This is a tough one to put into print.
For almost a week I’ve been wrestling with mixed emotions about our granddaughter. It’s a strange sense of déjà’vue, taking me back over 20 years, to a time and place I never wanted to revisit. I’ve been hurtled back to a dark period in our lives, where we (as parents and step parents) struggled through endless days of deceit, trickery, thefts of property, cars and money, underage drinking, runaways, truancy (gee, did I miss anything? …probably…), trying to fix whatever was broken in my older son. He did not want to be fixed, thought he knew better, thought we were dumb/mean/the worst parents ever and wanted to get away from us to a ‘better place where people would understand him/let him do what he wanted’. For those thinking, oh, he was just a typical teen, I need to say, No, no he wasn’t. I know normal. I experienced ‘normal’. I could have dealt with normal ten times over. His behavior was anything but normal, day after grueling day. Those days turned into years that included foster care, 72 hour emergency inpatient assessments, escapes from institutions, prison and ultimately, multi-year spans of silence broken by intermittent promises to change that have yet to become permanent.
My oldest son remains broken to this day. Contact is sporadic and I remain guarded and protective of our family. The truth is, I love him as my son, but I don’t like him. That’s very difficult to admit.
Our middle granddaughter, one of his daughters, has a deep seated resentment for him. I understand it because he let her down at every turn, making promises that were unkept, not contacting her on special occasions, etc. She had her mother’s love, but needed more. And us? We didn’t even know she existed until a little over a year ago. She was already a teenager. She’d been told nothing about us-just left to think we knew about her but didn’t want to have anything to do with her. That couldn’t be further from the truth. So, we came into her life and encountered a woman-child filled with false bravado, wanting to reach out but fearing rejection. Intensely intellectual. Highly emotional (what teenaged girl isn’t?). Volatile, with a penchant toward drama. Self abusive.
She doesn’t want to be anything like him, she proclaims. Yet, all her behavior is following his pattern. Lies. Deceit. Thefts. You get the picture. Tell her she’s like her dad and she explodes in anger, saying she’s nothing like him (NOTHING, do you hear?)… but I sense that, deep down, she knows the truth and that is her biggest fear.
Whenever her father broke the law while living with us, we called the police and pressed charges. He knew the consequences of his actions yet continued to make bad decisions, and then his actions became more brazen and he started breaking laws that didn’t just involve our home/property. He went to court more times than I could count. He played the game well, got his wrists slapped at first…but eventually, found that the court had run out of patience with a repeat offender. He could lie better than anyone I had ever met, and I often think he has actually convinced himself that the stories he tells are the truth. I told him more than once, son, if you would just use your mind for good, you could do anything. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.
Our granddaughter’s mom and step dad have followed a different path with her, giving her wide berth. She knows she can get away with things and she takes full advantage of it. She’s already been in court and now faces fines and possible jail time if those fines are not paid. That does not frighten her…yet…because I’m sure she believes her parents will pay the fines for her to keep her out of jail. For all I know, she could be right. It isn’t what I would do, but I am not them.
I would let her go to jail. I would take her calls and listen to her pleas, but I would not cave in. But again, that’s me…and we all know how well that worked with her father, don’t we?
So, here we are. She barely knows me as her grandmother, but she DOES know I am a strong woman who is somewhat immune to her rants. I love her dearly as my granddaughter and pray for her every day… and yet, there’s a silent, unspoken reality that says that, while I want her to know we love her unconditionally, we will not allow her to walk over us and use us until we are no more than nubs. And therein lies the rub. Because I cannot make excuses for her behavior. She’s too smart and too savvy for that. To say she’s the victim of her past is too easy. We all know people who have come through much worse childhoods and not only survived, but thrived. We all have things in our past that we should not have had to deal with as children. So, we take those things and say, okay, I know what NOT to do…and I know how to be a better person…and they don’t become crutches for bad behavior.
I wish I could instill in her a sense of self worth that would overcome whatever demons she is dealing with. I worry about her. If I could mend her with love and duct tape, I would do that. At this point, all I can do is pray for her and love her. If you have any spare prayer time, I’d appreciate you sending some for her, too. Thanks.