Released and Moving Forward

It has been almost two years since Madi first came to our house.  At first, we were told that Monica would be back in December…then January…then March…then summer and finally a year and a half later, she was back and finished with her coursework in the Philippines.

The original plan was that Monica and Madi would get a place of their own and figure something out by December 1st, 2012.  Many, many reasons why Monica needed to jump back into the role as mom and that Madi needed to be back in her role as Monica’s daughter.  Not to mention that Jeremy and I needed to be back in our roles as Aunt and Uncle instead of parents and to reestablish our family of four.

Monica came and a few days into her stay at our home (2 ½ to be exact) she chose to pack and take Madi over to Kathryn’s house.  She told me that she had to figure out who she could inconvenience the most.  She did need things done and needed help, but with two girls and jobs there wasn’t much we could do other than what we did leading up to her returning.  It was now her chance to be the adult and take charge of the two of them.  With Dr. Ted’s help and some hard work, it would all work out.

We were torn because we didn’t want Madi to have to leave her friends or school.  It hasn’t been the easiest time having her at our house but I can honestly say that we have worked our tails off and gone above and beyond what we needed to do and for longer than has been necessary.

However, it did not make sense to have Monica in the house as there wasn’t an extra car for her to use to get places and get things moving forward, we don’t have the finances to feed and help another person and it was time for our family to become our family again and her family to become her family.

December 1st was the original date given to her that the two of them needed to be out of our home.  It came and went.  Or at least, for Madi it did.  Monica stayed with Ranny and Kathryn;  Madi came back to live with us since then.  Things have only gotten harder and rougher on our end. 

So it has been almost two months since then and we’re at a crossroads.  Jeremy and I have had many discussions about what the right next step is.  We find ourselves exhausted dealing with Madi and all of the things that are going on with her at the moment.  We find ourselves talking about her and missing out on our girls.  We find ourselves very irritated, constantly having talks with her and trying to help motivate her and help her make right choices, but she has no interest in making better choices and instead gives us constant grief, ugly and nasty hate looks and then manipulates situations to make it seem as though it is not her fault and it is our fault.

We find that Jeremy often gets more irritated with the girls and then yells at them because he’s spent all his energy dealing with Madi and irritated at her.  I am tired and fed up with the sass, looks, and constant energy that is taken away because Madi demands constant attention and if she doesn’t get it, she talks and talks and talks and can not handle any attention being on either of the other girls.  She gives nasty looks to Riley especially and is always working to make her feel ‘less’ than good.  It has truly been a difficult chapter in our family’s life.

After a tough couple of days, Monica wrote yesterday to ask if she could spend time with Madi this afternoon.  We had a sleepover planned with her friend Elizabeth and had it planned since Sunday.  Madi was told that she needed to finish her itinerary for her trip (her project) and clean her room.  We have started allowing the girls to use their iPods on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons during piano lessons if their school work is finished.  Riley has to read to me before the lessons;  Madi needs to do Fasttmath and any homework that is assigned which is very rare.

All week, Madi moaned and groaned and spent hours and hours trying to find information… and for some reason, she couldn’t figure it out.  I helped find some websites and Jeremy found some information as well.  Interesting considering she is able to find information about her video games and ask tons of questions and research anything related to them.  Has everything to do with effort and whether she cares about it or not.

So we get to Thursday… she was told that she needed the itinerary finished and her room cleaned to keep the sleepover.  Then Monica asked to have time and time with her mom definitely surpasses a sleepover since she rarely talks to her and has barely seen her since she has been back in the States.   That being said, we let Madi know that she still needed to finish her itinerary because it wouldn’t take her long.

She had two days finished out of eight days and that took her hours and hours and hours.  And tons of tears, complaints, and attitude.  Not fun. 

I start my piano students last night and she chooses to go upstairs and play with the sister of the student having her lesson.  I called up to remind her that she might want to work on her stuff.  She told me that she’d work on it soon.  An hour later, she was still playing with the girls upstairs.  Her choice.  She’s a big girl and she can make those kinds of choices.  Totally fine with me.  However, she has to live with the consequences of her actions.

She then got to work – and actually worked – on her project with no behavior issues at all.  And somehow managed to do all five days in an hour and a half.  Fabulous!  Not sure why she couldn’t have managed to do this without wasting hours of her time and energy and frustration and nasty looks and driving us crazy with her awful attitude when she could somehow only manage to get two days done in hours of time.

When asked if she only worked hard and got it done because there was something in it for her (a sleepover) she shrugged her shoulders and didn’t answer.  This is typical.  She hardly answers questions where she knows that the question is true.

She then went into her room and cleaned it.  Put tons of stuff under the bed, under her desk, in her closet.  We talked ahead of time about how it needed to actually be cleaned and not stuffed just anywhere and everywhere.

In the meantime, I went in the playroom and found her brand new violin in its case laying on the floor in the middle of the playhouse.  Turns out she had wanted to show it off and left it there for a few hours while other kids came upstairs and played during lessons.  I told her that she almost screwed herself out of a violin because if a kid had done anything to it or fallen on it in the soft case, it could have been damaged badly.  She said nothing and just sat there.  I collected the violin and told her that it would be put up until a later time as she needed it for jr. high and we wanted it to be able to be used instead of broken and she was obviously not taking care of her things.  She then said that she went to work on her project and left it there.  So we had a talk about how you still have to take care of your things.  Exhausting.  Truly exhausting.

Moving on…

So I let Elizabeth’s mom know that there will be no sleepover.  Elizabeth cried for three hours she was so upset.  Her mom was very frustrated.  And we get to today.

Today started out fine.  Normal day. At the end of the day, Madi comes in my room and I gave the girls an ice cream sandwich to eat.  They gave them to us free!

Madi told me that Elizabeth cried for three hours last night.  I asked if she explained why she couldn’t do the sleepover.  She told me that she said that I didn’t think her room was clean enough and that there was something about her work ethic. Hmmm… yes, partly true.  However, the blame was immediately put on me.  Not happy about that.  Have had many conversations with Madi about honesty and taking responsibility and they haven’t gone well.  But this was very frustrating.

I said “Oh?  Ok.”  And then Madi asks “So when you told me I had to have my itinerary finished and my room clean so that I could have a sleepover, were you hoping that I wouldn’t be able to finish it so you could cancel it?  And you were mad that I got it done so you canceled it?”

Wow.  Wow.  Really??!!  I got quite heated about that one and waited a few minutes before launching into a talk about responsibility and that yes, she did get it done… And only after wasting so much of my time and energy and whining and complaining.  And that it was very obvious that she didn’t feel bad at all that she was responsible for her actions and choices.  Elizabeth missed out on coming over because Madi chose to play upstairs, chose to be lazy in her work all week and then cleaned her room and didn’t really clean it.  I was very insulted and told her that I was appalled that she would actually think that I was looking to disappoint her friend, her mom and her after being the one to invite Elizabeth over on Sunday night – five nights earlier.  I let her know that she needed to really think over what she had said and that I would hope she’d know I’m not that kind of person.  Completely insulted that she would try to make it look as though this was my fault.

Again, moving on…

As soon as Madi and I had the talk, I knew that Jeremy and I needed time to decompress and really work through everything that is going on.  I didn’t give Monica a choice and told her that Madi needed to go stay with her until Monday afternoon so that Jeremy and I could regroup.  It had been a long week, but honestly, it has been a really long year and a half.

Monica came to pick her up and met me at Walmart.  We went shopping together.  Was fascinating because Madi begged for loads of things.  Monica bought her several of her favorite items which will be nice for her to have while over there.  It was crazy how much she pointed at things and held things and begged.

We got back to our house and finally had a talk about what had been going on.  I shared a lot of what we were dealing with.  Madi gave plenty of evil looks and lots of shoulder shrugs that said “I don’t care.”  However, these too come with tweens and are not excusable, but are not shocking either.  I shared our struggles with her and all that we are going through and have been going through.

Monica halfway jokingly said “Maybe she needs more iPod and computer time.”  I was extremely frustrated by this comment as it was also insulting.  I shared that Madi has plenty of opportunity to do iPod and computer time if she does her work and she doesn’t have tons of it.  Instead she pouts and sulks and moans and cries and fights us on it and wastes her time.  But she needs to take responsibility for it and doesn’t.

I told Monica that the girls can use their iPods on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I have lessons.  Madi chimed in that she can’t.  I explained that yes, she can  - when she gets her work done.  And then shared what she chose to do instead.  She just looked down.  Again, trying to make us out to be liars and to look as though she just isn’t allowed to do anything.  And by work, I mean doing part of her project and Fasttmath.  We’re literally talking 30 minutes to an hour at most if she applies herself.

So we finish our discussion.  There really isn’t anything more to say. I ask Madi if she wants to print off the directions for her science project.  She doesn’t want to, but Monica tells her it is a good idea.  As she is printing, I tell Monica that it is very difficult for me to juggle a full time job, two part time jobs, three kids and the house.  She tells me that she wouldn’t be able to handle Madi right now. 
She also shared with me earlier in our afternoon that her credit will not allow her to get into the apartment for six months and that she’s working with a realtor to look into a rental house.  Both of these things let me know that there is a level of expectation that WE are able to handle Madi, but she is not.  And that WE are expected to continue to be her parents until Monica gets a place or at least until the school year ends.  June we’ve kind of expected.  But the assumption that we have the time, resources and energy to raise our niece instead of her is just that – an assumption.

Madi and Monica got in the car.  From what I could see, Madi already had her iPod out.  They were on their way to Olive Garden and to see a movie.  I am glad she got to do these things, but I also felt torn because we are busting our butts to provide and take care of Madi and cutting our budget and rearranging things so that she can stay in her school.  But then Monica talks about how happy she is where she is even though she is not at her dream job and takes her out after she has been a nightmare at our home.  Reminds me so much of a divorce situation.  We are the parents with custody and we have all the responsibility and she is the divorcee who is free to live her life and only does things that are fun with her child rather than having to raise her.

Jeremy and I had a long discussion tonight.  We asked a lot of questions:  What did God call us to do?  What is He calling us to do now?  What is our role?  What is Monica’s role?  Is what we are doing best for our family?  For our girls?  For our relationship?  Is what we are doing best for Madi and Monica? 

We spent quite a bit of time talking about what God called us to do.  A year and a half ago, God called us to take care of Madi and raise her in our home, to provide her with a stable environment where she could live in America again and which would give her proper nutrition and church. 

Our role is to be parents to our girls.  To raise our girls.  To be an Aunt and Uncle to Madi.

Monica’s role is to be Madi’s mom.  When Monica returned, her role as Mom returned to her and the responsibilities were then to be hers to raise Madi.

God is calling us to step back and step out.  He is calling us to take care of our family and give Monica back her role as Mom.  He is calling us to a peaceful home environment and to health for ourselves.  He is calling us to step down as guardians and step up as parents to our girls.  He is calling us to have more time together as a couple and to stop parenting a child whose parent is capable and able.  He is calling us to stop taking on roles we are not meant to continue to carry and to let Madi be raised by her mom.

Before God called us to take her, God called Monica to be Madi’s mom.  Before God asked us to say “yes” to raising her and providing, God gave that to Monica and gave her resources to do it.  Once again, we have to hand the reins over and let her and Madi find their way together.  And sooner rather than later.

This is honestly one of the hardest things we will ever do, but it is also one of the healthiest things we will ever do for our family.  We had hoped to make it until June, but it is clear and apparent that we should have been more firm on the December 1 date and had Madi move with Monica.  She needs to be Mom and we need to parent our children.  Madi needs to be with her and I am sure she will be fine there.  The only way they can figure out life together is if they are together and work through this chapter.  It is not our responsibility any longer and Monica needs to step up.  There is no doubt in my mind that this is what is necessary.  For our family.  For Monica.  For Madi.  It is not easy, but it is completely needed.


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