No, this isn’t about birthing children; it’s about launching teenagers. In our house, the challenge is a conundrum and most days I wonder, what if our only options are all bad options? (Not to be confused with bad choices.)
As I see it, our only option is to keep Brianna a resident of our house until we find a maturity pill she can be prescribed or until she wakes up one day from her stupor and decides to join the real world.
As my husband sees it, our only choice is to kick her out of the house.
Brianna is not my husband’s daughter and therein lies the rub. One of his daughters wreaked havoc in his previous marriage as she journeyed through adolescence, but he did a lot of traveling for his job at that time. All the responsibility and parenting shifted to his then-wife and his burden was listening to her vent when he called home each night to check in. Although he was the Dad in the situation, he wasn’t living “in the moment.” He was thousands of miles away physically and mentally.
Now, indeed he is living in the moment. And instead of his daughter acting out, it’s his step-daughter. And, rightfully so, he’s had enough of her poor choices and lackadaisical attitude and he says PUSH!
And I say, not so fast. I know a lot about the concepts of enabling and tough love. I understand it’s easy for a mother to get sucked in to nurturing a child. And yes, I also admit I am one of the first to get sucked in no matter what the situation. But I also have the ability to step out of the moment and look back in, to figure out what our options are and what course of action we should take.
In Brianna’s case, my life and that of my husband would be so much calmer and easier and less stressful if Brianna no longer lived with us. At nineteen she is old enough to rent an apartment. She can enter into any contract she wants, if she chooses. But is it my purpose in life to make my and my husband’s daily life easier?
Unfortunately, what I know and what my husband knows is that Brianna may be chronologically nineteen and an adult in the eyes of the world, yet the truth of the matter is emotionally and psychologically she behaves as does a twelve-year-old. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve said it before. Brianna is a very intelligent young woman. She is capable of doing anything and achieving any goal, so long as she sets her mind to it. The devil is in the details.
At this point in time, Brianna has not yet graduated from high school. She’s had so many second chances, first with our public schools, next with an “alternative” school, then with not one but two online high schools. The last online school drew the line at Christmas and kicked her out. She was furious and not comprehending of the fact that she didn’t abide by their attendance rules. She is seven months away from her twentieth birthday and she thinks she might take the GED test by then. The keyword being might. She works about twelve hours a week delivering pizzas and loves her job. She is not motivated to look for a different job. For the last four years she has turned her days and nights around, so that she chooses to stay up all night and watch TV, then sleep all day. She doesn’t understand why she can’t run a load of laundry at two in the morning when the rest of us are asleep. She doesn’t know why we get so bent out of shape when the dogs hear her come and go at three in the morning (usually to the all-night drive thru).
Yet at the same time, at nineteen Brianna has infinitely more wisdom about manipulating “the system” than I’ll ever achieve in my entire lifetime. She does not have ADHD and yet she convinced a medical doctor that she needs to be on prescribed medication for it. She is not old enough to legally consume alcohol, and yet our recycling bins each week are full of bottles and cans my husband and I have not purchased nor drank. She loves to tell the story of how she got a “permanent” pass to leave school early each day when she was in the tenth grade, to come home and take a nap.
We knew we had a problem about five years ago and we tried to get Brianna to work with a therapist. She went to one for about three months, and then the counselor caught on to the manipulations Brianna was doing. Brianna denied it and said she couldn’t work with that counselor any more. We tried another. Same result. We tried another who suggested we medicate Brianna for her anxieties, which are a legitimate concern. Brianna was all for that. The first doctor we worked with was great but her office was not convenient for us to get to during regular business hours and they had no evening or weekend hours. So we switched to another, and that worked great until their office closed. So then we found another and immediately I wondered whether he should be allowed to practice. Brianna loves him by the way. And as soon as she reached eighteen, she signed paperwork to remove me from being authorized for her medical care and began medicating for ADHD.
A year ago, I issued an ultimatum. Go to in-patient treatment or move out of my house. She agreed to go to treatment! I was thrilled, but, oh, how little I knew about the system. I got on the phone with the insurance company and tried to find a place for her to go. Because she had not yet graduated from high school, she had only one or two choices of facilities. One was three hours away and the other eight hours away. Of course, Brianna wanted to go to the one farther away. Okay, fine, I said. I called the facility and asked to have her admitted. They didn’t have any openings. Neither did the other facility. After all we’d been through, after coming to the end of my nerve and issuing an ultimatum—that she agreed to—there wasn’t any room at either inn. Still, I felt the place eight hours away was the best choice to guide Brianna through all of her needs. In our initial call to this place, I explained we wanted to get Brianna there as soon as possible so that she could be home in time for her sister’s wedding in August. Is it just a coincidence that the facility had an opening two weeks before the wedding? And even though I knew the answer, I had to ask. No, they wouldn’t let Brianna come for ten days, then leave for the wedding, then return to treatment. Brianna didn’t go.
Present day—it is the middle of winter, the worst time of the year for my husband. He hates the cold. He hates the snow. He hates a lot of things. And right now, Brianna is on his list. And he says push her out.
No one will allow Brianna to move in with them. No family. No friends. She has no money to put down as a deposit on an apartment. She earns roughly seventy dollars each week in her part-time job, some of that fuel allowance (for delivering pizzas). That won’t pay for food or rent or laundry or car insurance. She is incapable of sustaining herself. As a master manipulator, I fear what schemes she will concoct to earn money if kicked out of our house. Worse, I fear we will be planning a funeral instead of a twentieth birthday dinner.
In our most heated exchanges, my husband has said we will be much better off without Brianna in our house. And I’ve replied, as a mother I cannot abandon my child. I’ve been accused of being too soft and enabling. He’s been accused of being uncaring.
To push or not to push, that is the question.