Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Nothing Good Happens After Midnight

The parenting maxim "there's nothing good that happens after midnight" has been once again confirmed in our household. After a day of increasing agitation and verbal engagement (limited, though intense) our fourteen-year-old daughter informed us last night that she going out (even though she is currently grounded because she was gone two complete nights a week ago without our knowing where she was) and we couldn't stop her. We have already come to the conclusion that if she is intent upon leaving, it is true that there is little we can do to stop her. And if she had simply left while we were sleeping, the night would probably have been uneventful.

But she chose to play her cards differently last night. Instead of a sneaky getaway (her recent norm) into the furtive shadows of the night, she decided to leave loud enough that we could hear the door shut. Still we were prepared to let her go. It was when she went into the backyard and began throwing rocks at our bedroom windows that I decided the line had been crossed. It is one thing to deliberate defy your parents' request and sulk away, it is another to taunt, possibly awaken the rest of the household and attempt to damage property. Claudia asked what I wanted to do, and I did not hesitate. "Call 911."

Within minutes a law enforcement officer arrived and spoke with us. She was respectful, attentive and gave us the limited options we already were aware of. Since there had been no physical attack she could not be removed from the home (verbal threats are not sufficient), and since the officer had not actually spoken with her upon her arrival (Salinda was lurking in the shadows outside and ignoring the officer's request to speak with her) she could not be held for "fleeing an officer." A few minutes later the officer left, after telling us that we should call if Salinda showed up.

Within minutes of the officer's departure Salinda re-appeared. Marching through the house in a defiant stance she waited until she saw the police car pull up outside our home and then darted back into the night, further taunts from an angry adolescent. The officer searched the backyard, but to no avail, so she once again left.

Within minutes we could hear the shades in the downstairs bathroom rustling as Salinda crept her way back into the house. Stomping up the stairs again she haughtily sneered, "You guys are dumb." Oppositionally marching to the living room where we had been sitting she turned on the television (it was now long since the time we allow our kids to watch television). Claudia went to our bedroom to once again call law enforcement and returned in time for the barrage of verbal missiles hurled in our direction.

"I can't believe you guys are going to adopt again. You're the worst parents in the world. It will just be two more kids who have to run away."

Amidst nasty, foul four-letter words and assertions she barked her rage over the din of the television. The police officer, with whom by this time we felt quite familiar, entered our home, went directly to the living room and confronted the situation. Salinda was defiant and rude with the officer as well, so the officer raised her voice, ordered her to sit down on the couch and physically moved her there. In the minutes to follow we were able to hear just how bad it is to live in our house ("Just look at it, it's an awful place to live"), how she does not want or need our love ("I dont love them; I don't want their love"), and how her seventeen-year-old male friends are "good people, they've just made some bad choices."

The officer gave Salinda the "you have to respect your parents even if you hate them" routine, telling her that the seventeen-year-old in question may be a good person but that he has been arrested numerous times and doesn't seem to figure out how to stay out of trouble. By this time it was well after midnight. The monologue continued for the better part of 45 minutes, after which we told Salinda she could go to bed. Stomping through the kitchen she asserted her final note of anger of the night as she slapped off with gusto the lights in that part of the house.

Salinda knows that if she becomes physically assaultive we will call the police again. She knows that if she damages our property we will press charges. But she also knows from years and years as a witness to the antisocial actions of two of her older brothers (including her birth brother for whom she has always been a champion) that parents in this situation are very limited in what they can do.

So once again we will be hostages in our own home, a place so bad no one should be forced to live there and with parents who are so awful that they cannot be given respect or from whom no love can be received. And this morning the worst parents in our community will be at their respective jobs, working to provide food, clothing, a place to live and guidelines to help her become a decent human being who will one day be independent from the pernicious grasp of such a bad family. On mornings like these this independence day cannot come too quickly.

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