A Parent Riddle

All parents know of a moment when the house suddenly gets quiet and a realization sets in that something isn’t right. Silent alarms go off in your head and you know you need to go find out what’s happening. Sometimes you find your child playing quietly or reading a book or watching TV or a movie or taking a nap. But sometimes you’re not so lucky. You find a whole container of baby powder tossed around the bathroom, or Hot Wheels or action figures stuffed in the toilet, or the contents of the refrigerator spread out on the kitchen floor. Ha! You know of what I write!

Think about one of those moments, exactly when the realization hits you and before you actually uncover the reason for the silence. What’s happening with your body? Do you get a boost of adrenaline when you acknowledge the quiet and suspect a problem? Do you get an icky feeling in your stomach? Maybe an instant headache? Are you alarmed about the safety of your child?

Imagine if your instincts told you there was a problem, you found signs of a problem or of things not being right, but you couldn’t actually figure out the problem. As the parent, you know your child better than anyone else. And if you are intuitive and you trust that, then you know a problem exists even without “proof.” Your body reacts in all the same ways—adrenaline surge, sunken feeling in your stomach, maybe a stress headache—but because you can’t discover the problem, you don’t get to resolve anything or fix anything or take any action to make those feelings go away. Instead, you’re faced with a long-term riddle. And if you don’t get it solved quickly, then it gnaws at your brain and you become preoccupied with trying to figure out the riddle.

So what’s a parent to do?

It doesn’t matter to me that in my particular instance the child is nearly thirty and a parent herself. My instincts started talking to me back in August, and they’ve been getting louder and louder and now are at a steady scream. I’ve seen signs of a problem and can point to facts that offer proof that things are not right. But this adult child of mine refuses to discuss anything. In fact, she’s spending a whole lot of energy trying to make everything look normal, trying to manipulate events and happenings and conversations to make everything seem normal.

When this first started happening in August, I called it out to my daughter. She denied anything was wrong and my other daughters told me it was just a misunderstanding on my part. Even my husband said I needed to just drop it. But it was so out of character for her. Then more things were said and more things happened that caused more red flags to go up. People slowly started to agree with me that something’s just not right. This week, more has happened and now we’ve got full-sized boat sails and hot air balloons flying everywhere and no one can ignore it anymore. Yet, still, this adult daughter refuses to admit there is something wrong.

My husband says, let it go, but watch and keep communication streams working. I checked in with a friend, someone who knows all the players, someone who always tells me the truth and who I would trust with my life, and she says the same thing—let it go, but keep my eyes and ears open. For me, this is so much easier to say than do. That riddle is eating at my brain. On the outside I can play the game and appear normal and say all the normal things and manipulate the situation just as my daughter is doing. But on the inside, my instincts aren’t going to let go. Not until those red flags start to disappear. Not until I know my child is safe.

Age doesn’t matter. She’s my daughter. And I love her. I haven’t stopped caring about her. Many people have had adult children move back home. And when that adult child isn’t home by midnight, those parents lay awake worried, wondering. They can kid themselves all they want but no matter the age of the child, the parent doesn’t rest until that child is home, safe.

I have oodles of experience in leading horses to water only to watch them nearly die of thirst. I’ve bit back so many “I told you so” comments that I have a split tongue. And drama and hormones? Well, let’s just say if I had followed my instincts I would have bought stock in Tampax and made a fortune. But I didn’t.

This time I can’t ignore my instincts. I’ll follow the advice of my husband and trusted friend. I’ll do my best to let it go. But I am going to let it go just far enough that I can still keep my eyes on it and my ears listening. Sooner or later something’s gotta give.


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