A Way Out of No Way
My daughter and I keep trying to connect despite termination.
|art by Carmen Caban
Fifteen years ago, when my youngest daughter, Destiny, was 3 and her sister Desiree was 7, my parental rights to them were terminated.
I just could not understand why. I had been addicted to drugs for many years but completed drug treatment, parenting classes and anger management classes. I also had two older children in foster care, and my rights to these children were not terminated. In fact, a year later, my teenage son was returned to me.
God Would Make a Way
In family court, my nerves always became reckless. I would look up at that huge sign behind judge, “In God We Trust,” and repeat the words.
Then the final court date came. The judge decided to terminate. In shock, I looked up at those words above the judge for some sign. I had believed with all my heart that God was going to make a way.
The judge asked if I had any last words. “Yes, Your Honor,” I replied. I looked straight at him, a confrontational look. “Your Honor, as long as I live, I will have parental rights. They will end the day I die.”
The judge asked me to be removed from his presence. Outside, I crumbled, breaking down in tears of pain. How could a God I trusted allow this to happen to me? How would I tell my children that Mommy was not able to visit them anymore?
‘I Will Always Be Mommy’
I only had three weeks more to visit my little girls. I told them, “I will always be your Mommy. No one can take my place.” Desiree and Destiny were sad and later became very angry.
But I remained in contact with my girls. The foster mother let me come around the house. During visits I told them, “No matter what comes between us, we will always remain a family.” It turned out that they were attentive to my teaching.
Now, 15 years later, all of my children have come home to me from foster care except Destiny. My oldest signed herself out 10 years ago, at 18. My son was discharged to me at 15. Desiree signed herself out of care last year and came home.
But the hardest relationship to repair has been with Destiny, who at 18 is still in foster care.
A Painful Mirror
Destiny has become a teenager who reminds me too much of myself. My daughter is filled with hatred, anger, envy. She is very rebellious. Destiny gets involved with people twice her age. She’s reckless. Her attitude really stinks.
Many times I have asked myself: Why has Destiny turned out to be who she is today? Bottom line is that she has gone through a lot with me and experienced terrible things in care. She feels devastated and rejected.
As a teenager, I felt the same. My father was an alcoholic. My mother, caught up in her frustration, was not very attentive to my siblings and me. I turned to the streets for comfort. I had it set in my mind that no one could help me. I can remember times when help was offered but my scars were too deep. I felt alone and scared and trusted no one. My addiction and recklessness almost took me to my death.
I’ve tried to tell Destiny that running the streets won’t help her. She throws the past in my face. Her response is, “Well, you did it too.”
Wishing I Could Save Her
When Destiny flips, I just want to hurt her physically. But I do not want to repeat my mother’s discipline. So I walk away or run away and stay angry, or I cry in the fetal position.
I wonder what will become of Destiny. I fear that she will get hurt and go through the same painful experiences as I did. It makes me cringe that I cannot find the right bandages. I feel weak because I cannot save Destiny from herself.
I want to give to Destiny what my mother could not give to me. But seeing my daughter do what I used to do rekindles the hurt little girl inside of me who I thought I’d laid to rest. In the last few years, our visits have become overwhelming to me.
Moments of Connection
I have tried to help Destiny. I have taken her to church because I believe she needs to find God. We also tried therapy, but she got very angry when I told the therapist about her behavior.
I would still like to try intensive family therapy with Destiny. I believe it could help. But Destiny is very resistant to the idea. She says, “It won’t work.” I get angry because I feel like she’s not trying.
‘I’ll Help You, Mom’
But one day recently, I saw that Destiny does reach out. She arrived at my apartment unexpectedly. Her two sisters whispered, “Ask her.” Destiny humbly bowed her head and asked, “Mom, can I stay for a while?”
“Yes, you may stay for the weekend,” I said. I wanted our relationship to develop and for us to feel like family.
I was putting up some Christmas lights, so I asked for help untangling them. Destiny jumped off the couch saying, “I’ll help you, Mom.” As Destiny and my granddaughters helped with the lights, I observed her good qualities. She can be helpful and nice.
I realized for the first time that my Destiny desires a bond with her mother. Despite her disrespectful ways, Destiny wants and seeks Mommy’s love and attention.
I also realized that I have to see Destiny as my daughter, not a young me. She is more than a mirror of my past. Destiny is who she is and I am who I am.
‘Don’t Make Me Cry’
Soon after, on Destiny’s 18th birthday, I felt that I should apologize to Destiny because I was not there through her growing years. I took her to my church and asked her to come to the front.
With my fellow church members as my witnesses, I said, “My child, I have something that I’d like to tell you.” With tears in her eyes, Destiny said, “Mom, don’t make me cry.”
“Destiny, I know that I have not been there for you,” I said. “And we share a strange relationship, loving and then disliking one another. I would love for us to start anew. Forgive me for not being there when you needed me.”
We embraced and cried. Then she said, “Of course, Ma, I will forgive you.” It felt like a load came off my shoulders.
A few days later, we spent the day together, just the two of us. We picked up samples from Sephora, shopped and ate Mexican food. Destiny was so sweet, walking with me and holding on to me like we were best friends. It was a hopeful moment for both of us.
But at dinner, there was a moment where I held silence. She asked me, “What’s wrong?” I had to change the subject. I really did not want her to know what was on my mind: “When will she strike again?”
After that day, my daughter didn’t call me for weeks. When I did reach her, it felt like she had slipped back to her old self again.
Excuses and Attitude
A few months later, someone rang my bell at 2:30 a.m. I ignored it. But the person rang, rang and rang steady for 20 minutes. I got kind of edgy. I turned out my lights and looked out my window. I saw only a shadow of waving arms.
Finally, I was able to make out that it was Destiny. I was shocked and angry. I yelled out, “Destiny!”
With attitude and anger, she yelled, “Ma, open the door!”
I told myself, “Girl, brace yourself.”
When I let her in, Destiny had dark circles under her eyes and looked like she was under the influence. Her clothes and hair were not intact.
Once again, I felt I was looking in the mirror and became very angry. I asked, “Where are you coming from?”
In an annoyed tone of voice she responded, “From a friend’s house.”
“What are you doing at my house at this time of the morning?”
“I got locked out, Mom,” she said. “I need your help. I am being harassed and threatened at that foster home.”
‘This Is Why I Hate You!’
Because of her many previous lies and betrayals, my suspicions were on high alert. I needed time to think, so I went into my office space.
A few minutes later, she came in with an attitude, asking, “Well, are you going to help me?”
“Yes, I will,” I said. “Let’s go to the precinct so you can report this.”
Destiny put a dumbfounded look on her face. “That’s not necessary,” she said.
“But there is an allegation,” I responded, and we exchanged words. Becoming angry and frustrated, Destiny stormed out.
About 15 minutes went by before Destiny returned. This time, her anger was more explosive. When I opened the door, she was standing with her hand on her hip. I just kept asking for her new foster mother’s number, which she claimed to have forgotten.
Soon she stormed out of the house once again, yelling out as she hurried down the stairs, “This is why I hate you, b-tch! I hope a car runs over you in the street!”
I yelled back, “I love you, too.”
She Was Gone
Destiny soon returned, trying another avenue. “All right, Mom, I remembered the foster mother’s number,” she said, adding, “Mom, I just want to stay here until tomorrow.”
By now it was 4 a.m. I called the foster home and spoke to the foster sister, asking, “Why is Destiny in my home at this wee hour?”
“Ms. Carmen, no one has done anything to your daughter,” the foster sister said. “My mother gave her $200 and she has been missing for two days since then. And your daughter has a nasty attitude. We are tired of her.”
I got off the phone feeling furious. I looked straight at Destiny and said, “Oh, so you were hanging out with your so-called friends, they spent your money and then they turned their back on you.”
Destiny was silent. “You have played yourself,” I told her. “Give up on your games.”
I went to put my clothes on, saying, “I will do you a big favor. I will put you on the train.” But when I reached downstairs, I did not see Destiny. I called out for her and she was gone.
I’ll Keep Trying
After Destiny left for good, I was upset. I tried to calm myself by saying, “She did me a huge favor. She had to go. I needed her to leave.”
But I felt devastated. Will my daughter and I ever be able to trust each other? I love Destiny but right now I don’t like her.
I do not like to hold on to my anger. I want us to feel like family. With the holidays approaching, I will call and invite her to spend time with her siblings and with me. I will never give up hope and faith. Faith is what has kept my family together.
Destiny and I are struggling because we were blessed not to be cut off from one another. God made a way out of no way. I believe that if Destiny and I keep trying, we will find a way out of our anger and separation.
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