I took C to my house yesterday. On Saturday, I didn’t know if they had an outing or not and the matron called me on Sunday morning and told me they did. So I sent C a text that I would come up at 11 (when the outing started) and get her. I think it is easier when I walk with her to my house. I think she is frightened of coming, but the fear is easier to cope with when I am there.
It was difficult for me to walk down with her. I kept thinking of being away from her after this year—I can come back to Country X, but I will probably not be placed in the same town as her, and I kept thinking of how to tell her. And it was just so painful. It took maybe 30 minutes for her friends to get ready to go, and then we had to walk down and downhill it is maybe a 30 minute or 40 minute walk, and the whole time it was hurting so badly, and I wanted to just get it over with. I wanted to be able to tell her and be done with it, and it was so hard to be patient and calm and wait.
Then we got in site of the town area, and C began to say she wanted to see her uncle first. I began to kind of lose it inside. The pain felt unbearable to keep waiting through and the chances were good also that she would go to her uncle’s house and he would expect her to stay until the end of the outing and I would not get to see her at all. I told her no, that she needed to come to my house. I was really distressed at that point. I wasn’t angry, but I was really, very deeply distressed, and I knew I was kind of losing it. I wasn’t able to manage the situation with her, and C began to get angry. I don’t think she said anything, but it was in her body. We haven’t worked very much with coping with boundaries. I took the phone away and wouldn’t give it back. Then I said I would give it back only on weekends. I set that boundary, but generally I set very few with her, because it is so stressful for her and it seems like hard enough work for her to cope with the boundary that I leave. She wants me to leave, but that doesn’t make it easier to cope with that pain. Anyway, it wasn’t a situation we have dealt with that much since I came back.
I told myself to get it together. It’s not a matter of not showing my feelings, but actually calming them down so that I can think and respond to the present situation better. I guess I got something inside done after that, because things got better. I said come to my house first, then go to your uncle’s house after that. It seemed to be okay. I suppose she felt scared to come, then she was looking for things to be scared of (her uncle might feel hurt), and I responded to that. I responded to her fear in a soothing way. (In the end.)
So she parted from her friend and went on to my house. I asked her to make tea and she refused. I think this was, to some extent, a cultural moment. I think she understood my request as an actual choice, rather than a polite instruction. But I wanted her tea. It’s a difficult conversation, and I wanted her tea. It calms me down. Anyway, I just asked why she wouldn’t make tea. Then she said yes. She went and made coffee. Okay, whatever. She was in the mood for coffee. It was fine.
Then she sat in the chair in my bedroom and I sat on the bed. I said I needed to tell her something and it wasn’t good. That was all the introduction I gave. Then I explained the law had changed and that we had thought it wouldn’t affect us, but it does. I said I have to leave after 3 years and only come back after a year. She didn’t say anything. She just kind of shrunk into herself. I pulled her to me and hugged her, and she began to cry—just silent tears. I held her for a long time, it seemed, and I kissed her face and her hair. I began to cry also and she looked up at me—I suppose she felt the wetness on my cheek. She said, “Don’t cry.”
After a while, she sat up straight and it was really like watching someone switch. It was like the pain and the closeness had gotten to be too much and she had shut them down and brought out some other feeling. It was a very abrupt change in states. I said, “Do you want to make pancakes now?”
So we went into the kitchen. She didn’t want to make them. It was interesting. I started handing her things and telling her what to do and she said, “You do it and I will watch.” She felt too shy to do anything. I gave her eggs and told her to break them, and she wouldn’t do that. It was like I had asked her to give a speech. I said, “You have been breaking eggs since you were five years old. You can break eggs.” But it really was like she thought she could break eggs wrong, like that might be too much vulnerability for her. Anyway, she did it very carefully (as you can imagine) and I took the egg shells out of her hands and put them in the dustbin. From there she seemed to be more okay. I told her to smell the milk. It was one week old (with no refrigeration. It ought to have spoiled, but it didn’t seem to have spoiled. There was a long conversation over that. I think perhaps because of confusion over what I really wanted. Anyway, the milk was fine, so I told her to pour it. Then I got the flour and told her to stir while I poured it in. The batter seemed to be about right for cooking when I suddenly realized the spatula had broken. I was going to tell her to go and buy one—I was explaining to her what I needed. She wanted me to go, and she wanted chow mein, and she wanted to use my laptop to chat on facebook.
I went. I had this feeling she felt very vulnerable, and she didn’t want to leave the house. She wanted to be in my house, where she is starting to feel safe. So I went and got everything. When I came back, I saw her sitting on the floor using my computer and I thought sometimes you feel fragile and you want your mom to take care of you, and I thought maybe she felt that way. I asked if she wanted chow mein. She did—it was lunch time then. We ate together, and then I made pancake. She sat in my bedroom and I went in the kitchen and made pancakes. After we ate them, I took the dishes and washed up. I still had that idea in my mind, that she felt fragile and wanted to be taken care of, so I did that. Then I sat in the chair next to her while she chatted. We didn’t talk that much. I did talk to her—I talked to her about how she feels when I am leaving her. I talked to her about her dad a little. I don’t know what she took in. I asked if the letters I send her help. She said they did.
I sat and wrote her a letter, and then I just sat there. I was really extremely tired by this point and that is probably what I would have done if she hadn’t been there: just sat, thinking. I saw it was getting time to go and I gave her money. She had asked for money earlier, and I had had an idea that I should start giving her less money, and buy more things for her myself, because she doesn’t know how to handle money. It is too much, too abruptly and her friends are starting to take advantage of her and, I suppose, of me. But that day did not seem to be the day to change the boundaries on anything, and having her own money reduces her feelings of vulnerability.
Anyway, she looked at it in a kind of startled way. Maybe she had forgotten she had asked for it. She had been in a different mode earlier and maybe the urge to have money had disappeared along with the mode. She looked at her watch and realized the time. She told me to stay here. She would go up with her friend. I had that feeling of being put safely on a shelf again. She needed to be able to picture me in my house, and to feel that she knew where I was, and that I am safe. It is an odd feeling for me.
I told her to message me when she got to the hostel and she said she would.
We went to the door together. It was dim—my hallway is dark—and I looked suddenly at the light switch, thinking of turning it on, but it didn’t seem actually necessary. We were going to stand there for less than a minute. She said, “What?”
“Okay, bye.” She started to turn to go.
I hugged her and kissed her and she put one hand on my back and hugged me back. The reciprocating seems to be, in my mind, about feeling less shame. Sometimes it is the VC just really wanting to connect, but other times it is about the shame subsiding enough to let the need to connect and be warm come through. It is feeling that she can is worthy of having someone welcome her warmth and her love. Her shame is not just about needing love, but about wanting to give it, because it is about herself and her authentic feeling. As the shame resurfaces, she reciprocates less. She stops calling me “mom.” She stops saying, “I love you,” in response to me. She stops replying to any text at all, and it can feel like she is indifferent to me, but it is about her trying to manage her shame. She comes out too much, and gets too much connection, and she is overwhelmed by shame. She pulls back more and the shame is less. So I need to have that in mind: this is going to ebb and flow for her, as the shame surfaces.
Some other things happened, but it is time to go now.