> No More Secrets And Lies: Mary's One-Year Anniversary! - March 17, 2010

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mary's One-Year Anniversary! - March 17, 2010

Things were improving — six months, seven months, ten months at home with no major problems, Mary was now looking forward to making it to the one-year mark as well. For so long I thought this would never happen, and now it looked as though I may have saved this girl from what could have been a lifetime lost in institutions, or even worse, as a runaway.

After she made it to her six-month goal, Mary and I talked about making it to the one-year mark and I told her we could celebrate this milestone by going out to eat, having a little party, and maybe even getting presents. She was excited about this and decided that being out of the group homes for a whole year would become her new goal.

And o
n March 17th of 2010 she made it! She went a whole year with no self-destructive behaviors, no serious problems, and most importantly, no moving. This was the greatest achievement in her life so far. It was huge for her, and she was extremely thrilled to have accomplished something so important. As promised, we had a little celebration, and my girlfriend and I got her gifts and took her out to eat at Noodles in Mankato — a place of her choosing. We all had a wonderful time. It was a grand night for Mary.

She was proud of herself, and she wanted her social workers, her mom, and the rest of her team to know about her success as well. She wanted all the people who had been with her through the group home experience to know what a good kid she really was. And so she decided to write a letter and email it them thinking they would be proud of her too. I told her I thought this was a good idea, and I gave her some of the email addresses I had.

She wrote her letter, emailed it to everyone on the team and immediately received a reply back from her lawyer, which we expected. She also received a reply from the guardian ad litem, which we didn't expect. But that was it. No one else on her team emailed her back. She waited and waited, but no one else replied to her letter — not her corrections officer, not her social worker, not the social work supervisor, the corrections supervisor, the corrections attorney, not even her mother. And this hurt Mary a lot. No one else emailed her back to tell her they were proud of what she had accomplished and glad she was doing well.
She called her mother thinking she may have missed the email. But she hadn't. She received it. And she told Mary that making it to her one-year mark
"Was nothing to be proud of," and "wasn't a big deal." She really said this to Mary and Mary was crushed by it. And I honestly didn't know what to tell her or what to think about it myself. I felt horrible for her. I honestly did. And I honestly couldn't believe her mother would say this to her. But she did. Mary didn't make this up. She was crying about it and she told me she didn't think her mother even loved her anymore. Why would she? Her mother hadn't wanted her living with her when she came home, and now she was downplaying the most important achievement in her life so far. I remember this well. I remember exactly where Mary and I were standing in my apartment when she told me this. I told her that her mom did love her and just didn't know how to show it. And then I realized I may have been lying to her because I didn't know if this were true or not.

I thought it was thoughtless and rude that none of her workers responded to her email. Even if they had a problem with Mary, or with me, they could have at least told her they were happy for her. They're adults after all. Couldn't they have done this for this girl after what she had been through? The simple task of replying and telling her they were glad for her would have been the easiest thing they might have ever done for her, and yet meant more to her than anything else they ever did. And they knew this, and it was heartless of them to purposely not let her know they were proud of her and happy for her. 

But this wasn't out of character for any of them. And I don't think their silence about Mary's success was about Mary at all. I think it was about me. I think they were afraid that by giving Mary recognition for doing well, they would have been giving me recognition for parenting her well. And as troubling as this sounds, I only had to think back to the group home days and remember the great lengths they went to, to denigrate my parenting, for this to make sense. Mary and I assumed they had moved on, like we had, but apparently they hadn't.

Anyone could have seen the progress Mary was making, and anyone would have known how much her workers' approval and her mother's approval would have meant to her. But it was just one more instance where Mary's needs were pushed aside to make way for the personal needs of her workers and her mother. And I wasn't surprised. But I was disappointed for Mary, and sad for her. And I had no idea how I was going to explain any of this to her.

Her social worker and corrections officer had spent more time with Mary than with any other client. That's what they told us. And at one point during her group home experience, we all thought things were hopeless for her. But now she was doing great. I don't know if it was because of anything I did, but I have to believe I had something to do with her success. What I do know is that Mary needed to be with an adult who truly cared for her, someone she could trust, and someone who loved her unconditionally. It was as easy as that. And maybe that was their problem. Maybe her workers and her mother weren't able to do these things for her, and maybe her one-year anniversary reminded them of this fact. Even so, they could have at least pretended to be happy for her, even if they weren't.


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