With the girls’ arrival, graduate school becomes fraught with parental demands so far out in left field I’m barely able to grasp them. I’m not prepared. Riding the fence of nascent parenting forces me to put in overtime writing in my new playbook when I can—squeezing it in between school, internship, and a part-time job.
Tracie flits from one inappropriate boyfriend to another, making all the mistakes of a lost girl-child coming into womanhood and suffering from abandonment issues. Kelly makes record time duplicating the life she left in Twin Falls. If I had been a grown-up parent at that time, I would have responded appropriately to the passive/aggressive behaviors that were their calls for help.
Denial is still at hand, but rendered less potent due to the sudden onset of real-life teenage children. If I honestly look at my own topsy-turvy developmental chart, I recognize that I’m not much older than my eighteen-year-old daughter. Reality grabs my attention and forces me to call in reinforcements. The support helps and I am able to add a few chapters to my personal parenting book.
My daughters’ behaviors don’t change much. However, the fortification I’ve garnered kicks in and I cope.
I graduate in 1979 and land a job with the Oregon Department of Children’s Services. I find us a nice, large, old house in Southeast Portland. The girls continue to act out, each in their own way as they, too, struggle to find themselves. Eventually they found an apartment and moved in together. It’s an unstable union at best. In 1982, we learned that Stefanie, age fifteen, was pregnant.
I wish I could tell you that at this stage I experienced a quantum growth leap into skilled parenthood and helped the girls take leaps and bounds themselves. The truth: I realize that I had taken on a new parental role before I’d finished re-parenting myself. I did the best I could, wobbling along into adulthood. Dave and his wife, Barbara, agree to come to Portland and participate in a family counseling session I’d arranged.
I believe it turned out to be more helpful for the three parents than the unit as a whole. My biggest take-away from the session is that the girls had more issues with their father than with me. A small part of my brain knows that this is because Dave’s the custodial parent and disciplinarian. What registers at a heart level is a slice of relief, a half ounce of pain removed.
Time passes and I get more comfortable in my life, and tune more and more deeply into my spiritual practice.
I tenderly remove the muslin cloth from my new recipe and sprinkle it with various flavors of learning. I carefully replace the cover and return it to the pantry of my heart to let it dulcify as I proceed on the pursuit of my new identity.
What I came to learn:
- Our family counseling session proved to be a catalyst for the continuation of our work over the years as we progress toward healing.
Stay tuned. The next episode: Dating Again