Helping my twelve year old stepdaughter is a continual battle. Not because I don’t want to help her but because I do. It’s because she resists my help. My stepdaughter struggles with a lot of emotional issues stemming from her mother leaving her, her sister and their dad (my husband). She has built such a wall of protection around her heart that she won’t visit the pain that has to heal in order for her to live a healthy and peaceful life.
When her mother first left, my stepdaughter created a fantasy to explain why mom was gone and to make sense of it all. She has clung to that fantasy even though she knows the truth and over the past eight years she has applied this fantasy approach to other areas of her life. She openly admits she wants life to be the way she wants it to be and when it isn’t she makes it up to fit into “her world.”
Make believe and pretend are fun and accepted when you are a little girl but once you enter your tweens the fantasy world continually crashes with the reality of life because fantasy cannot exist in truth. When my stepdaughter’s fantasy is “shattered” by proof of the real world, it is very difficult for her to process and because of this my stepdaughter’s lies and manipulation have escalated. She is determined to make life fit into the small box she has designed for it. Problem is, it doesn’t fit but rather spills over and impacts so many areas of her life.
I’ve tried countless times to talk with her. Share my experiences growing up. We spend hours a week in counseling and my husband and I lovingly enforce pre-set consequences for her choices. She calls us mean. We know we are being responsible parents who hold her accountable. She doesn’t like it and that’s okay. She doesn’t have to like it. We understand she has been hurt. What happened to her at a young age is terrible. But she has to work with it to work through it. We don’t push perfection in our home because we don’t believe in perfection. We promote putting your best effort forth.
Her future employer isn’t going to let her be 20 minutes late to work every day because she had a tough childhood. Her future relationships aren’t going to give her a pass if she is verbally abusive to them or lies and deceives them because she’s been through some tough stuff.
The irony in all of this is that while my husband and I have been frustrated that our “daughter” chooses to live in this fantasy world, the reality is that we have been stuck in our own fantasy world of sorts. We want the best for her and have been putting forth our best. We’ve clung to our faith yet we’ve also clung to these hopes…..
“if we just talk to her the right way…. she’ll get it”
“if we just show her even more love… she’ll get it.”
“If we take her to the right counselor…. she’ll get it.”
“If she has the right teachers this year…. she’ll get it.”
“If she hangs out with the right crowd…. she’ll get it.”
and our hopes went on and on an on…..
The cold hard reality is that my stepdaughter is not going to get it until she CHOOSES to get it. We can’t force her to change. We can give her consequences that make her life uncomfortable but we can’t force her to change her ways. She has to decide that for herself. We have to continue to be there to love her through it.
What we know for sure is that my husband and I are giving her beyond what she needs to heal but she is choosing to allow pain from her past to control her today.
Tuesday night at therapy, my stepdaughter told her therapist in front of my husband and I that she thinks we like to give her consequences and her therapist responded “I think you know your parents hold you accountable for your actions and you don’t like living in the truth. They hold you to the truth.” My stepdaughter agreed. Those words intended to hurt us don’t because we know who we are. While she says those things once in a while, she also tells me and her dad that she loves us every day. She is tangled inside and it shows through the cracks in her heart and the opposing words she speaks in both anger and joy.
I am loving, responsible, caring, compassionate, hopeful, firm and most importantly for me to understand…..
I am the best stepmom she allows me to be.
Never forget that you are the best you can be. You make the decision to be who you are and you cannot control how another accepts you. Be you. Be true. The truth will shine through.