As many are aware, one morning two months ago the teenager left for school, went to her boyfriend’s house after, and informed us that she wouldn’t be coming home anytime soon. It was a shocking repudiation of our parental authority and led to a sobering realization that despite our best efforts, we really didn’t know her very well at all. On Wednesday night I was enjoying a nice dinner out with my girls and found myself on Thursday standing stunned at the door to an empty room.
With the aid of family counseling, conversation has recently been initiated about the prospects of her returning home. One of the things that was asked of us was to compile a list of expectations that we would have for her upon that return. This is that list:
1. She needs to sit and listen, without argument or interruption, while we explain how this incident made us feel. One of the more infuriating things to me has been her cavalier attitude and seemingly complete inability to understand why any of this is a “big deal.”
2. She will continue to attend school and do well. The school that she currently attends seems to make it easy for students to succeed. She needs to take advantage of that.
3. She will be expected to help out around the house. Simple chores such as washing dishes, raking leaves, and dusting are as much her responsibility as they are ours.
4. Her room and personal appearance need to be presentable. How this relates to her new nasal septum piercing remains to be determined.
5. Part of this process is exercise and eating healthy. This isn’t done out of judgement or criticism, but to encourage a healthy lifestyle that it turn leads to a more positive outlook on things.
6. A source of income must be found. Schoolwork will always come first, but there is a car and insurance looming on the horizon. Steps need to be taken to facilitate contribution.
7. There will be no internet access in her room after 9:00 PM. One of the luxuries it appears that she has at her current residence seems to be a lack of this restriction. I feel it’s a important one that will remain in effect here.
8. When discussing things like this, where she obviously holds a contrary opinion, a respectful tone of voice will be maintained.
9. Time needs to be spent at home. This isn’t just a place to shower and change clothes occasionally.
10. Time also needs to be spent with family. Lunches out, common television shows, simple things that are often overlooked. She also has a little sister that misses her terribly.
My concern is that this list is no different than the one that she previously seemed to find so unacceptable. As happy as I am that lines of communication have been opened, I don’t want this misconstrued as a negotiation.
I’m hopeful that resolution is close. She’s loved, missed, and will always have a home here. Most of all I hope that she comes to realize that she won’t be returning to a house, or to a set of rules, but to a family. And that she always remembers that.