Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Boundaries and Miss E

I had more than a week off from driving Miss E because she was on break. What follows is another example of boundary-based problem solving. It took much longer to type it out than to work it out intellectually, but it will take more energy to stay committed to living it.

She did not need a ride on Monday and the past two mornings of driving here have been the same. She has not answered her cell phone when I called. She has come out of the house at 6:45ish which means she is getting to school at first bell (6:55) and is probably on time for class. She turns on her cell phone while we are driving, and presumably then sees that I had called her twice. She tells me she is fine when I ask, but then closes her eyes and does not want to talk.

Okay. So them's the facts.

Emotionally I feel sad. I wish she would talk to me. I feel shut out, and I wish I weren't. Today all I got was a nod when I said, "How are you?" and a whispered, "I don't care" when I asked if she preferred if I did not call her cell phone. When we got to the school she, as has become usual, got out and walked away without saying goodbye or anything else.

Many different things go through my mind:

  • She's angry at me because I didn't take her the last time around and that is why she has been different since she moved.
  • She is stressed enormously and not getting enough sleep so she is just tired.
  • I wonder if by turning on her cell phone and checking for missed calls in front of me she is clearly showing me that she does not get my calls, does not need my calls (anymore), and if I am still making them it will be entirely because it gives me some kind of pleasure. I feel irritable that this might be the case as I would prefer for her to tell me that she doesn't need them. However telling me that might be seen as admitting that she once did need them and she would rather pretend that she is and always has been the responsible one. I wonder if my turning her in for being late had anything to do with this part of the pattern.
  • I wonder if she is turning her cell phone off at night because someone other people sometimes call and she needs a good night sleep. That might mean that she is making herself get out of bed herself because she knows she cannot receive my call. She might not want to tell me about this because it is really none of my business if some one is calling her late into the night.
  • Maybe she is not talking to me like she used to because she is happy, or as close to happy as she gets. Perhaps I was a release valve for her before. Or maybe all the times she was talking to me it was about trying to get me to take her. Now that I have turned her down even when I had a bedroom she has given up on me. She is either angry at me or she has just crossed me off the list of people worth chatting up.

Lots of thoughts there, huh?

What I want is for her to talk to me. I want her to say, "I appreciate that you called me there for a while, but I don't need it anymore, so please stop" or even "I'm not a baby you know! You don't have to call me every morning!"

I want her to say, "I know I'm not into talking right now. It's not about you, I just have a lot on my mind. I need to just be quiet in the car in the mornings."

When she gets out of the car I want her to say, "Thanks" or at least "Bye."

Oh but people in hell want ice water.

If I wanted I could talk to her social worker. If all of these were really upsetting me, the social worker would help us problem solve. She would use try to get Miss E to recognize that I have certain emotional needs and that meeting them is the responsible thing to do. She would try to get Miss E to understand the difference between showing basic courtesy to others and allowing the needs of others to dominate your life.

The question that I need to ask is what do I really need. Really. Not what does she need. Not how should she be. What do I need?

I need not to be late for work and to be treated with minimal respect. If she were saying disrespectful things to me, that would be unacceptable. If she were to chronically be as late as she was on the worst morning, that would be unacceptable.

All that is happening now is that she is telling me she is tired and being quiet in the car.

And I am sad because I wish I had some sort of relationship with her. I wish that my existence, my feelings mattered to her. I wish they existed for her, but I suspect that they do not. I suspect that she is one of the kids Process was talking about when she said that some of our kids have no theory of mind. It is more than possible that Miss E does not understand her own emotions.

She is going through a terrifying time right now. She turns 18 in a little over three months. She will not be finished with high school. She knows that the smart thing to do would be to stay in care and that she cannot bring herself to do it. She is about to step out into the world, on her own, knowing and not knowing how difficult her chosen path will be. She has burned every relationship bridge she has ever had. She has no parents, no foster parents who are committed to her, no friends that I know of. It sounds like she has lost her job. Her plan for how she will live after she turns 18 depends upon her maintaining a relationship with a sister, and she knows (at some level) that she doesn't have the skills to maintain relationships.

And I have a choice. I can demand that she extend certain considerations to me. I can add that problem, which to her will seem incomprehensible, to her list of things to deal with. I can open myself to a possible power struggle, and identify myself as a low-risk target for rage (if I refuse to drive her anymore the agency will just hire someone else).

Or I can drive the girl to school in the morning while listening to the radio.

Can I do that and not feel resentful? Can I let whatever is going on for her be hers? Can I drive her knowing, even if she does not, that if she does reach out I will respond, but letting her make her own decisions and solve her own problems?

Yes I can. It may make me feel sad, but that is mine and I can take care of myself.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if you could say something to E that would help you feel like you're maintaining a relationship with E rather than just transporting her. What I mean is, what if you said something like, "E, I drive you to school because I want to. I like being part of your life. I understand that for whatever reason, you don't want to interact right now, and that's fine, but it's important to me to let you know that if you ever want to talk, I'm hear" or something shorter, more to the point, and less sappy. Would putting that out there help you feel more like this non-communicative time was still part of the overall relationship?


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