Where and who does a mother turn to when she loses control of a rebellious teenager?
My first challenge as a mother of a teen-age daughter started when April Joy, my first born, found interest outside of her family circle. Innocuous girls’ sleepovers and birthday parties with classmates in the elementary grades and middle school opened the floodgates of arguments such as, “Michelle’s parents let her go to the movies, why can’t I?” or, “Dad said I can go ….”
That was only the beginning. In the ninth grade, she dropped out of her piano lessons. I found comfort in the thought that she was interested in being a cheerleader. To me, that was good, thinking it will make her focus her attention on her school because one cannot be a cheerleader if one’s grade is below C average.
However, a dashing seventeen-year-old, named Brian Alberts, who was three years her senior spotted her with cheerleaders practicing every day and that catapulted the corruption of an innocent teenager at fourteen. He was very attractive to her because he drove a pick-up truck. Suddenly, she did not want me to drop her off or pick her up anymore. When asked who gave her rides, she claimed one of the cheerleaders did. I had my suspicions but kept it to myself until I could verify it. Nonetheless, she became more defiant. I could not say a word to her without her blurting out obscenities. Where does she get all the power from, I mused. Like a hawk guarding her young, I went out of my way to drop her off to school and to pick her up after school. Nothing fazed her. She got more obstinate and in open defiance to house rules.
One afternoon, I called home from work to check on her younger sisters, eleven-year-old Kara and six-year-old Gemma. April Joy (I call her Jette) picked up the phone. She wanted to know if I have money because she was going to an “away” game in Poway and needed $15. I said, “No. I don’t have any money.” I just wanted to see how far she was going to argue with me over it. She did not. I guessed right. She turned to her father and voila! Off she went.
After I came home from work, I took Kara and Gemma to their piano lessons. Then, we proceeded to my sister’s house for supper and watched the movie, Born on the 4th of July. We came home around eleven thirty and Jette was not home.
At one o’clock, when my husband, George, rolled over in bed, I threw a question to him, “Is your teen-age daughter home?” He did not answer, and I dropped the subject. That should be enough to make him think.
An hour later, the phone rang. He jumped out of bed to pick it up but before he could get to the phone, the ringing stopped. The phone was on my side of the bed. When it rang again, I picked it up and handed it to him. He couldn’t hear well from this phone, so he said, “Wait a minute,” and went to the kitchen. I could hear him say, “What’s going on?” and then, “Okay. I’ll be right there!” Then he came back to the bedroom and into the closet to get dressed. When I noticed what he was doing, I said, “Where are you going?”
“To the Police Station to pick her up!”
He came back an hour later. While he was undressing, I said, “Is she alright?”
“I’ll talk to you tomorrow, I am too upset right now.”
I gathered from Jette the following day they were joyriding with “a guy who has a pick-up truck.” When I pressed her to tell me who this guy with the truck was, she played dumb with me, saying she did not know his name! Umm, yeah?
Supposedly, they got into a fight with another group and the police picked them all up. She mentioned something about having to appear in juvenile court. Ha! You need my help, don’t you? In silence I taunted her.
The next day, Saturday, George acted as if nothing happened. He drove Jette to Brian’s house mid-morning and picked her up at night. Sunday, he drove her there again. When I questioned Kara where her dad was, “He drove her to Brian’s,” she said.
Gee, nothing like being an enabler. I was beside myself. My teeth were gnashing but I did not want to over-react. Playing it cool was something I prided myself with in the midst of a brewing turmoil.
“Why is Brian not picking her up anymore?” I pursued.
“Brian has been grounded and restricted from driving,” Kara explained.
Three days had lapsed, and George has not mentioned this subject to me at all. Now I know where my beloved daughter is getting her power from. Where else but from her doting father, who has given in to all her whims and demands. Now I know I am fighting a losing battle. When my husband gets in the middle, I smell trouble. She tested my patience to the limits because she knew I could not win. She was ditching classes and signing either my name or my husband’s name in an excuse letter she prepared. I became a detective overnight. I went to school and found out she has not been in school for a week. I called George at work and asked him if he was aware of what was going on.
As I was talking to him, I was unaware April was listening in. She realized I had caught up to her shenanigan. She grabbed the receiver from my hand and hit me with it. I accidentally hit her back as I was trying to protect my face and tried to hold her in an attempt to reason with her.
On that rainy night, she ran down the street, shouting obscenities. After she was gone, Kara informed me she stopped a Pizza deliveryman and rode with him. Do I want to rehash all these in detail? Not really except for the fact her father and I had to deal with a visit from a Police Officer responding to a report of child abuse and the subsequent court appearances at the Juvenile Court. I couldn’t handle the stress she had put me through and I accepted the Child Protective Services (CPS) recommendation to let her stay temporarily with her best friend, Jackie Nava and her family. This was giving her a chance to find herself and come home on her own terms.
But she was not finished yet. She tried to manipulate Jackie’s father, as well, to give herself a leeway to stay connected with Brian, the gallant young man who stole her heart from me. When that did not work, she left and was missing. With due diligence, I found her at Brian’s house. This resulted in a conference between Brian’s parents with George and I and a social worker. Mr. Alberts flapped his wings over the manhood of his son, while I grieved over the loss of my daughter's virginity. Realizing they were contributing to the delinquency of a minor, they agreed to appear at the next hearing. It was determined she needed to be removed from their surrounding and influence and be housed where parental guidance is the norm. April suggested staying with my best friend, Minda Corral, because their youngest son, Jeff, was like a brother to her and we consented.
It’s too painful an ordeal to relate. Suffice it to say it took us nine grueling months to see her back home. It was a dark point in my mothering where I questioned my abilities in raising good, dependable and Godly citizens of the community. In my helplessness, the only thing I could do was to go down on my knees every night with Kara and Gemma, to pray for her safety.
Here is what I wrote in my journal on January 12, 1993 after she has been back from her nine-month escapade:
I have an experience to share that is very dear to my heart. And I want to thank the Lord for his wonderful ways in showing me he loves me and my family.
Sunday morning at 6:30, the alarm clock went off. My husband turned over and said, “Are you singing with the choir this morning?”
“I’m still debating if I am or not,” I sleepily muttered and dosed off.
I did not get up until nine and I was really feeling lazy. It was a nice morning to just stay in bed and not do anything. I got up and said to George, “Do you feel like going to church today? Maybe we can just stay home and relax.”
He did not give me an answer one way or another. Then, I went to the kitchen to find Jette fixing her breakfast and Gemma was watching cartoons.
“What if we just stay home today and kick back? It’s raining and it’s cold.”
“Yeah!” Gemma says.
“I don’t think God will accept that excuse, Mom. What is an hour of your time each week you give back to God compared to all the time you have for yourself during the week?” Jette said. Boy, did my ears perk up. I couldn’t believe I was hearing my own line coming out of my wayward daughter’s mouth.
“I know, Jette. I wholeheartedly agree with you.” I replied, but deep in my heart, I still wanted to stay home.
Ten minutes later, my husband came out, dressed and ready for church.
“Gem and Kara, we better get ready. Daddy is ready for church and we are not…” I nudged the other two. With that, Gemma, Kara and I got ready in a flash.
As it turned out, April decided to attend Manna Christian Fellowship where her new fling, Jeremy, regularly attended and she compelled Kara to go with her. We allowed them to go there, although I really wanted to see us go to the same church together. But, as long as they go to church, that’s all that matters to me. I joined the choir for the second service. Was I glad I did. Michael Roberson, the Choir Director, said if you were not there that morning, he would not let you join the choir anymore.
After the service, my sister, Hannie, and her crew came to the house for brunch, as we usually do. I told them I almost did not go to church that morning. Had it not been for Jette, who lectured me on giving a portion of my time back to the Lord and seeing George dressed for church ahead of me.
“I was going anyway, whether you were coming or not!” George piped in.
That really made my day. I believe, with my patience, prayer, and unconditional love, the power of the Lord is working in my family’s lives, especially with Jette, the rebel and her dad, the enabler. They are the biggest burdens in my heart and I see God’s spirit working in their souls. I praise the Lord for his mighty power and redeeming love. My spirit is lifted to heaven and I am blessed. Blessed be the name of the Lord - my Savior, my fortress, my strength!