Parenting…

I ducked out of something yesterday, something I usually enjoy, because I wasn’t sure that, on the spur of the moment, I could come up with the right form of words. Today, I have time to compose the words.

Coincidentally, on Tuesday, I was also chatting to a local guy about some unruly kids. He started along an “I blame the parents” tack, I just rolled my eyes.

My mum died when my daughter was twelve. If there is a start to this story, it is probably then, that’s certainly when we ramped up a gear or two. We (my wife and I) had had our share of ups and downs with my daughter, who’d been diagnosed with ADHD as a youngster. From the moment she mixed with other children, we could see that she was different, although it took several more years for an “official” diagnosis – school funding issues, money, of all things, get in the way.

My mum was very close to my daughter, who could do no wrong in Grandma’s eyes. It’s wonderful to have this kind of unconditional support, although it could be unhelpful sometimes, for example when we had to chastise my child. I remember on one occasion, she couldn’t be bothered locking her bike up, which of course subsequently got stolen. I was very “well, you have no bike now”, trying to convey that there were consequences to her carelessness. My mother just said, “There, there, I’ll buy you a new bike”. So, sometimes my mum could be counter-productive, but there was no doubt that she came from the right place.

It was quite a shock to my wife and I, who are both university graduates, to have a daughter who had issues. Indeed, because we’ve done quite well, we made sure daughter had all the opportunities that we’d never had as children. Brownies (we were asked not to take her back again as she was too disruptive), musical instruments, choir, ballet, etc. Everything went sour. It was worrying when my daughter asked if I could drop her off at primary school, because I had a “posh” car (at the time, I drove a Porsche 911), and it was clear that her intention was to lord it over the other kids.

Things became worse after my mother died. At a time when my daughter was becoming a teenager, so going through lots of changes in any case. We had always had problems with general tidiness. When we attempted to bribe her, that her pocket money was dependent on keeping her room tidy, she decided she could do without pocket money anyway.

Bed-wetting was a particular issue. At that age, it happens, you accept it and try to move past it. What wasn’t really acceptable was leaving it, not telling anybody, until the smell permeated to the rest of the house a few days later. You can imagine how much bedding and how many matresses we went through – and how many mattress protectors, which she ripped off! We witnessed this withdrawal, and even had to wait until she was out of the house before going into her room to tidy, because any attempt to enter while she was there would be result in screaming. If I tell you, that even in this candid account, I have deliberately omitted some of the worst details, then perhaps that gives a clue as to how bad it was?

On top of that, there were external influences. She made friends with bad people. We warned her off them but were ignored. Especially as a child becomes older, there are definite limits to parental influence, in fact we thought she would often just do the opposite of what we suggested. She found out the hard way about her “friends” in the end. A girl at school committed suicide – according to my daughter they were best friends, although we had never heard her name mentioned before. There was arm-cutting and first-hand suicide attempts. Or at least suspected suicide attempts – her favourite was telling people she had taken pills, whether she did or not I never found out, but it doesn’t really make a difference. For somebody just to say that indicates a problem.

To anybody who says you keep pills out of reach of a fourteen-year-old, I say good luck with that! And, even if you can manage that in an unsecure house, they just go to the shops.

Mixed in with this was involvement with the police. Petty crime, graffiti. Also times when she was complaining about someone else. A few times, she called them because she thought I had treated her too harshly. And, as soon as either police or suicide comes into play, Social Services become involved. So, she (we) began to be “known” to the authorities. On a couple of occasions, my wife and I even had to contact the police ourselves, after she failed to return home – she was still a child, after all.

In all, life was pretty unbearable. Literally. With hindsight, I’m not sure how we did bear it. It came to a head when she was fifteen. She made some complaint against me, to this day, I have no idea what that complaint was, as I hadn’t even seen her for the previous 24 hours. The policeman who came around, she convinced him that she was “at-risk”, and she was taken away. Respite!

At that point began the legal battle. Social Services were, of course, well and truly involved by now. There were allegations against both me and my wife – that I had done all manner of nasty things, that my wife had stood by and watched.

I was in shock when the allegations were first disclosed to me. It was such a sense of disbelief, things like that just didn’t happen to nice people like us! It probably took a day before I could read that letter, but in that time I realised that I was going to have to defend myself.

As it happens, that part of the exercise was easy – as I went through the letter word for word, and in the process I realised that there was absolutely no substance behind any of the allegations. Indeed, as I later discovered, their office was filled with fresh graduates – lots of certificates but not a lot of common sense. Social Services suggested a meeting, and I used this as the opportunity to knock their points down, one by one. My attitude became bullish – if they really wanted to take me to court, let them go for it!

My shakiest claim legally was when I said that I would not allow my daughter to come back into the house. I had had enough. My wife agreed, we’d both had enough. That’s shaky ground, legally in the UK, because as soon as a parent refuses to look after their child, they are committing an offence. As it happened, my daughter was refusing all contact with her mental health services, so I said, given her proven record of self-harming, that it was for her own safety, that she would not be secure in our house.

The legal impasse bubbled during the summer of 2015. I had no contact with my daughter, but neither did I want any, with this hanging over me. I am still not at the stage where I can let bygones be bygones.

In some ways, my daughter resolved the situation for us. She had been staying with a foster carer, somebody who had a clear and trusted track record as a foster carer. I met her once and she was lovely. However, something happened (I neither know nor care), and my daughter made allegations of assault against this woman, just as she had against me. This time around, the foster carer was believed. In fact, it was to happen two or three times more, before my daughter eventually quit the council’s care to live out on her own, still funded by them but in private (sole) accommodation.

We were never formally told that we were off the hook, although it was acknowledged informally by a social worker. In the end, they proposed joint custody, which we accepted – in fact, I’d have preferred zero custody, but “joint” was good enough. It meant that legally, I could claim that something was just as much Social Service’s responsibility as it was mine, so in practise I could remain hands-off. Fortunately, custody never croppped up as an issue.

There, the story doesn’t really end. Instead, we just fast-forward to today. Daughter lives in a rented bedsit, a safe two hours away. She is now 20, so is purely her own responsibility. There are still lots of issues – my wife fields calls daily, there is still a relationship between them but it seems very “dependent”, as far as I can tell. But mostly, I am not part of it. After all that has happened, I don’t really want a relationship with her, not at this moment. I might like one when she has grown-up a bit, but that seems a long way off and I realise that, by then, she might have lost interest. That’s a risk I have to take.

Now, shall I talk about the stroke that I had six months after all this? Maybe another time…

Author: Stroke Survivor UK

Formerly, designed and developed IT systems for banks, but had a stroke in 2016, aged pre-50! I have returned to developing from home, but some of my time is also spent volunteering with the UK charities Age UK (www.ageuk.org.uk) and the [UK] Stroke Association (www.stroke.org.uk). I created this account with the alias "sca11y" but have since aligned it with the name of my blog.

13 thoughts on “Parenting…”

  1. I hardly know what to say about alk this as it is just a hirrufic story. You have gine through so much. I am glad for you that she is now away from you, but it must have been heartbreaking to have your daughter do those things. I can, I feel, understand where you are coming from in not wanting her home.

    Of course, not all of those who repirt abyse are telling lues, but I do feel it is a terrible situation when you are almost seen as guilty before you even begin. That, for me, as you may realise, is a dicey subject that I won’t go too far into. But I am truly horrified by all this. And yes, please DO tell us about yoyr stroke. I want to hear anyway. They say lufe is never easy, and yoyrs certainly has not been. Suppirtive thoughts towards you from here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was lucky, really, that I had the wherewithal to pick apart these allegations, which were pretty much transcribed straight from my daughter’s mouth. I was lucky that she tried the same tack with other people, and it became obvious to SS what was going on. But, yes, real Twilight Zone. How could this be happening to us? And let’s just say that I don’t think this experience helped, when I was to go on and have a stroke just a few months later. A contributing factor? Who’s to say? But it can’t have helped.

      I reckon my daughter believes to this day that she *was* abused, it’s just that her frame of reference will be totally different from your’s or mine.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand what you are saying. And Ialso agree with you that who is to know if your stroke was activated by this. As you know, my father had a stroke from which he eventually died. But orior to that, he had saud to me that he could not stand the stress of what my mother was doing any more, and he oredicted something like a stroke happening. In fact, she was not allowing him food, and on his Sheet at the bottom of his bed it stated “Malnourished.” I truly believe that his stress did have something to do with his stroke. It broke my heart to read that wird on his sheet. I stayed with him to the end whilst she swanned in and out, but I just felt so angry with her. Who knows what contributes to these things? So glad that you were able to show that you had not done any of those things.nnit is a terrible situation to be wrongly accused. So sorry this happened to you,

        Liked by 1 person

        1. There are lots of things, where I wonder whether something might have made the stroke not happen, but it’s fruitless to speculate – we are where we are. As it is, I made a mental note not to let these things influence me again, to steer clear of them. It is a bit harder to steer clear of my daughter because she still comes and visits my wife sometimes, but I can remain quite out-of-the-way. My wife knows I am uncomfortable with the visits, but I don’t have the right to ask her to distance herself too.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. When she hit eighteen I breathed a sigh of relief, as I knew that thereon, no fingers could ever be pointed at me. When she visits, I hold my breath. We are generally polite to each other, but distant. When she visits, she reverts to being that stroppy teenager – very messy and mouthy to her mum. I feel for my wife but don’t usually get involved. It is a cycle. When she is here, they argue, they fall out, they cool down for a couple of weeks, they start speaking again, she comes to visit. I’ve said that I don’t want her here for more than two or three weekends per year. My wife has a day of cleaning after she leaves.
              But, bear in mind that I’m talking about events that happened four years ago. 99% of the time, I just get on with life and my daughter is a background thought. It is a very short, sharp shock.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. I understand what you are saying, and it is a good job that she doesn’t visit that often But very unsettling when she does. Very hard. But goid that you can forget it most of the time

                Liked by 1 person

        2. And, hospital is definitely not the place to be if you are malnourished to start with! I was up on the stroke ward just yesterday and you do see especially older people who look like they’ve given up. I often think it is cruel that there is the technology to keep people alive, but not really to leave them with much quality afterwards. A lot of recoveries come down to attitude – people who engage and try to get better often end up getting better, people who sit quietly in the corner tend to whither. I always worry when I hear that somebody is slipping backwards.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I should also have said that when we first met with Social Services, when everything was petty by comparison, we were told that no help was available to us. In fact, they only took an interest in our case when everything became adversarial.

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    1. It was kinda surreal because things would happen bit-by-bit. We’d have a visit from the police, say, but then not one for another couple of months. It’s only now that it is over that I play it back and think, “shit, did we really live through *that*?” Presumably, this explains some of my previous comments? I’ve spent hours trying to rationalise how we might have done things differently to achieve a different outcome. We feel like we totally screwed things up but are bewildered how we managed that – because we were far from inattentive, if anything we should have been better parents, because we were a bit older than average, so more able to cope.
      Even for her, there is such little support available that she struggles to get by in a world which is just optimised for a different type of person.
      And I’ve failed, too, because despite all the noble things that I believe in regarding mental health, I can only bear so much when it is right there in my face.
      But, you know, this is a few years ago and time heals a lot, so it mostly isn’t so raw any more. Putting it down into words is cathartic, as you can imagine it doesn’t normally get aired.

      Liked by 1 person

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