Mary is on some kind of audition. Each weekend she comes home from her residential school for a visit. She stays from Saturday morning through Sunday evening. Mary is trying out for the position of Youngest Chicken Family Member. Her efforts are nothing short of herculean.
She makes me coffee when she wakes up on Sunday morning. She asks to do chores like cleaning the cats’ litter box or taking out the trash. She helps me cook and then sets the table. Mary hugs everyone and professes her love constantly throughout the visit.
This weekend I noticed that she was spending more time with Carl. He was emerging from his designated “no fly zone” (his room) and hanging out with her. They were watching YouTube videos and playing basketball together. I heard him ask her for a drink or snack a few times. Each time she complied and brought him whatever he asked for.
“You don’t need to do that, Mary,” I told her. “He has legs.”
Her reply each time was, “I want to.”
The oddest part came when I walked past his room and noticed that his bed was made. This never ever EVER happens. For a minute I was certain that I must be looking at a mirage. When I questioned Carl, he explained that Mary had done it. It took me by surprise that he’d even granted her entrance into his “no fly zone.” I went into a spiel about how he couldn’t treat his sister like a servant and she wasn’t his maid etc.
Mary came rushing over to defend him.
“He didn’t ask me to do it!” she proclaimed. Looking slightly panicked she rushed her words out. “I just wanted to! I promise!!”
It is a very sweet gesture on her part. I can tell that she carries guilt for the physical attacks and the murder plan and all of the things that occurred when she wasn’t stable. That all happened several years ago. There really isn’t a way to make up for it. She doesn’t even truly remember every scary thing she did during periods of psychosis.
It probably sounds weird but I want them to argue. I want her to become upset. We all really need to see if we can actually handle conflict in a healthy way. Mary may not realize it yet but this would be an important step in our healing. Trusting a family to meet her needs doesn’t come easily for Mary. I want so much for her to see that our family is different from her biological family in this way. I don’t want her to fold my laundry. I just want her to be my daughter.
We need to test our ability to work together and weather a storm. All families fight. I want her to feel safe enough with her feelings to let them show. Could we all be safe if she got upset? She would have to get upset first in order to find out. She’d have to stop apologizing for every perceived error. She’d have to stop making her brother’s bed. She would have to trust that our love is unconditional.
Honestly, I just want to tell her there is no need to audition. It’s not necessary. She’s already got the part.
**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.