I believe that sometimes, there’s nothing more you can do.
In April, my 18-year-old daughter drove off sometime after midnight. I didn’t know where she was until a week later, when she resurfaced to get her “stuff.”
She said she was sleeping on the floor in the house that her friend Kate rents with a bunch of guys I’ve never met. She said she was still going to school–her third high school in four years. She said she would still graduate in June. But I don’t know any of this for sure because, at least in her dealings with me, my daughter lives a life of lies.
I’m not talking about the occasional fast one that is every adolescent’s right of passage. She’d come home from work around 11, kiss me goodnight… and then sneak out. How do I know this? On Thursday, she snuck back in at 6 am, but bumped into my husband having breakfast. Uh, she came downstairs to use the bathroom? Fully clothed—with shoes? Ok, she confessed tearfully. She came down to sneak a cigarette. Is that why the car engine is warm? Ok, she cried, she was hanging out at the local diner. On Friday, I woke up at 3 am and found her blanket in an artfully staged hump, complete with the soft loop of music she uses to put herself to sleep. I drove to the diner. It had closed at midnight. I pulled back into our driveway about 4 am. So did she. Busted. Ok, ok, she confessed tearfully. She’s been hanging out at a pool hall.
But I don’t know if even that is true. Because pool costs money. And she shouldn’t have had extra spending money. I made sure she deposited all but $10 per week of her paycheck.
For five years, I did everything I could. Psychiatrists and social workers, drug tests and curfews. I locked our internet and confiscated her cell phone. I made her put her car keys into my hand before she went to bed.
And in the years before? I made her stuffed animals talk in funny voices at bedtime and slipped her bits of pie crust dough and her own rolling pin. I woke her for moonlight swims and showed her Orion’s belt over the Grand Canyon. I quizzed her on the layers of the earth and tucked love notes in her lunch box.
When I reported her disappearance to the police, they told me there was nothing I could do. After all, she is 18.
In May, she stopped going to school. Despite all my coaching, all my monitoring…all my hopes for the most basic future for her…she will not get a high school diploma.
Still, every morning, I seem to hear her alarm screaming through her snores. For a minute, I move to yank her out of bed. Then I stop. Because now, my giggly blue-eyed baby, my tormented girl all in black, the police are right. I may be your mother. But for now, there is nothing I can do.