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.