What a fine mess!

Dear Annie: My 20-year-old daughter, “Jessica,” was adopted when she was 2 by her mom and her first husband, and I adopted her when she was 15. She decided to reach out to her birth mother in a very small town with very limited opportunities last February, and then she moved across the country to be with her in April.

This broke my wife’s heart, as they have had a strained relationship for the last few years. Naturally, she felt rejected. By June, things fell apart between my daughter and her birth mother, and she was couch surfing and living in hotels that were being paid for by a charity group that helps women victims of domestic violence.

My wife just spent three weeks in a hospital to work out a lot of issues that have finally boiled over — a tempest in a teapot, so to speak. But she is in mom mode and does not want our daughter to be homeless if there is anything we can do about it.

Jessica had a round-trip ticket to fly home for her brother’s wedding in October but then canceled it and bought a one-way ticket that is in a couple days. She did this without talking to us first, expecting we would take her in, as she has exhausted all the couches in town. I told her I would fly to her and help her pack and ship her stuff before taking her to the airport to fly home.

Since she’s been home, she has been really snotty to me, and I told her I didn’t appreciate it. She got mad and packed her things and went someplace else for the night. I cannot help but think I made a mistake by coming to get her. My wife cannot handle this attitude my daughter keeps giving us and the hurtful things she says.

Should I give my daughter an ultimatum and tell her we will not tolerate this behavior or she will be out to fend for herself? How do I handle putting my foot down with my wife if she fights me on throwing our daughter out? — Can’t Win With My Daughter

Dear Can’t Win: First things first, you’re doing the best you can, so please stop tormenting yourself. Your daughter has had a rotating cast of parental figures in her life, and she needs some reassurance of stability. Let her know that your love is unconditional and that there will always be a place for her in your family. It may take a while for you to become the happy family you want to be, but helping her move home is a good start.

That said, unconditional love does not mean she can live in your house rent-free, making snotty remarks and insulting your wife. Communicate some ground rules, starting with basic respect. It sounds like you, your wife and your daughter would benefit from a family therapist, who could help you get to the root of Jessica’s misbehavior. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Okay, so a woman–let’s call her Lorie–and her husband adopted Jessica as a two-year-old. Lorie and her husband got divorced, and then her ex-husband quit being a father to Jessica. Lorie remarried to the letter writer, who adopted fifteen-year-old Jessica.

Now Jessica’s twenty and spiraling out of control.

A family therapist […] could help you get to the root of Jessica’s misbehavior.

Uh, gee, any chance that the root of her misbehavior is abandonment? That’s just a total shot in the dark here. [Eyeroll.]

My sense is that Lorie has been unsympathetic to Jessica about her birth mother, probably discouraging any relationship and making her birth mother out to be a horrible person (whether or not she is one, although the evidence against the birth mother is pretty damning here). It’s easy to imagine Lorie and Jessica butting heads over it, because Jessica wants to know about her family of origin, and Lorie wants Jessica to just be hers. And then there’s this:

[Jessica’s decision to go live with her birth mother] broke my wife’s heart, as they have had a strained relationship for the last few years. Naturally, she felt rejected.

She felt rejected… Wait, Lorie felt rejected? Oh my goodness! I’m sorry, but Lorie had no right to feel that way. It’s Jessica who should feel rejected. That Lorie couldn’t support Jessica in finding her birth mother shows that Lorie was selfish and controlling and rigid. Parenting is never a competition. The more positive influences in a young person’s life, the better. I can’t believe Lorie made this all about herself!

My wife just spent three weeks in a hospital to work out a lot of issues that have finally boiled over.

I’m sure this will make me sound judgey, but why did Lorie even adopt Jessica if she wasn’t up to the task of dealing with birth-parent-related issues? It’s more Lorie’s job than Jessica’s to deal with these things. Lorie is more of an adult, and Jessica is confused, abandoned, and hurt by everyone whom she turns to. She probably hoped that her birth mother would accept her in a way that no one (including said birth mother, ironically) ever has! And while I’m sounding judgey, Lorie adopted Jessica with a man who presumably later abandoned Jessica, or the letter writer himself wouldn’t have adopted her! Bad judgment, Lorie!

But then things fell apart between Jessica and her birth mother, leaving Jessica with… no one? Just the loving letter writer! God bless this man! For anyone wondering what that must feel like, I have no clue, but I recommend watching the TV show Felicity. It’s heartbreaking what happens to the character who goes to college in NYC in order to meet her birth parents.

My wife just spent three weeks in a hospital to work out a lot of issues that have finally boiled over — a tempest in a teapot, so to speak. But she is in mom mode and does not want our daughter to be homeless if there is anything we can do about it.

So… mental hospital, or rehab? I can’t tell. But Lorie needs serious therapy to not feel threatened by Jessica’s birth family, so that hopefully Lorie could become a better mother to Jessica instead of being such a drama creator. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that any adoptive mother has the right to feel abandoned just because her adopted child is curious about his/her birth parents.

Like, here’s an analogy: you decide to go up in a hot-air balloon. The hot-air balloon flyer asks you if you’re afraid of heights. You say yes, you’re terrified. And then you board the hot-air balloon.

Or you could know your capabilities and stay on solid ground.

The letter writer needs to strategize here. He could maybe put Jessica up in an apartment and pay two months’ rent, making it clear that she’ll be kicked out if she doesn’t get a job and pay for subsequent months. Or, he could get her into college and have her live in the dorms. And then there needs to be therapy. A lot of it. One benefit of going to college is the campus counselors.

If I could have Jessica’s attention, I’d tell her to cleave to the letter writer, who seems to love and care about her more than anyone else involved in this. Lorie probably loves Jessica, but Lorie doesn’t seem to be rising to the occasion here. Maybe she will at some distant future point. We can only hope.

6 thoughts on “What a fine mess!

  1. So I think LW 1’s wife’s feelings of rejection are valid, but I think she & LW 1 are handling them badly. Jessica is struggling with rejection and abandonment and they need to be stable parents loving her unconditionally.
    One thing that gave me pause though is the detail that Jessica’s hotels/couch surfing were being covered by a group that helps women victims of domestic abuse. How did Jessica qualify for help under this charity and who is the abuser? Depending on the answer, I might be less understanding to the parents.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohh, I like your way of looking at it better than mine! That the wife’s feelings are valid but she’s handling them badly! I think that’s a more charitable way of looking at it!! ❤

      Huh. The thing about getting charity from domestic abuser groups is interesting. It sounds like that's where she wound up after moving to be with her birth mother? I feel so sorry for her that meeting her birth mother went so badly awry!! Ugh!!

      Like

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