We have almost made it through the school year, but it’s not over yet. Apparently, my 15 year-old-son, Marc, (who has good grades and is passing) feels that it’s okay for him not to attend the last week and a half of school. Judge me here, if you dare… but I was stripped of my parental authority long ago, during my marriage. If you have never been there, you won’t be able to comprehend my predicament. If you have been there, then you know that I have a better chance of winning Powerball than I have of gaining my parental authority back.
To add fuel to the fire, Marc is pushing 6 feet tall and is almost 200 pounds, mostly muscle. Gone are the days of, “Get in the car, you’re going to school!”
Plus, parenting children of domestic violence is completely different from parenting by the standard of the hundreds of parenting books I own. Offering consequences like, “You’re grounded!” just doesn’t work. Saying, “I’ll take away your Xbox! leaves you up until two in the morning while your child flips the entire house looking for it.
What I have learned is taking away tangible things like an Xbox doesn’t work, but something that is intangible, like a sleep-over or the possibility of a trip to movies, works. What can I say? You’d never understand it unless you had lived it. If you have, I’m with you! If I ever get through this and figure it all out, I certainly will write a best-selling parenting book for children of domestic violence. For now, I take it day by day and do everything humanly possible to help my kids. (But I am taking notes.)
This week included a truancy meeting in the town of Bridgeport to get some support and guidance for myself and my strong-willed son.
I met with a lovely woman named Joanne, who not only recorded our session, but documented it, as she asked a lot of questions.
I’m an open person. She asked me about the counseling that we’ve had. I recounted the seven years of counseling for my children, all of the school assessments and explained what we all had to go through when I left my ex-husband, and as well, the aftermath.
I told her I attended counseling at the Woman’s Commission for Victims of Domestic Violence, in Charlotte North Carolina. Although I talked in circles at the time, and I couldn’t express a clear thought, it was then that I picked up a yellow legal pad and began writing.
I had no idea why, and I didn’t think that I had anything of value to say, until I showed it to my counselor and she said, “This is great! Can we use this?”
I said, “Sure, if it can help someone.” I had no idea where that was going to lead me.
We talked about Marc, all of his troubles and all of his strong, independent and humorous qualities. (He has many!)
I told her stories you wouldn’t believe, but ones I may reveal in my memoir, “Sometimes You Have To Run In Bare Feet.”
I told her how my ex-husband was staying overnight in my basement (unbeknownst to me) and how Marc ran off to the Bronx and the police issued a Silver Alert.
She was interested in my son, my life and my writing.
She was surprised when I said that my notes on a yellow legal pad snowballed into me writing for five domestic violence organizations in North Carolina and the Charlotte Court System.
When I returned to Connecticut, I gave speeches and wrote for the Center For Family Justice and was appointed for six months to the Restraining Order Task Force for The General Assembly to try to change Connecticut’s current restraining order laws.
I looked across the desk at Joanne, (her head in her hands) and said, “You must be exhausted just listening to me.”
To which she replied, “No, You are inspiring! I’m going to figure out what we can do to help.”
I left her, feeling hopeful and better than I had been in a long time.
It feels good to be heard and not to be judged.
It feels good to be validated and to be offered some help.
And, it feels good to know how I have dealt with difficult times and challenging circumstances, can be met with a comment like, “You are inspiring!”
Thank you, Joanne. I think you gave me the energy to keep going, and not give up hope my child will turn out okay, no matter how difficult it is right now.
I’m glad I inspired you.
Thank you for inspiring me.
Erin Cooper Reed