Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Other Shoe Just Dropped

Standard

There are few things like getting a phone call from your fifteen year-old daughter informing you that she is being escorted by police to our pre-determined meeting place at the Strawberry Festival on a Friday night at 10:00pm. In a state of hopeful denial, I figured that LiLi had gotten lost, had met and charmed the police, and they were accompanying her to meet us and report what a sweet girl she was. Wrong. As soon as I spied them walking up the hill toward us I knew something was askew. They were plain-clothes officers with badges worn around their necks on silver dog-tag style necklaces. The look on LiLi’s face was that of agitation and apprehension. It was her well-familiar scowl. They identified themselves as undercover narcotics agents who were patrolling the woods surrounding the festival to check for illegal activities. After nine years of raising this child, I have a hard-earned simple comprehension of the complexities of her psyche; what drives her, what motivates her, her character flaws; and with truth being stranger than fiction, what the officers described to my husband and me still rocked my socks off.

They had stumbled across fifteen year-old LiLi and an eighteen year old, male classmate in the woods that were known for alcohol consumption and drug use by the local teens. They told me that they suspected no alcohol or drug use but thought there had been sexual activity. All of a sudden the “fresh hell” from last week’s episode of the freshly caught rodent-turned-domesticated pet that LiLi had in her room seemed welcome by comparison. Could I just step back in time please? My stomach dropped to the dirt beneath me as I tried to comprehend all that the officer’s words implied .

We have grown accustomed to unsolicited melodrama while raising LiLi. We are always on guard, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I just commented this morning to my husband, that raising LiLi has caused undo wear and tear on the rest of our family. We had anticipated a moment such as this, but not at the Strawberry Festival; not from a chance encounter with a young man who is hardly more than a casual acquaintance at school. What happened to first dates, hand-holding, stealing a kiss or three on the Ferris wheel? Because of LiLi, our stress response is in gear most of the time. This particular night, my sister had accompanied our family to the festival and now had a front row seat to this new chapter in the ongoing sage of raising LiLi as a morally intact young woman.

Lili’s immediate response to the interaction between the police officers and her parents was defensive and anger-based. It also kicked her mouth into gear resulting in spewing forth a string of four letter words that served to accentuate the mess of emotion that was unfurling from her brain. LiLi is unable to self-modulate her feelings and it always provokes aberrant behavior. For example, as we were walking back to our vehicle after the initial confrontation, I had a firm grip on LiLi’s arm because she was ready to throw herself in front of the buses that were ferrying festival-goers to and from the satellite parking lots. This type of impulsive reaction is with-in normal limits for LiLi. My reaction to keep a firm grasp on her arm and not call 911 to carry her off to a psychiatric unit was a normal counter-reaction from me. We are concurrently dulled by and used to LiLi and her irrational behavior. We suffer from emotional fatigue. I wouldn’t be surprised if a psychiatric professional would declare our entire family to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder; LiLi’s from her seven years in an orphanage and the rest of us from nine years living with and raising LiLi.

The outcome of that evening was not very pretty as you can imagine. After we arrived home and had LiLi sequestered, she revealed the nature of the encounter under careful questioning. The aftermath then involved agencies, institutions and questions directed toward my daughter that I hope to never hear uttered again. I try to always find humor in a situation but for the life of me I could not find humor in any of the events from that night. The events did reveal the severity of LiLi’s vulnerability and inability to make safe decisions. It has underscored the need for supervision above and beyond what we already provide. On the way to the festival, my husband had drilled LiLi with all of the rules surrounding this two hour window of privileged freedom including “do not leave the property, do not get in any cars, do not leave with a boy, do not talk to strangers…” ad nauseum. Within minutes of arriving at the festival, LiLi met up with this young man, and at his suggestion, followed him into the woods. Her desire to conform and belong supersedes any desire she may have to obey and respect her parents, or any thought for her well-being for that matter. Her desire to belong is as strong as any eighteen year old young man’s sexual drive. That is a really undesirable combination from her parents’ standpoint.

We were blessed that God’s providential hand was upon LiLi. It could have been much worse. The male classmate could have been a stranger. We might have been asked to provide dental records and DNA samples for identification. This has given us another opportunity to protect and educate LiLi about the evils and potential dangers of living in this world. We have no choice but to live in the world, and have to continue to compel LiLi to not be “of the world.” “He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Lord, please be my eyes and ears when I am not close to my children. Please carry LiLi as if she were a little lamb, protected in your shadow and precious in your sight. Amen.

Advertisements

The Wisdom to Know the Difference

Standard

The other evening I was cleaning up the kitchen following a rare, uneventful dinner with my family, when my youngest daughter’s screams alerted me to an oncoming catastrophe. “LiLi has a mouse in her room and she is petting it!”  “Oh my word… what fresh hell is this…” was the first thought that came to my mind. We have two dogs, two cats, two birds, two parents and two kids living in this house (I prefer symmetry) and no mice as of the last time I checked. As I stood paralyzed in the kitchen frozen into a state of denial, my husband went upstairs to check out the situation. I can handle most any emergency that comes my way, but place a wayward mouse in my field of vision and I am scrambling around faster than a running back in the post-season play-offs. LiLi indeed had a mouse and was cuddling the little critter when she caught JaneGrace’s attention. She revealed to my husband that she had caught it a couple of days earlier in our garage and had taken it to her room to keep as a pet. I really believe the girl is part feline. How this poor mouse survived in her room for two days without being victimized by her cat remains a mystery to me. LiLi: the cat and mouse whisperer.

 

Earlier in the evening before we sat down to dinner, LiLi had been in the kitchen getting something to drink when she asked a question that, in retrospect, should have clued me in to the upcoming after-dinner entertainment. “Mom, Mom, do you like mouse Mom?” (LiLi always double-prefaces and punctuates her questions with a redundant pro-noun) Being distracted with the last minute hustling and bustling of dinner preparation, I ignored the question. Our family is used to random, out of context questions that LiLi often asks at the most inconvenient moments, and unfortunately for me, this is one I shouldn’t have ignored. In her child-like way, LiLi was prepping me for the inevitable unveiling of her new little room-mate.

 

This adventure reminded me of a similar event not long after we brought LiLi home fromChina. At that time, we lived in an old, log cabin high up in the Colorado Rockies. During the cold, harsh winters the little field mice often sought refuge in the warmth of the cabin. Unbeknownst to me, LiLi had found a dead mouse somewhere in the house and had also kept it as a toy. Although it didn’t require the cat-like agility that catching a live mouse demanded, it did require some spunk. It also made me ponder the life this poor girl must have led in the orphanage… to what degree of neglect and deprivation must one endure to engage in such behavior? I had found the dead mouse in her closet in an over-the-door hanging shoe organizer. At least she was efficient in her storage of the poor little creature.

 

This evening, my husband forced LiLi to carry the live mouse outside to the front lawn and let him go. The mouse wasn’t very happy and neither was LiLi. It immediately crawled over to my husband’s shoe, perched up on his haunches and peered up at my husband as if wondering what it had done to bring about this change of good fortune. Evidently, it had enjoyed the several days of plentiful goodies LiLi had shared. My husband finally had to pick it up and carry it further from the house to prevent the very real possibility of it sneaking back in when our backs were turned. Who knew a field mouse could become domesticated in such a brief amount of time? LiLi has been home for nine years now, and she’s still not domesticated.

 

 

Where does a parent begin to teach a child that catching wild rodents is not a good idea? My exasperation is great. I can’t think of enough rules to manage this girl’s behavior from a pre-emptive or post-operative perspective. Any rule created is just another to be broken. Please enlighten me if there is a way to teach common sense. What’s next, a raccoon or ‘possum? LiLi is so very tenderhearted, and for this we should feel blessed. I suppose it is better for her to be showing empathy to stray rodents rather than brutally torturing them. In her mind, no living creature should be alone; not even a mouse. Please God, just for today, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference; and please, oh please, grant common sense to LiLi. Amen.