Hope is in the second semester of her junior year of high school. Soon enough, she’ll be a senior and we’ll be doing all those ‘senior’ things that families do–senior nights, college visits, planning, spending, more planning.
As Hope and I face this future the other thing that has emerged as a major issue is anxiety.
My “normal” parent friends chuckle and joke about this time as they begin to plan what to do with their impending empty nest time. Their kids get teased a bit about moving out, launching and being dropped off at college while parents RUN to the car and into their less intensive period of parenting.
This seemed so natural and Hope wants and plans to go to college, so I joked a bit with her about how she was going to grow up, move away and live her life. Occasionally she would respond that she just got here, did she have to go so soon?
It’s taken me some time to realize that was a real question for Hope, that maybe she felt like I didn’t want her around and that I was eager for her to graduate and move on and move out.
Parenting is intense and while I look forward to that period of life that is a little empty nested; I went into this gig knowing that Hope was probably not going to fly the coop, so to speak, when other kids did. I figured that she would need more time. I figured that she would need more time academically and emotionally.
What I didn’t understand was that my joking about this next big rite of passage would scare the ish out of her. I didn’t get it.
I’m not beating myself up about it; I’m sad though that Hope is not able to enjoy this season of her life. I’m sad that she was robbed of so much and that what she’s endured haunts her such that she is still so deeply affected by it. I’m sad that my baby girl wonders if I would really just kick her out of our home after she graduates.
It breaks my heart.
During one of our car chats recently, I found myself in a parking lot, asking Hope to look me in the eye, as I told her that she was safe, that she was home, that I wasn’t abandoning her, that I would always support her and that I hoped one day she would feel safe and secure enough to flirt with having some independence but that I wasn’t pushing her out.
She only nodded, and I hoped that I would only have to say this speech 10,000 more times instead of a million.
Just when I think I’ve dealt with my own emotional baggage about Hope and school, this realization that Hope isn’t all that jazzed about
Will next year just be one anxiety ladened episode after another? Will every ‘senior’ event be a trigger about independence and attachment? Will graduation be a celebratory event at all or will it just represent an independence that is not being asked of my daughter?
It all sound misery inducing. It also makes me wonder how much self-sabotaging is going on with Hope’s school performance. I swear the last two years it has often felt like she was gunning to fail.
It’s also makes me second guess my long ago decision not to hold her back a year academically. Four years ago, when Hope was placed with me, I seriously entertained demanding that the school system place her in one lower year grade. I thought it would suit her emotional needs and given that the schools in her home state weren’t that great, she could gain some academic confidence by repeating some content. When I mentioned this possibility to the social workers and with Hope everyone rained hell-fired down on me. I backed off and hoped that at least Hope and I would have a better start without that type of conflict.
While I’ll never know what our relationship would be like now if I had held her back, and I know that we experienced a really rough transition anyway, I think I regret the decision to give her another year to just feel safe.
I’ll never know if it would have made a difference, so I guess I’ll just have to keep pressing forward, but I definitely wonder what impact that decision had on her.
And even though she has seemed hellbent on failing important classes, I’m not sure she’s conscious of it. I’m not sure how much of this is ADHD or trauma/attachment related. I know that she feels awful in failing and that she knows it’s makes her appear to be something she’s not: dumb. Even knowing that, I’m not sure she knows what her psyche is really doing to protect her.
She’s scared, and I have got to spend the next year trying to make her feel safe about this next chapter.
All while trying to make her feels safe for another dozen issues we have.
I wonder how I’m supposed to do that. How do I make life feel safe for Hope?