It’s hard not to feel like I’m failing at this. Each day I wake determined that today is the day I will have a positive experience with my daughter. Today I will spend time with her and let her know she’s special. I’ll be the type of mom who makes her feel loved. I’ll be the type of mom I used to be.
“Today is the day.,” is the line I repeat to my reflection in the mirror.
Except it’s not. It never is.
Most of Mary’s behaviors are designed to get my attention. They stem from a place of deep trauma and fear. Terrified of abandonment, Mary latches onto me in a death grip. She’s too loud, too close, too rough, too forceful. It’s all based on fear.
Logically I know this. It’s my job to soothe those fears and calm her storm. My presence should regulate her. Time together should reassure her that I love her. I will never abandon her.
Except that’s not what happens. It never is.
These days I think she sees how I avoid her. I reflexively flinch away sometimes when she surprise-hugs me. I’m critical and snappy. I’m always in a state of frustration or exhaustion.
Long ago I had endless amounts of empathy and patience. Somewhere along the way it seems to have dried up. I’m too tired deep in my bones. Therapeutic parenting seems out of reach. Parenting in any form seems out of reach. Between the kicked-in doors and smashed Christmas lights, I’m worn out before family time even begins.
I stumble through each day gritting my teeth and trying not to snap at Mary. She argues with Carl nonstop. She’ll bully him when she thinks she won’t be heard. She’s attempted to pretend he pushed her or took something of hers. She yells and stomps and slams things. She’s Mary. She’s just living her trauma.
Most of all, she never wants me to interact with him. I feel so isolated. So tired.
Mary yells random Christmas facts directly into my face if I start speaking to someone else. Mary will aggressively shove herself between me and any cashier/bank teller/barista I start talking to. In a desperate attempt to be heard she’ll begin rapid-fire speaking without breathing. Her body will jump up and down and her volume will increase until she’s shouting and grabbing at me. People stare in the grocery store. I should be used to it by now.
“Is your daughter alright?” They’ll ask me.
The in-home family therapist has been doing weekly sessions with us since September. We haven’t once addressed any of this in a session. I recently requested we work on coping skills to help with sharing mom. At least something to keep Mary and Carl from killing each other. It seems like the transition home from residential should include therapy around how to work together in a family setting again. Why 4 months have to go by before this occurs to the therapist is beyond me.
In-Home Therapist thought about it and agreed. She was very proud of herself for an idea she researched. We were all going to (finally) address family interaction. It was something about a river as a metaphor for family life. Every member drew a tributary and we all connected them together in a large art project.
The session was a bust. In-Home Therapist was quiet and timid. She let Mary yak over her completely with an incessant monologue about school adventures. The therapist quietly let us “lead” session and then asked a few questions about beavers and fishing. She never fully explained the metaphor or related any of it to family life.
Later I asked Carl what we learned in session. “I don’t know,” he shrugged. “It was something about agriculture.”
I know that Mary deserves better. She carries deep shame with her. She fears being unloved. I know I need to be mom enough to give her unconditional love.
I do love my daughter.
I’m not showing it well. I have to do a better job.
I’ll try again tomorrow.
**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.