Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A story of birthdays, bullying and breakthroughs

I know this post is terribly long--but I hope you will read it nonetheless. I wish I could say it was a story of fiction and one with a fairy tale ending. However, my hope for that to one day be the case never ceases.

Why is everything so f***ing hard? Why can't it ever just be easy?

Today is my daughter's 23rd birthday. I'll call her 'C'. Should be simple enough, eh? A little cake and some ice cream perhaps prefaced by a home cooked dinner of pasta (my daughter has been a vegetarian for eight years). A few gifts...what would she like? She loves anything having to do with the sea...maybe a necklace? Nah, I got her a seastar necklace a few years ago. Perhaps a gift card to 'JC Penny' or 'Target' to buy some--eh hem--'unmentionables'. These are things she doesn't buy or update for herself. But what kind of gift is that? "Here, C, go buy some socks, bras and panties!"
Nah. That's just wrong. Maybe I could do what I did for her last year; an elaborate 'care package' full of hair care products, bath/shower gel, ponytail holders, perfumed body spray, a new toothbrush, laundry detergent and dryer sheets, etc. complete with a 11 x 14 card with a ballerina faerie gracing it's cover (she loves faeries and loves dance) with a gift card to her favorite store included, all things a part time working gal doesn't always have the money (or transportation) to go and get for herself. It was delivered to her by my Mom as C refuses contact for the most part. Took her nearly a month to send me a generic 'thank you' E-mail--no doubt at the urging of my Mom; "Make sure you thank your mother, she put a lot of thought and time into wanting to do something special for you."

Been there done that. Besides, sadly I have ZERO dollars to spend this month for birthday gifts. I hope that won't always be the case. This is heartbreaking....

So, instead she got a warm and sincere happy birthday E-mail from me. I simply told her she is a gift and wished her a wonderful time at Catalina Island, courtesy of her best friend/roommate (a male), 'T'. I also explained that I had wanted so desperately to get her something but that it just isn't financially feasible right now--but that at a later time I would very much like to make it up to her. More importantly, I told her that I hope to bridge this gap between her and us so as we could one day spend these occasions together.

The last time I saw her was on July 10th of this year--we went to Disneyland (above photo); her me and T. That was the first time I had seen her in over a year. She lives five minutes from us.

That days events was courtesy of my Mother-in-law who had out of town company and wanted to treat all of us to Disneyland. In her wisdom, she included C and T in the invitation as they have season passes to the 'Disneyland resort' and thought it a nice way to get us all together. She had arranged for me to pick them up and then meet her and her relatives there.

C played it very cool with me--talkative but not overly friendly. She wanted to make sure that I got the message loud and clear that this in no way changes anything between us. That night after I dropped her and T off at their house, she simply sprinted out of the car and said 'bye'.


Message received.

History: Please read my former post from a few weeks ago titled; "This I Know To Be True" to find out our early circumstances.

Only then perhaps will you understand her hatred of me. It is deserved.

To pick up where I left off in that post let me tell you this much about me, Ed, B and C:

Ed legally adopted her after we were married--it took several years for the process. She was 7 and received a new birth certificate.

She was always hyper and 'different'--it was something I could never quite put my finger on. She was diagnosed with A.D.H.D. and for 11 years she was in therapy (different therapists as Ed's insurance kept changing at his company) and we tried different methods of positive reinforcement, meds...you name it.

Still I knew it was something else we just weren't seeing.

Although VERY BRIGHT on a genius level, her social aspects were lacking. She got picked on mercilessly in junior high school so much so that Ed and I were at that damn school weekly talking to teachers, counselors, principals....it was heart wrenching the bullying that occured. Little do they know the long term damage that was inflicted.

I tried to transfer her--no doin': I was told by the district office that the other schools 'were full'.

I tried to get her into the home school program.

Again, no doin': I was told they had a waiting list and she would not be eligible until the following school year in which would then be her freshman year in high school and couldn't we just 'wait it out'? "She'll just have to hang in there".

No one would help us--help her.

In the meantime she's having rocks thrown at her, her glasses knocked right off of her face, her back pack kicked to the ground. And EVERY G.D. time I was at that f***ing school yelling at someone; parents, vice principal, counselors, teachers--for the love of God I pleaded for someone care enough about this child at this school!!!!

In the mean time, she grew more and more depressed and withdrawn. We, of course, had her in therapy where she could unleash and vent.

So, come time for high school, we REFUSED to have her go through another four years of the bullying with the same kids, so, with her being a gifted clarinetist, we transferred her out of the district to a performing arts magnate school.

In the summer before school started, she began band camp where we hoped she would click with others who were as gifted as she was. May they all band together (no pun intended). But by the time school started, a new clique of 'ugly's' had preyed on her and once again she found herself being targeted--and once again Ed and I were there.

After a particular brutal fight, where she was jumped, she became suicidal and Ed and I admitted her into 'Loma Linda Medical Center'. She was there for four days under suicide watch.

Of course, by this time she simply HATED and resented us. Why didn't we do anything to help her, was what she wondered. All she could see--rightfully so--was her pain, she couldn't in her own despair see our anguish and efforts.

After she was released, we went to six weeks, twice a week, of I.O.P. therapy (Intensive Outpatient). It was 30 minutes away.

But--nothing changed. She grew more hateful and resentful of Ed and I, more defiant, more self-destructive. She was failing nearly every class. She told vicious lies about Ed and I--she claimed that we beat her (never happened) and even told some of her friends that we were not her real parents. Her 'real parents died in a car crash'.

We were, once again, constantly at that new school all four years defending ourselves, defending her....

It was a bloody nightmare.

At this point we had, finally, a great therapist for her through, once again, Ed's company's new insurance.

One night, I was up late, unable to sleep. I read an article in one of those womens magazines. It was about 'Aspergers Syndrome'.

It hit me.

Like a bolt of lightening.

I got on-line and researched and researched all I could about 'Asperger's Syndrome'--a form of Autism--finally waking Ed up at 1:30 in the morning: "Honey, I need you to get up. I'm sorry, I know it's terribly late and you have to get up in a few hours for work, but this is important. Please come read this and tell me what you think."

We were both stunned. It was 'C' down pat! It was her--everything was her. Her social 'awkwardness', her defiance, her lack of accountability. Her opposition. You name it.

I KNEW, as a mother does, that it was more than A.D.H.D. I knew something else to be amiss all those years.

Now, this in no way excuses others' behavior--I only hope that those kids, now young adults, look back in shame to what they put my daughter through.

Her therapist agreed with our findings, but was reluctant, as she was now a senior in high school, to 'label' her with something new.

Soon after C started becoming even more defiant in her senior year. Not wanting to go to therapy. Not wanting to do anything.

We even tried bribing; "If you bring up your G.P.A. we'll pay for dance lessons--just do your best, that's all we ask."


So, I ran out of steam.

Please keep in mind before you judge me too harshly that I still had another child I was trying to raise through all of this, and even though Ed and I managed his little league teams and I volunteered in all of B's classes, nonetheless it wasn't until later that B told me--albeit kindly with no resentment--that he did feel as though, through all of C's turmoil, that he was being 'swept under the carpet'.

Could I have possibly just been going through the motions with all I was doing with him? With her?

Was I just exhausted? Detached? I don't know.

Shortly after C turned 18--in 2004--we had a family reunion. This came after she did not have enough credits to graduate high school--this genius that she is and always was, gave up on herself. She stopped caring about anything. She had to take summer classes to make up her credits and was handed her diploma in August by a lady behind the schools counter wearing shorts and sandals. Happy graduation.


At the family reunion, C decided to 'act up' (understatement): to treat not only B, myself and Ed badly but acted like a snot to everyone who attempted to talk to her. Cousins and my brother and sister--all from out of state.

She wanted to make sure everyone knew we were horrible parents and to grab the attention for herself.

This is all part of Aspergers: highly intelligent and high functioning but socially inept.

People with Asperger's can work, drive and solve problems that some of us without Asperger's can't. Her mind is truly genius. Always has been.

I was nonetheless mortified at this reunion. I had planned for this for so long... and she did all she could to humiliate me. Mission accomplished.

A week after the reunion, things were tense. She kept running out of the house, making a scene in the neighborhood, and at one point hid in a neighbors driveway under their truck as we tried to get her to see to reason and come back in the house.

This was, I believe, after we asked her to do the dishes and clean her room (her only chores).

She then transferred her ugly behavior from us to B.

I had enough. I was done.

She had been threatening us that she was going to leave and go live with some friends nearby.

After a particularly verbal beating aimed at her brother--she was asked to leave, by myself, and go ahead and go live with those friends.

That was nearly five years ago--she hasn't been back home to live since.

She works part time in retail, always saying to my Mom that she wants to go to school--that she IS going to go to school and learn dance, etc. But she never does.

Her priorities are such that she'd rather by Manga comics and videos instead of saving/registering for school.

She's in touch with my Mom and Ed's Mom and even B occasionally--whom she is now terribly proud of.

So, she hates Ed and I--refuses contact. And when I do get to occasionally see her it's always 'Jo Anna', never 'Mom'. She won't even see Ed. He always called her on her bullsh**. He knew what was sincere anguish and what was her acting. So, she hates him even more.

So, here we are. Devastated. Separate.

Trust me when I say that I hold myself accountable for much. I shouldn't have 'ran out of steam'. I should have fought until my last breath for her....

I only hope it's not too late and hold out hope for one day...

Happy birthday, beautiful one.

I love you.

*Back row: T and me

*Front row: C (in coral dress), my lovely mother-in-law, Grace (my husbands step-mom technically--but she's his more like his real Mom--if you're wondering about the Chinese heritage), Marilyn (my great-niece, 2 years old being held by me whose Mom, my niece, is taking the picture), Crystal (10 years old--my mother-in-laws niece) and Crystal's Mom, Florence--my mother-in-laws sister visiting from Pennsylvania.


  1. Im crying....partly because of the pain I can feel in your writting, and partly because alot of your story remindes me of my childhood. If you go back and read through alot of my post you will know the abuse that went on regularly in my house. Because of that abuse I had no social skills, I was treated horibly by my school mates my entire school career. I say all that not for sympothy, but because my mother fought for me, like you did your daughter...i did not see it at first, but yrs later as an adult I was able to let her know I knew all she had done, and thank her sencirely. My mom and I became best friends right up until the day she died.
    I guess I just wanted to write all that in hopes that it may give you a small glimmer of hope...things can change, people can realize.
    I pray this happens for you and your daughter.

    peace my friend,

  2. Jo,
    I understand your story completely. I could take your story and replace your name with mine. The only difference is mine is a son rather than a daughter. I have had five years of my life being separated from him and my grandchild barely knows me. It has taken me years to to get past the heartache and pain. I used to go days at a time and cry.

    I have come to the conclusion that it serves no purpose to agonize over it. I love my son as you love your daughter. You and I were young and made mistakes when we had them. In a perfect world none of the emotional turmoil would have happened and our children would have grown up to be loving and adoring and we would have a close knit family.

    Sadly there is no such thing as perfect. But we both have learned from our past and tried to do better. It is too bad our children can't forgive us. One day maybe they will see what they have sacrificed.

    I don't know you beyond a computer screen but I feel the care that you have for others through your kind words. You are a wonderful human being. Keep your head up and know in your heart you have done your best. The ball is in your daughter's court now. She will have to be the one to answer to herself someday and until that day comes you can only love her and support her from a distance. I pray that she will soon realize how much you love her and she will come back into your life completely.

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  5. Jo,

    I know that no matter what I say that you will continue to beat yourself up over this. But sweetie, you are only human. We all have our limits and you had reached yours. When you have a system that is not helping you, another child to care for and you are at your wits end, what were you supposed to do?

    My sister is bipolar and my mom spent so much time dealing with her that her three other kids, myself included, got pushed to the side quite often. She knew it wasn't fair and she too, reached her breaking point.

    It does not make you a bad parent. If you didn't care, that would make you the bad parent. But you obviously do care and this rift has wounded you very deeply.

    I hope that maybe in time things will improve and that as she grows up more that she will realize that having a mom who loves you is priceless. Life is too short to be angry or resentful.

    ~Big hugs to you~

  6. Jo, when I read this post, I was saddened to learn that your daughter is not speaking to you. I want to let you know something. I will be 28 in November. It took me year, YEARS, before I finally realized and was thankful for why my parents raised me the way they did. When I thought they were being mean, they were truly trying to protect me. It took me years to realize my parents did the best they could because, you know what? Kids . . . We don't come with manuals. I hope and pray that your daughter makes this realization one day and welcomes you back into her life. If all else fails. You can adopt me! (Sorry . . . I deal with emotions through humor.) If you ever wanna e-mail me to chat, my e-mail address is in my profile.

  7. I found you through SITS. Your display picture drew me in, then I saw you were in Riverside?! My home that I miss so much!
    I chose this post to comment on because it helped me see things from my own mother's perspective. One of my sisters is Bipolar and a lot of your story reminds me of how she acted/treated my Mom growing up. Unfortunately my Mom has never garnered the strength to stand up to my sister, and sadly, still takes the abuse. While my sister is an amazingly talented singer/songwriter and great teacher, she is a crappy daughter.
    I wish you only the best.

  8. Hi, I was just dropping in from SITS to share some comment love. I've read several of your entries and I've landed here. My heart is breaking for you. I am estranged from my 23 y/o daughter as well but for much different reasons. It is a LONG, LONG story and I am not up to writing it all out right now but I wanted you to know that I feel your pain so well. Sometime in the future, I may share more of my story with you.

    I will be back to read more. In the meantime, I will keep you in my prayers. I hope you have a good day.


    Teresa <><

    P.S. This is my most recent post I wrote about my daughter who also just celebrated her birthday...