Question: Dear Luise: I’ve come to your website on a prior occasion to talk about my strained relationship with my mother. The advice you had gave me was very inspiring and reassuring, but I seem to be at a loss again once more. I’m about to be seventeen in May. I’m currently doing much better in school, and I’m expected to maintain an internship next year at a local veterinary hospital – and I hope to join the military as an Army Veterinarian when I graduate from college. However – this past year, a lot has changed around here. My grandparents (whom I live with, along with my mother) are planning on moving to a retirement community once I graduate next year. That was the deal, I stay here in my home until I graduate. My relationship with my mother is very strained, she isn’t by law standards a fit mother, alcohol and other substances plague her (she is open about the alcohol, and I found out about the others, secretly on my own. She does not know I know – and I honestly wish to keep it that way), and while she means well, she often puts me as the enemy and blames me for her troubled relationship with her parents as well as my aunts and uncles. Personally, even though we’ve always been second-class to our family due to her actions I’ve worked around it and earned respect from my close aunts and my grandparents. They all support me and care for me and offer to help me with whatever I need to do. Something my mother has never done (and likely never will do.) In my previous question to you, I asked how to live with my mother in this struggle and the advice I received was to live with it for as long as I have to, then I’m free. Which is great advice, and it worked out wonderfully, as I made my own goals and my own plans for the future – one without my mother. Things are changing, quickly. My mother is now looking for an apartment. I’ve expressed to her very strongly my desire to stay with my grandparents but she refuses, and says that I will go where she goes without any sympathy for how I feel about the situation. My grandparents are like my parents to me, they raised me wisely, and taught me much more than my mom had, they assist me with work, they buy me groceries, and I eat dinner with them (not my mom) every single night. My mother, is never home as she works on the weekend nights and spends a lot of her time out with her friends. Needless to say, I appreciate this time, because I love my grandparents and any time away from my mom is good news. I know for a fact that if I really wanted to, Maryland law allows anyone over the age of sixteen to petition for the right to change child custody, and with a guardian willing to take me in, and proper evidence to support that my current parent isn’t adequate, I will succeed. I know for a fact I will never be happy at my mom’s future house. I will be alone, and separate from my true family and my true home. My family is what gives me my inspiration to do better in school and stay on the right path; without them I fear I will not be able to keep up alone. However – there is a down side. My mother is a single mom, who is very emotionally strained due to what I presume is years of substance and alcohol abuse, and she’s been outcasted from my family for years for being irresponsible and a reasonably ‘unfit’ mother. This personality is very bipolar to me, one moment she will act as if she is my friend, and the next she’s trying to find a way to get me in trouble with my grandparents. Often it’s though I am the adult and she is the teenager even though she just celebrated her fifty-first birthday. Without me, however. She has nothing. I know for a fact and she’s told me before that she would probably be dead right now if she didn’t have me. I suppose that meant keeping her on a better (less dangerous) path. I do not wish ill upon my own mother – but I can’t seem to make the decision to put my foot down and tell her I will fight to stay in my home. I wish she would just allow me to stay for this one year. I’m afraid that if I go through with it and fight her for it, that I will ruin my relationship with her or worse, and her alienation from our family will be more permanent, and more final with me deciding to stay. But I also don’t want to go. I really, really need to stay here with a family that loves me and cares for me. Where I know I will be happy. We also, do not have a strong relationship, my mother and I. Where as I feel like I can get her the help she needs without sacrificing my needs. She has relied on me for most of what I can remember for advice and guidance, and sort of ended my childhood abruptly making me fit into the adult role. I’m not sure what the best decision is, and that’s why I came to you once again for your advice. I apologize for the length of this message – but I wanted to explain the full story before I do. Thank you in advanced for any time you give me in this, and I appreciate anything immensely. S.
Answer: Dear S.: It sounds to me like a darned if you do, darned if you don’t situation. I am so proud of you that I can hardly stand it and we haven’t even met! Unfortunately, the best answer may be the worse. Please notice the word “may” because I don’t know, of course.
If you move with your mom and put up with her until you can legally leave, it will undoubtedly be tough, but at the end of that time you will be free without having initiated all of the negativity in the family that taking legal action in the courts now would bring about. My guess is that the stress over forcing your freedom might well be worse for you than moving with her…when what you want and need to do is focus on school. You don’t have to sever your relationship with your wonderful grandparents…you can visit and soak up their love and respect. You sure have mine.
You aren’t your mom’s mom. What you have had to deal with as the result of her struggles, poor choices and their consequences has been a long, and rough path. Many girls your age are in high drama about which make-up looks best and the new guy in class. You have had to leave that fun, teenage place to become the responsible adult. You have done extremely well in spite of all of this and you have a plan that is both impressive and doable for your future.
What I admire the most about you is you have not taken on the victim role of bitterness and helplessness, which can be paralyzing and is often used as an excuse for non-achievement. You are facing injustice with strength and courage and are focused on creating a life for yourself that will be both rewarding and make a contribution to society. I honestly think there will be fun for you in the future, too.
Don’t be concerned about the length of your questions. I am here to listen and to care. And I do. Blessings, Luise