The last text my 18.5 year-old daughter sent me said, “Okay, CE, I will be fine without you.” The meaning of her reference to my given name is clear—she no longer considers me to be her mother. This is not the first time for sure, but it may be the last.
Where to draw the line in the sand has been my constant dilemma since she was 3 years-old, running away 6 blocks to strangers she thought would be better parents. I was calling the police at the same time the kind strangers were calling them. I picked her up and drove her home in tears—I was in tears; she actually wasn’t. This or similar scenarios occurred countless times over the last 15 years.
My partner draws his line “here,” my therapist colleagues draw it “near” there, but YOU, you might feel the same as me—stumped to find a way to help my emotionally disabled daughter without enabling her to continue making poor choices that she doesn’t consider poor or that she sees as necessary given her situation.
My sweet friend, Grish, is the mother of a 26 year-old Autism Spectrum adult child and she completely understands why I keep throwing money, support and resources in my daughter’s direction. She instantly said, “It’s not codependence. It’s being a mother!” I love non-husband, non-therapist friends. ☺ I love the other’s too, but they don’t say what I want. My love is conditional. Ha.
Now isn’t that an interesting thing out of the mouth of a non-therapist mother? Is mother synonymous with enabler? I am sure that book has been written, but I know I am in line if it hasn’t been. Many of you are in this situation because I have previously counseled you, or heard from you in regard to other emails I have written that describe this excruciating Push-me Pull-you. When in doubt, reference Dr. Doolittle, right?
My childless friends are very clear. By helping my daughter regularly get out of messy situations of her own making, I am enabling her to continue making poor decisions and, therefore, I should stop it. Just do it! They must have gone to Nike Business School–Just do it! My mother friends are very clearly empathetic and sorely lacking (thank goodness) black and white solutions. Life is grey. Take the middle road. Don’t be severe. She is young. YOU are her mother. Of course you want to continue to help her.
“Okay, CE, I will be fine without YOU,” sticks in my gut like a jagged knife. It is a familiar feeling I’ve had over the years. Cliches always come to mind in times like these, “If you love her, let her go.” The letting go probably never feels good.
Ce Eshelman, LMFT