29 Pages

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.  ~Phyllis Theroux


My daughter’s first week at her ‘boarding school’ (what I’ve told friends) aka wilderness therapy program, was the longest seven days I’ve ever gone without breathing much. I was on cruise control.

Weirdly enough, the first night after she was taken from home I had a crying session in the shower- God bless my S.O. who has had to experience me going through this hell all in the early stages of our relationship.  He truly deserves a trophy and I’m so thankful for him.  He stayed with me and after the crying stopped I slept. I slept like I hadn’t slept in years: soundly and at peace.

I spent the next few days still in shock wondering ‘what had I done to my poor child?, did I do the right thing?, did we have to go to this extreme?, why did I listen to her dad?’  All these things going through my head over and over again.  The guilt has been beyond measure. I had betrayed my child in a way she would never forget. I felt like a crack addict looking for her next fix except my “fix” was finding answers. Talking to people who knew my story: our counselor, the program’s director, the program’s counselor, the parent coordinator, our educational consultant, her dad, the transporter, anyone who could give me insight as to what I had just done.  I drove every single human within dialing or texting distance nuts.

Our first bit of homework was to write an Impact Letter to her.  This letter is described as a crucial tool in the program. It describes the events that led to our decision to send her away, needed to contain powerful emotional content and how her behavior had affected my life. In a nutshell the laundry bag of things.  She in turn, would read this letter aloud to her peer group because it creates a powerful emotional experience. It allows students and staff to hear my perspective and compare it with what my daughter has relayed as to the reason why she’s there. At first it was hard to even begin but two days letter I had about four or five pages of ‘raw’ material and off it went.  Then it came time to hurry up and wait before I even got a response.

And then at exactly 1pm on Wednesday the 12th, the pictures came. And she was smiling. And she looked HAPPY! I thought to myself, “WTF! I DID send her to the wrong place she thinks she’s at fucking camp rubbing sticks together, making fire and she’s SMILING!!!” In truth, it was a huge sigh of relief to see her smile. It was a huge sigh of relief to see her be ok. It was huge to see her being her and most of all I really saw my kid behind those glasses. For the first time in a while her eyes didn’t look angry at me. Or annoyed. Or pissed off beyond belief. She just looked like herself. Without any pretenses.

And at around 8pm I broke down completely. At around 7:30 I received her letters.  29 pages- 24 dedicated and addressed to me and five to her dad. Her dad was pissed that she only dedicated four pages to him but in truth her pages to him were angry. And truthful. He hasn’t been there for her so ‘who gave him the right to have a say in sending her to that place?’ she said. Her letters to him were angry but sad. Sad in the way that a girl longs for her dad and he fails to notice. Sad in the way that you can tell all along she’s been wanting something from him- not money, not things, but presence, hugs, attention and love. Something she really hasn’t gotten from him.

And when the therapist spoke to us she said the reason she wrote me so many letters was because she was trying to manipulate me. An inside joke came quickly to me- my daughter has always referred to therapists as ‘the rapists’ and yes she raped all the warm fuzzies I had from those letters and she tried to undo my feelings of pain but I fooled her because I know my kid. She has a good heart. She can be a HUGE pain and somewhat of an a-hole but she’s still my kid.

Here are some of my favorite excerpts from her letters:

“You don’t know how much I want to see you right now and give you the biggest hug and tell you everything is going to be ok.” (sidenote: she hates hugs)

“I just want you to know despite all of this I love you so so so much. I miss you so much too. You are a vital part of my life. If you died I wouldn’t know what to do. You are my reason for living and you are the most caring person.”

“You are the boss woman in my life. You get shit done. Don’t be hard on yourself and know everything I’ve said out of anger is not true. You’re a pretty awesome mom.”

“I’m sorry”

“I’ve never been this dirty in my life and I dont know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I believe I permanently have dirt on me.”

“Surprisingly with all this dirt, my pimples are gone. It’s kinda rough out here and I can tell you for sure my feeling of homesickness is not going to go away”

“They gave us colored eggs to take care of like babies. Mine is blue and I drew a face on it. Update: I broke the egg so I could eat it. I didn’t realize that there was a prize if you didn’t break it. Guess this relates to working on impulse control.”

It’s been two weeks since she’s been gone, three weeks since this whole debacle started and I still haven’t been able to go into my daughter’s room. I can’t face her stuff.  I have delved into closets in an organizational frenzy but they quickly dissipate if I find something of hers. Having my daughter taken like this feels like a death. Something I hadn’t really planned for and some days are really lonely (like Easter and how I expect Mother’s Day to be) and other days are ok.

Today we speak to the counselor so we shall see if there is any progress from the week before. And the story shall continue…

Peace and love

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