Thursday, June 18, 2009

All Grown Up

I remember the day she was born like it was yesterday. I had a follow up appointment that got me out of work early that afternoon and was just walking in the door as my mother called. I could barely understand her but I did understand that my sister was in labor and I needed to get to the hospital. I had one phone call to make before I left, to our father, and that phone call took so long that I was late for her birth.

She was only minutes old when I first saw and held her. She was the most amazing little creature I had ever seen and I promised her that I would always watch over her and make sure that nothing ever happened to her.

When she went for her physical for kindergarten, an intern found a heart murmur. It meant open heart surgery to close a hole in her heart that was the size of a half dollar. I think it was the most terrifying thing I have ever had to deal with. When I saw her in the recovery room after her surgery, it was only a matter of minutes before I had to excuse myself so she wouldn't see me cry.

She's all grown up now. She turned sixteen in April. SIXTEEN! I'm so old! And in May, I got to photograph her on her way to the prom. Prom. As in she is old enough to date and go to formal dances and drive.

Other than taking photographs of Sage, I think taking her photos in her prom gown have been one of the most rewarding times I have held my camera. She was absolutely stunning and I was so proud to call her my niece.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And she's back ...

When we first took custody of her, she was a troubled five year old that was desperate for attention and would do whatever it took to get it. She is his daughter. It took almost a year to get her to realize that her bad behavior would not get her the attention that she desired. It was a year of many, many time-outs and I think my first grey hair. It was a year full of crying fits, mostly on her part, that led to the realization that good behavior was going to get her the attention desired and that the bad behaviors would only get her a time-out on the stairs. I don't know why it ended up being the stairs that worked. My guess is that it was because it was so close the rest of the family, but still removed from us. The ability to hear us, but not see us. It eventually worked and she was (is) the most precious little girl.

Two and half years later, her father was sent to prison and three and half months later her absent mother appeared to tell me that I had no rights, she wasn't my child, she was taking her from me. It wreaked total havoc on her, myself and her siblings. Her mother took her to her grandparents house where she was to live with her. She stuck around for a couple of months and allowed me to get her on the weekends.

Once her mother started to disappear for weeks at a time, the behavior started to worsen again. When her mother would come home, she would literally beg me to tell her how to discipline her own child. I had to laugh, and secretly cry. She had no idea what she was doing to her own child, and honestly did not care. She is a selfish woman. She has four children, that live in three different homes, none of them with her. I asked several times for her to return her to me but she is immature and uses her as a pawn.

A year ago, she moved to another state and occasionally came to visit her children in their various locations. Even though she has no desire to raise any of her children herself, she is also high on the power she holds, among other things, over where her children reside. The behavior worsened over the last year and has come full circle. Her grandparents were at their wits end and were insisting that they were forcing her mother to take her when she got out of school. That was not an option.

Memorial Day weekend her father went to pick her up for the weekend and informed her grandparents that she would not be returning. Her mother had not been seen or heard from in over two months. There had been sightings of her in the area, she just felt no need to see or care for her children.

My heart breaks for her while she frustrates me to no end. She has become sneaky and steals. She likes to do things to her sister and then quickly apologizes and says "it was an accident." I know she needs a firm, but loving person to steer her right but this time around I cannot focus solely on healing her. I cannot allow her to pick at and hurt her little sister in her bid for attention. So the battles have become more frequent and more exhausting. I often feel as if I am fighting a battle I cannot win. I know it is a fight worth fighting but I don't know for how long I can fight the good fight without completely losing my mind.

She went to visit her grandparents on Sunday. She was returned home at 8:30pm and had not been fed since breakfast. Her father asked if she had seen her mother and she said no. He asked if her mother knew she was gone, and again the answer was the expected no. What was not expected was the statement that followed ... "she doesn't care about me." She is nine years old and it dawned on her, at that instant, that her mother truly doesn't care where she is or how she is being cared for. I had to make a hasty retreat so she wouldn't see me crying for her, see my heart breaking. Yet, twenty minutes later she was getting a time-out for knocking her little sister down. I have become a yo-yo. I go from caring and nurturing to heal her emotional scars and ten seconds later, I'm the evil step-mother from hell and she wants to go home to the grandparents that don't want her.

Please tell me that it won't be another year of this ... if so, I may have to start hitting the bottle.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Boy is Graduating

It's been a long, long road this year but he did it. At 7:00PM this evening, he will walk on stage to receive his diploma.

I don't write about the boys much because they are teens and I don't want to embarrass them. But I can't help it today. I'm proud. It's been a rough couple of years and he only needed one class to graduate. This was his third time taking the class and it was a close call. He had absolutely no interest in Environmental Science and it seemed that no matter how many times he took it, he was just not going to pass. He did this time, when the pressure was on, and that is what counts.

I'm concerned about whether he is ready for the big world of being an adult and having responsibility. As much as I have tried to instill a sense of being responsible into he and his brother, there are outside influences that undermine many of the lessons I try to teach them and I fear they have left him completely unprepared for what is in store for him.

Tonight is his time to shine and tomorrow he leaves for his senior trip. Upon his return, he will be entering the workforce since he has chosen not to go to college or technical school. I hope he is ready for what awaits him.