July 16, 2015
Something is happening to our girl. She is imploding and combusting and flailing and wandering; her circumstances are confusing and frustrating and she’s dressing to match; her life is the tide, sometimes low and calm, sometimes high and mighty, but moving ceaselessly, relentlessly, and recently the moon is always new or always full or always rising or setting or whatever it is that makes the tide be high, and I don’t even know for sure because I got so bored trying to research it and find an answer, because it doesn’t matter anyway because this isn’t about the moon at all, it’s about our girl and the fact that she is all crazy all the time these days. She is the tide and we are the beach, and instead of resting on us she is crashing into us over and over again, and she’ll retreat for a minute or an hour and then back she comes crashing at us again, and there’s no sense to it and no peace to be found, only wild crashing.
Last summer we took her to the ocean, and she boogie-boarded and body-surfed and laughed and screamed into the waves as they pummeled her. She reveled in the thundering water that seemed to be an outward expression of the turbulence she felt within. Water has always been a joy to her, from the ocean to handstands in the pool to relaxing in a bath, she connects with it, and for awhile I would have compared her spirit to quieter waters, but the thundering waves are back.
She can’t settle, she seems angry and offended though no one has done anything to hurt her, she takes the good things we give her and spits dissatisfaction on them. Some days end and I feel physically exhausted by the emotional marathon she’s taken me through. Being a fair parent is so important to me, and hard though it is I never want her to feel that I am favoring my boys or marginalizing her, but recently I have had to come to their defense on multiple occasions, not because they asked me to but because I am witnessing her relationally beating them down, and she’s doing this with her friends too. She doesn’t accuse the boys of bullying, but she cries foul at any sign that another child might be acting like a bully–our modern ‘b’ word, THE ‘b’ word, as though bullies haven’t existed since the dawn of time, and as though children haven’t always been hard on each other–like how we had a haboob several years ago and even though we’ve always and forever had dust storms now everyone calls every dust storm a haboob, but they’re not, they’re just dust storms, and most kids aren’t bullies they’re just kids, and be careful what you call a haboob and who you call a bully because words only matter when they have meaning and the more you use them the less they mean–yet for all her attentiveness to the possible presence of bullies she doesn’t see that of all the children I know, the closest one to actually BEING a bully is her. (I feel I should mention that I really hate it when kids are mean to each other. I’m not in any way implying that I think it’s okay to just shrug it off when kids are unkind. I’m only saying that thanks to public service announcements, pep rallies and the Disney channel, we’ve got a bunch of little bully-hunting vigilantes out there. There is a big difference between a kid who can be mean and snappish sometimes and one who systematically preys on weaker or socially outcast kids. When children are quick to accuse others of being bullies, it puts hurtful labels on kids who don’t deserve it and undermines the significance of the word in situations where it actually applies.)
I love our girl, I even like her most of the time. But this SYSTEM. Oh, everyone complains about the system. This system has kept our girl away from her family for more of her life than she’s been with them, and the system is also making movements to send her back to her family, but the system doesn’t want to do it too fast, so she festers. She has a family she doesn’t actually know all that well or feel all that close to, except she sees them just often enough and for long enough that she feels like she OUGHT to know them well and feel close to them, and her family tells her in no uncertain terms that she does indeed love them, that she is in fact desperate to be with them, and she’d better not tell anyone otherwise. So she loves us and she doesn’t want to leave the life she has with us but that makes her feel guilty, and she loves her parents and she does want to be with them again, but their home and our home are on different planets, and she is shuttling back and forth between them and handling it with aplomb, except that it’s not aplomb it’s more like a bomb, and SHE IS EXPLODING.
This is all very dramatic. I typically try not to write in the very middle of a struggle. I suppose tomorrow could dawn full of peace and good cheer. But will tomorrow dawn with her in the bed of her own home, a lifetime of familiar sights around her? Will tomorrow dawn on a child who has not lost the things in life that are most precious, the safety and comfort of a family who unconditionally loves her? Will tomorrow take away years of neglect and uncertainty? At best, the tide will be low tomorrow. But the clock is ticking, and ultimately we can’t do anything to keep the tide at bay. All we can be is a safe place for the waves to crash.