"It's time now for you to take this critical step of taking off those blinders of wishful thinking or happy childhood memories. It's time for you to see your child as he really is...not as who you wish he was." Allison Bottke, Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children, pg. 83.
When I read this line last May, it was a month after my oldest daughter moved out of our family home and in with her boyfriend. The words crushed me. The reality of these words caused me so much anguish that I couldn't pick up the book again for several months. I wasn't ready to let go of the fantasy that my beautiful child, whom I poured so much love and time and attention into, would somehow how magically return to that same innocent child who never lied, who was never disobedient and rarely angry, who embraced our values and our morals with her whole heart and soul, and who totally respected and lover her whole family.
The happy childhood memories will always remain the same. But the child within those memories had so drastically changed that I didn't recognize her anymore.
We did everything "right." I was a stay-at-home mom, who worked only part-time (10 hours a week) so that my kids would only be in daycare for four hours twice a week. We sent the kids to private schools. We went to church every Sunday. The girls went through all of the sacraments--baptism, reconciliation, First Communion, confirmation--and they participated in youth groups and community service projects. Brownie Scouts, dance lessons, music lessons, sports--all of those activities which are supposed to develop character and discipline. For the most part, my girls were a breeze to parent, going through the typical stages with minor disruptions. God was central to our family life.
The changes began after my daughter survived a severe episode of lupus nephritis. She was gravely ill for quite some time, and came close to death in November of 2005. However, a miracle saved her--and soon after, her lupus went into remission. But just a month later, my daughter began new patterns of behavior which caused her to slide downhill into the abyss of rebellion and rejection of her Christian life.
The whole family went down that hill with her--trying to pull her back up and back into the safety of our loving home. However, she fought us every step of the way, dragging herself and us deeper and deeper into that quagmire of anguish and pain. Crisis and chaos became the new "norm" for our life--so drastically different that what our family had ever been through before. Her physical illness was "easier" to go through than this emotional and spiritual attack we were experiencing.
We finally "let go" a few months ago. I'd like to say it was easy to do, but it was not. However, the chaos has been replaced by peace. Granted, there are days where I still miss my daughter incredibly--but I miss the little girl with the smile which would take your breath away, not the angry young woman who threw everything we ever taught her back into our faces with venom and spit. God has been with me every step of the way--with His strength, His comfort, His guidance, and His gentle and tender presence. As Allison book advises--one has to YIELD everything to God in order to regain SANITY.
If you have any questions or comments for me, please feel free to do so. As time goes on, I will continue to share more of my story and how Allison's book helped me to set those boundaries necessary for me to let go and let my daughter experience the consequences of her behaviors.
Thank you to our guest blogger, Val, as she continues to minister to our hearts each "First Fridays with Val."
Please leave a comment or question for Val, who brings not only a Professional expertise to the issues we struggle with, but a very touching and personal experience. She is a sojourner!