The Young One
We got a call this week that has kinda thrown me for a loop. To understand where I’m coming from you would have to know some of the back-story so here you go:
I’m not sure if some of you even know this because we have only mentioned her a couple of times, but Stace and I have an all-grown-up daughter. We’ll call her The Young One. We have quite a checkered history with TheYoungOne. I suppose you could say that things haven’t always been very smooth between us… ok… they’ve been pretty rocky at times. Ok… really rocky.
At some point along the way, when she was a teen, TheYoungOne decided that the world should be handed to her on a silver platter. By anyone who was willing to hand it over apparently. I’m not exactly sure where she got this idea because Stace and I have always been of the opinion that it takes an awful lot of hard work to get anywhere in life. And that’s what we tried to teach her both in conversation and by example. It didn’t take. And it’s not like she had ever had a bunch of crap handed to her growing up. She had to earn most of the extras she got by doing extra chores and such around the house. She wasn’t deprived but she certainly wasn’t spoiled, either.
Despite being extremely intelligent, she didn’t graduate from High School because she couldn’t be bothered to go to classes. Then she walked in and aced the GED test with little effort. Later, because we were providing her housing and supporting her while she got on her feet, she couldn’t be bothered to hold down a job. She had no problem getting jobs, but then wouldn’t show up to work and would get fired. I think the longest she made it at a job was about six weeks. Since neither Stace nor I had ever been fired from a job, that string of firings was pretty shocking.
We supported her for quite a while trying to give her a real chance to get on her feet, but never saw any progress on that front. Finally we told her to get a job or we were going to quit paying for her house. She was homeless for a while and lived in a shelter. During that time she hooked up with a bunch of friends who were every bit the shiftless losers that she was acting like. I met several of them when I visited her at the shelter. None of them had jobs from what I could see. She also moved in with one of them… an older woman who lived off of disability payments from the State and had a flop-house style basement full of unwashed older teens who chipped in what money they could scrounge for food and beer and cable tv.
Always being huge fans of education, and not wanting to give up on her, we tried several times to get her into training programs of some sort but she wasn’t interested. We offered to pay all expenses including tuition, room and board if she would enroll in the local community college. She did. She flunked out the first semester because she didn’t go to class because “it was too boring” to keep her interested. That’s when we again set down the law and demanded if she intended for us to keep helping her with expenses she was going to have to get a job and pay part of her own way immediately.
She stalled and put us off with one excuse after another. Eventually we got tired of working our asses off out here and providing her with a home while we never got to see ours. She had a place to live provided by our work and she showed no inclination to get a job and start supporting herself. It felt like we were encouraging her behavior. So we finally gave her an ultimatum. Which she ignored. So we cut her off cold. Even as mad as I was at her by that point and as disgusted as I was with her choices… it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
I couldn’t believe it was my kid. It was just too painful to see what she had become. Honestly, her behavior was so utterly opposed to everything I stood for and believed in that I didn’t want anything much to do with her. I pretty much cut her out of my life. I know this is quite the same thing that I had always decried when strictly religious parents would cut off their kid who came out to them because that kid no longer lived up to the parents’ values. Call me a hypocrite. It was heartbreaking to see such potential wasted.
Then came the day when she called to tell us that she was pregnant. Oh my lord. Now… I didn’t have any problem with the unmarried and pregnant angle, but I did urge her to have an abortion or consider adoption. I urged strongly. I simply could not see a universe in which it would be a good thing for an innocent baby to be born into that situation. What if TheYoungOne didn’t feel like she should have to feed the baby day after day after day? What if changing diapers became boring? How were they going to live? What would they eat anyway? How would she earn enough to keep the poor thing in clothes and shoes if she couldn’t hold down a job? Oh good god. No good could come of this.
But she had the baby and decided to keep it. That was almost two years ago. Contact was still pretty rare the first year. Frankly I didn’t want to get all attached to the GrandYoungOne if it were going to become necessary to remove her to another situation. Then a strange thing started happening. I realized over time that TheYoungOne was making a real go at being a good mother. Day in and day out. She really cared about that little girl and was doing her very best for her. Wow. Who would have thought? Was TheYoungOne finally growing up and thinking of someone other than herself? I think she was. It has been really nice to watch her change into a good mom.
Last fall TheYoungOne enrolled in a one year computer training course at a local community college. She said that she thought if she got that training she could get a much better job and be able to provide much better for her family. I applauded the idea, but to be honest, in the beginning I didn’t hold out too much hope that she would complete the course. Their lives were very hard. They have no money and no car and TheYoungOne rides the bus forever every day first to the daycare and then on to her school. Then she reverses the process to get home at night. Then she had to take care of the little one, feed and bathe her and spend some quality time together before putting her to bed and starting a pile of homework. We’re talking about five hours of sleep every night before getting up and starting it all over again.
To make matters worse, she hated one of her classes because it’s god-awful boring as she put it. Which has always been a death blow to whatever she was attempting in the past. With all these things arrayed against her, you can imagine why I might be thrown for a loop when I got the call this week, “Mom, I graduated and I made it on the Dean’s List.”
She stuck to something that has probably been the hardest thing she has ever tried to do for an entire year and saw it through to the completion. She told me several times in the past year that it seemed impossible to keep going on because of one difficulty or another. But she didn’t quit. She solved every problem that would have knocked her out of the program in the past and she kept right on going. Not only did she not quit, she worked hard and made really good grades. Made the Dean’s List. I’m blown away.
I heard something in her voice the other day on the phone that I hadn’t heard in so long. For perhaps the first time in years she’s really proud of herself. She deserves to be. I know I’m so proud of her. It is so nice to see her actually doing something good for herself.
She doesn’t know it yet but this week when we go home we are going down to visit her and taking her shopping for a new wardrobe. We were thinking that getting a new job in an office setting would require a lot of clothes that she doesn’t have and probably wouldn’t buy for herself because there’s always something she wants to buy for the baby. I was also thinking that I have a spare laptop that needs a minor repair to be in good shape. If I could get it fixed up, I think the two together should make a pretty good graduation present.
Stace was talking about, after TheYoungOne holds down a job for a few months and we get our own truck, maybe giving her our car and offering to pay the insurance for her for a while. It’s just an old beater, but it would certainly make her life much easier to not have to take the bus all the time. Can’t do it until we have bought our truck though because both our vehicles are 20 years old and do break down once in a while so we need something as a backup.
We’ll just wait and see what happens next. Maybe she’ll do so well in her new job market that she’ll buy herself a car before we are in a position to give her ours. Maybe not. Either way, I am just enjoying the moment. I sincerely hope that she is, too.
Speaking of enjoying things, check out TheLittleOne’s Easter egg hunt. She loved those fake eggs with the confetti inside. Looks like we may have another artist in the family, huh? And a reader, too. Excellent.