Dear Abby – My Daughter, My Life
Today was a strange day. A friend I use to hang out with in high school found me on Facebook. He requested me as a friend and we sent quick messages back and forth, until I saw this:
My daughter found me after 16 years from a closed adoption. I’m worried about her and I need help as a new dad. Do you have a few minutes so I can pick your brain?
We have been on the phone for over an hour. I asked him if he wrote everything down, but he said not everything, I said a lot. I promised I would write a post for him to refer to. I took a look at her MySpace account and gave him my assessment.
A 16 year old girl: put up her phone number, some raunchy poetry, pictures at a rave with different guys. The first thing I told my friend: she isn’t doing anything different than what we were doing when we were her age. We just didn’t have the internet to post, we didn’t have cell phones, and we didn’t have raves.
Steps To Get Her To Adulthood
1. Do not be her “friend”. She sought you out because she is looking for her father. She knows she is out of control and she is looking for someone to help her. Every moment she grew up she thought about her “real dad”. Every time she had a fight with her step father and and mother and second step father….she thought to herself: it wouldn’t be like this if I was with my dad!
My friend then tells me that he was adopted. I said, “Then remember every thought you had internally about being adopted and you know she is thinking all of the same things you did. You can meet her on that common ground.” He also told me how great it was for the first time to be speaking to someone who shared his same blood. I imagine that would be powerful.
2. Tell her you only put her up for adoption because in your heart you believed it was the best decision for her life. You wanted her to have a stable two parent home. Not a day went by that you didn’t think of her and love her with all your heart. That you want to hear everything about her life that you missed, every thought she has, and you will just sit and listen.
3. Do not tell her anything about yourself that makes you not stand up as a role model. Do not tell her about the girlfriend in your life you are shacking up with. Do not tell her that your girlfriend burned all your ID and you don’t know how to get out of the country you are living in. Just fix all those things. In the meantime, work on getting her to you. When she shows up, make sure you have your girlfriend stay somewhere else with her friends. You do not have to spend a lot of money, you just have to spend time. Go to coffee shops, parks, free museums, and listen. She needs you to make her whole, you do not depend on a little girl to make you complete.
4. She is dating a 20 year old boy because she is trying to replace her father figure. You can not stop that. You tell her you want to hear all about him and listen. Remember every move you make and how you behave is going to determine the next person she dates. If you do not fix this now then when she is 20 she will have a sugar daddy. She will always be looking to replace the father figure if you do not represent yourself according to her psychological needs.
5. If you are abusing alcohol or drugs, do not answer the phone when you are intoxicated. It is better to call her back when you are sober than to answer her call immediately. She doesn’t need to hear her father abusing the same problems that she is experiencing. If you need to get sober before she gets there go to 90 meetings in 90 days before you see her. Since she has already been to a re-hab, you both could go to meetings together.
6. Focus on education. Make her education priority number one. No one can ever take away your education. Tell her that. Ask to help her with her homework. In fact, I’ve been thinking about Google Wave, and that would be the perfect forum for parents distant from their children to help them with their homework. She is 16 years old and before you know it she will need to be thinking about what she is going to do for college. If her grades are not great, she can begin with taking CLEP tests for $95.00 a test and and the cost of an on-line book. She will be able to test up to 30 credits finishing her first year of college, the most inexpensive way possible. Once she needs to go to the next step, there is community colleges and on-line courses in which she can apply for scholarships and federal loans.
7. You are the adult. Do not make any excuses. Figure out a way to make things happen. You are smart, you know how to communicate, do what it takes to get along with her mother and do what is best for the child that the two of you created. You created a life, treat that life with honor and respect and she will grow up to be just fine.