One Girl

Imagine a 15-year-old girl. A typical, opinionated teenager.  One girl, who, in the course of a school year, spirals out of control to the point her friends are worried she will commit suicide.

Sounds like a Lifetime movie or a YA novel, doesn’t it?

For me, it’s happening closer to home. This girl is part of a group of my daughter’s friends, though she and my daughter haven’t been close. I met her last Fall, and she seemed like a bubbly teenager, laughing with her friends.

I can only go on second and third-hand knowledge of what has been going on since, but what I hear is horrifying. What really scares the crap out of me is that I believe this scenario is anything but rare.

Gradually, this girl has become verbally and physically abusive to her friends and has had the inevitable clashes with teachers. There are problems at home. She minimizes everyone else’s difficulties while maximizing hers. She has a history of threatening suicide. Her friends are alternately pissed off at her and worried about her. My daughter says they just don’t know what to do.

I listen to this and all the other tidbits of information gleaned from my daughter and wonder what is the truth and what is rumor? And hate that I have to think of it all that way. I’ve encouraged my daughter to try to convince her friends to talk to the school councilor so the school is aware of how bad the situation is.

We don’t really know this girl well and have never met her family. My information is not first hand, but intuition tells me if even half of what I’ve heard is true, this kid is going to fall. Hard. As a parent, I feel something needs to be done, but wonder just how far my responsibility goes in this. On one hand I feel like a realist. On the other, I feel like a coward.

We are a small community of around 8000. I grew up here and my husband and I moved back several years ago. I stopped saying things like, “that doesn’t happen in our little town,” back when I was in highschool. Drugs, drinking, teenage pregnancy, rape, murder, suicide, child abuse, neglect, hunger. These things have long been seen here and are a fact of life everywhere. Sad, but true.

While it’s definitely not all “unicorns and glitter” at our house, my husband and I try to raise our daughters to feel loved and secure and to think on their feet and not feel pressure to do things they are uncomfortable with.  But they are really bombarded and it’s all very up-close and personal. And the schools? Well, I honestly think there are so many kids with so many problems they can’t keep up with it all.

I’m going to go on a personal rant now. It’s a rather large leap from one subject to the next, but it does come together in the end.

As I see it, in a very broad sense, the general break down of families is the main root of many problems facing our global society today.

(Families are incredibly complex, but for my purpose here, family, to me, can be traditional or nontraditional, with or without blood relations, but is bound by ties of love and respect and nurturing of the next generation. Sounds kind of clinical, but I needed a starting point.)

I see so many people who don’t know their own hearts and minds marrying (or not) the same type of people. Incapable of caring for anyone but themselves and passing on these beliefs to their children. Most are parents who don’t know how to parent. There is very little passing on of knowledge or skills to equip children to become adults. (Are there some who think that only schools are responsible for this? That’s a scary thought.)

It’s seems we have generation after generation of people who hate themselves and are incapable of caring for others in any significant way. It’s a slow-moving, pervasive, society-undermining shift, in which common sense and empathy and love are casualties.

And it filters down into every relationship in society. The relationship between student and teacher. Between a boss and an employee. Manufacturer and consumer. Doctor and patient. Government and the governed.

There is very little committment to anyone or anything. How often can you trust that you are told the truth about something? And respect – what’s that?! Too many people know nothing about security or stability or integrity. Typically, these are all things that were first learned within a family.

That isn’t to say there aren’t people who pull themselves out of horrible family lives and experiences and somehow learn these things themselves. Their remarkable stories are heard on tv, internet, and in magazines and books. But I think they are becoming the exceptions. When the trickle becomes a flood, there aren’t enough sandbags to keep it contained.

Alright, how does this all relate to my original subject?

As I said before, I know nothing about this girl’s family. But I can ask myself: What has gone on in this child’s life that has caused her to change so dramatically in the space of a few months? Are her parents aware of it and trying to get her help or are they so wrapped up in their own problems they don’t see hers? Do they even care? There have been incidents at school, but do they see her as just a disciplinary problem or are they aware of deeper problems in her life? Do the adults in her life actually SEE her and KNOW her?

* * *

Sorry. I had to walk away and calm down. I’m not usually this pessimistic with my posts, but this one girl’s problems just threw a spotlight on many things that have been rattling around in my head over the last few years.

Obviously, there are no simple answers. I guess we do the best we can in our own tiny chunks of the world. Love our kids (and grandkids and stepkids and whatever other permutation there is). Be there to listen and answer questions. Protect them as best we can without smothering them. A million other things, both great and small. And trust that we’ve taught them the skills to navigate the rapids.

So tell me, have you noticed something similar? Do you see it differently?

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4 comments on “One Girl

  1. Texanne says:

    Nearly all kids–girl kids, anyway–fall into a black hole at age 14 and don’t come out for at least a year. Doesn’t matter how supportive and patient the family is, I swear, it’s hormonal.

    However, some kids do have more bad stuff to deal with than others. Your young acquaintance could be dealing with drug use, mental illness of some other type, or familial dysfunction. Like, are they raping or abusing her in some other way?

    You are you, of course. Personally, I do get involved when children are concerned. Often, to no avail, but a person has to try. Someone needs to listen to this child and try to figure out if her accusations are consistent, which would indicate abuse, or inconsistent, which would indicate drug use or mental illness. Listen, but don’t get drawn into the drama. If someone is in a hole, you throw then a rope, but you don’t jump into the hole with them.

    As for your broader observation: yes, that is exactly the way it seems to me. Are we having a plague of sociopathy? If so, why? Well, perhaps it is because we have, with the help of influencers, “liberated” ourselves from the old “tyrannies” of family, community, church. People are no longer civilized because they have distanced themselves from civilization, and the result is not freedom, but chaos.

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    • ekcarmel says:

      Oh, yes, we are very familiar with that hormonal black hole.

      Rumors of drug use have come up and that was one of my first thoughts in regard the erratic behavior.

      If the girls choose not to go to the school councilor (although I believe they will) I plan to discuss it with him myself, simply as a concerned parent passing on information. This is about my only other choice, since I don’t see her myself (she and my daughter aren’t in any afterschool activities together and she doesn’t visit our house).

      I have to agree with you on our liberation from tradition and its resultant chaos. Excellent point! We do seem to go to extremes, don’t we?

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  2. I don’t know that I would go to anyone unless I saw the behaviour first hand myself. Second or thirdhand is based on other’s perception, not your own which could be entirely different.

    You could invite your daughter’s friends and the girl over for a dessert party, movie day or something similar and talk to the girl.

    Ask in casual ways about how she’s doing and that sort of thing. Let her know you’re there for her to talk to.

    Otherwise you might be causing waves for her when no problem exists except as it pertains to teenage girls. If she is suicidal that’s an entirely different matter, of course, but if possible I would explore the situation before I got authorities involved.

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    • ekcarmel says:

      Dealing with kids and their social lives is like trying to walk through a field of landmines!

      I’ve been very hesitant, despite all I’ve been hearing for the last couple of months, to do anything, for the very reason that it’s all info coming to me 2nd and 3rd hand. Where it made a difference for me was when suicide was brought in. However, last night after questioning my daughter more, the story changed from the girl saying it to “WE were all afraid she’d do suicide.” That third-hand knowledge again. I guess that’s what I get for not questioning deeper. Got me. So. I now don’t plan on doing anything more about this unless something very clear and concrete happens. Btw – I’ve invited the friends, including this girl, and she declined even though the others accepted.

      So, while this “one girl” and her situation seem to have been more inflated than I originally thought, I still think my beliefs regarding families and society in general to be valid.

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