Sunday, October 24, 2010


Dear C-Man and H-Girl,

I wish that I could tell you all of the secrets about how to get through middle school and high school without getting emotionally scarred. Unfortunately, I can't. It isn't because I don't want to, but because I just don't know how to protect you from those landmines. I wish I could say that I had the answers because I once was in middle school and high school. However, things have changed. I never once worried about getting shot, stabbed, or physically hurt at school. In junior high I was under emotional and verbal assault daily, and that was very traumatic. However, I never felt forced to try drugs or sell drugs. I never had to walk through a metal detector to get in or out of school. Teachers still had control over their classrooms and paddling was allowed. Just knowing that you could get paddled made paddling virtually unnecessary. In my three years of junior high school, only one instance of paddling actually took place. That news spread like wildfire through the hallways. I am sure that the echoes of that paddling squashed future bad behavior for at least another three years. That kid probably got another paddling when he got home.

When I was in school, the parents picked up where the school left off, instead of raking the teachers over the coals for not giving their kid preferential treatment and other b.s. Taking the threat of paddling out of the school system is one of the worst things that they have done to you. I know that you might not see that right now. But, it has allowed kids to take over the school. And that is why they felt confident enough to smuggle in knives. And the parents supported their kid's bad behavior. And then it was guns. And now it is out of control. And everyone is pointing the finger at everyone else. It all went to hell when the parents took the power away from the teacher to discipline the kids in school. The threat of a paddling used to be enough to hold everything in check. Now it is all flying fast and loose. We need the police to guard the doors and monitor the metal detectors.

C-Man, things are different for you because you go to a fine arts magnet school. You aren't dealing with that sort of crap. Everyone must have top-notch grades and an interest in art, dance, or theatre to be there. (I would have loved going to your school.) I love the fact that you love the theatre and are leaning in that direction. You are taking Theatre 2 this year and Stagecraft to learn all about the backstage stuff. It is easier for me to help you with your "problems" because they are more like what my problems would have been. How do I prepare for this part? What monologue do I choose? Is this over the top or not enough? You are also writing short stories already and they are good. You understand how to write dialogue. Wow. That shocks me whenever I read your stuff. The things that will break your heart will be not getting the part that you know you were meant for and that will hurt so much. Or it will be the girl in drama who is just a friend but that you want to be more. I know how that feels. These are the problems that I can relate to, but I have no idea how to overcome them. I ran those same circles myself. It is ground I know well. All I can say to you is to do the best you can with what you have. That pain of not getting the girl will work for you in some other part somewhere down the line. Remember that feeling so that you can channel it later. It will be amazing how it will come right back on demand. I am sorry I don't have anything more to make your life better. They call it schooling for a reason.

H-Girl, we have not talked since the last letter I wrote you. I have thought about you a great deal since then. I have weighed this against that and tried to sort out what I think is going on. In some ways you are like your brother. If you were going to a magnet school, you would also be very involved in theatre. You tend to imitate whoever you are around. When you came to live with us, you were the diplomat. You felt it was your job to soothe C-Man because he got so angry. He was so angry because he couldn't stop the abusive situation he had been living in. He was already feeling it was his job as the oldest son to protect his mother. Of course, that was impossible. He was four years old. So, he got angry. And your biological mother did what she could to protect her children from her husband even if it meant taking the hits. She was the diplomat. She tried to soothe the angry man. And that is what you did when C-Man got angry. Your job was to try and soothe the angry little boy.

When he became less angry, you then started to become more like me. You were the person who was very aware of what was going on at all times. You knew who was where when. You were the little mom. You were my thoughtful, sensitive to others, gentle spirit of a child. Now you have been living with your dad for the last five years and you have become like him. I see that now. The reason you don't know how to do your school work is because you have manipulated your brother into doing it for you. You have been taking lessons from your dad on how to get things done. You are a quick study. The thing is that it isn't serving you well. I cannot fix this for you. You are surrounded by landmines. I cannot even tell your father how this has happened because it will force him to look in the mirror and see that you have merely copied his bad behavior. My previous line of thought was that you would have to carry a terrible burden when you understood as an adult that you manipulated and bullied your way through school. Now I understand that manipulative adults didn't just become that way all of a sudden. It was a learned behavior that started in childhood. What happens to that childhood bully on the playground? They become a manipulative bully as an adult. Of course they do. Unless a force bigger than them steps in and forces them to change their path, that is exactly what happens.

I am so sorry H-Girl, because there is nothing that I can say that will change your circumstances. Your father has tied my hands as far as what I can do. You would have to come live with me for me to make the difference, and your dad has already said "No" to that more than once. On top of that, even if I got a "Yes" now, you have spent the last five years mirroring how to manipulate someone to get what you want. It would take me several stressful years before you accepted that I don't play that. My body can't tolerate that stress. Your dad nearly killed me with the stress he doled out, and I bet you have taken his skills and maximized them. You always were street smart. You are running rings around your father and he doesn't even know it.

The only thing I know to say to you is this: look at how empty your father's life is. People don't like being manipulated. Eventually they realize you are pulling their strings and they leave. Not only do they leave, but they leave mad. You can continue to model after him, but your life will look exactly like his. It will be empty. People will do your bidding until they figure out what is going on and then they will walk away. Right now all you are seeing is how much fun it is to yank everyone's chain and watch them perform for you. If you are going to continue to model after your father, you need to look closer. He drives everyone he loves away from him. I wish I could tell you that, but you are going to have to figure it out for yourself. It is going to be one of those really painful lessons. Unlike your father, I hope you understand what you're doing and make the changes so that you can actually have a life with real people in it who love you.

I love you both, forever and always.


image purloined from Miss Angie at My So-Called Chaos


  1. It is always so heartbreaking to read your letters to your kids. You've been more of a parent to them than their own, and they need you so desperately. And yet ....

  2. good one...this post. And you are absolutely right about people leaving when they get tired of getting manipulated. But I think when that girl hits 18 and if she still hasn't figured it out then it would be your right and obligation to fill her in on the the fact that you not only see this side of her personality, you see the consequences and tell her in no uncertain terms what they are..and ask her if she wants to live with them. Pay attention over the next few years and you can use points to illustrate. It may be the best thing that was ever done for her.
    As for paddling...I agree as long as it's a person who has a great deal of self control. We were paddled in middle school by Mr. Richardson's 'board of education'. It was something of a right of passage.
    I got it once for throwing snowballs.
    I was wearing leather 'balloon' pants...(ahhh the 80's). I was still cold from outside and it also made me 'cool'! When I was asked if it hurt, and I said
    (It hurt)

  3. Thank you, Chris. You are absolutely right about that talk when she hits 18. By then her dad's opinion won't matter. If he gets mad, he gets mad. She will be an adult and able to make her own choices. Telling her the facts about her choices is a parental obligation. Since I am the only one who sees it, I am the only one who can share it. What she does what that information... that is yet another choice.

  4. My heart aches reading these letters, but your love shines through. I hope someday the kids read them and appreciate what you are trying to do for them.

  5. Write her a letter...not this critical, albeit honest, letter...but a positive letter JUST letting her know that you love her and will always be there for her. Tell her you understand her choices and that it hasn't been easy but that this may ultimately make her stronger. This girl needs support and love. Tell her you're on her side! A letter that doesn't pinpoint her weaknesses but that accentuates her strengths and focuses on your love as a bridge to triumph. Give her this letter. Arrange at least once a week where you can do something she would find enjoyable provided she wants this whether this be going to a movie or hanging around playing scrabble. Just the two of you... Can you do this? C-man has found a channel for the pain, but help the girl...sounds like she needs it...and get some sort of professional advice - maybe from one of those state-run helplines - cause it sounds to me that the situation is a little volatile and needs a lot of patience and cool handling on the adults' part.

  6. Great post, as usual. I have a feeling that there will definitely come a time when you'll get a chance to say these things to H-Girl and C-Man. I can't say that they'll have the impact that you would hope for them to have, but that's not on you. As you said, H-Girl has had several years of modeling her father's behavior already and that will not be an easy barrier to breach. But the real reason that I think it's necessary for you to "say" these things at some point, is for YOUR benefit, not theirs.

    When we're given the opportunity to purge the old ghosts that have been plaguing us for years, there's this unbelievable freedom that's achieved. You certainly owe yourself at least that. You've earned it.

    You've made great choices in the people you've chosen to be the "recipients" of these 29 letters. I know they haven't been easy for you to write, but you've handled them with grace and eloquence and most of all, heart. I believe in Karma and you have some great Karma coming your way from this project, turned therapy session. I'm actually anxious to see what today's letter will be. At the same time, I hate to see it come to an end. I'll miss them, and I'm not even the one writing them! LOL

    Take good care, be well and be blessed.


  7. These posts to the kids break my heart, because I see in them YOUR heart, your struggle, your desire to be a mother figure and step in and show them what a positive influence in their life looks like.

    The fact that their father is manipulative and still doesn't see that his daughter is copying his behavior is so sad.

    I hope things get better for the kids, Robin. I really do.

  8. this letter makes me want to cry it is heartbreaking I so hope you get through to her and she understands what your trying to tell her and she does not have to learn an even harder lesson...Robin you are so inspiring


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