, and I’m right here.
Their trust in us can’t be betrayed. Even in our moments of weakness it is, I believe, so essential to keep it together, that they know I love you and accept you unconditionally. There’s nothing you’ve done or can do to change that. Everyone does dumb things, we do our best to make it right and need to be graceful when others try to make it right with us because we know how humiliating this can feel. You are not the first and you won’t be the last to say or do horrible things and regret them later; and tomorrow always comes and eventually it will be okay.
And wow, when a sixteen year old girl comes home so giddy that she can barely form the words through her grin “He kissed me, mom; like a real kiss!” throwing her arms around me as she bounces and squeals. She runs off to her room. Comes back out in her sweats with her blanket and snuggles her way into her spot, and starts to tell me about love… She trusts me, and I get to be right here.