[Solved] On the edge of Sanity
This may get a little long winded.. So much has happened in 1 week that I feel like I have totally failed with my 14 year old..
A little background, my 14 year old daughter lives with me in Maine, her mother lives in Arkansas. This was not a court order or anything, simply how things happened. The divorce between her mother and I was 10 years ago and took a total of 15 minutes and that was because the judge spoke for 10 of those minutes wishing all her divorce cases were that simple. No child support, no visitation schedule, no who has what for custody and residency.. we agreed that while in our care we would provide for our daughter (my second divorce was not so lucky) For the time being my daughter lives with me from the second week of August till the third week of June and spends the summer with her mom.
November 26th, 2018 my daughter meet "the love of her life", being a typical threatened father by having another ape enter the territory I immediately set boundaries till I got to know this kid a little better. As time went by I relaxed a little, even offered to bring him to my home (with limitations of course) so that I could get to know him better. During this time my daughters grades started falling because she was spending too much free time with this kid. I made a deal with her to get her school work caught up and keep it there and we could invite him over for a cook out or something very soon.
Last Thursday I got a call from the school nurse telling me that my daughter had a fever and needed to go home. I work almost an hour from home so I called my girlfriend to go pick her up and this was the beginning of the end. While at school the Principal called my girlfriend and daughter into the office to let her know that they were confiscating the school issued laptop because my daughter has been trading nude pictures with her boyfriend.. I got this news from my GF while at work... About 45 min later I got a call at work again from the school telling me that a student came forward with pictures of my daughter cutting her upper thigh.. I called my boss and told him I needed to go home. I called the police about the photos. Later that evening I got a friend request and message from one of my daughters friends letting me know that my daughter and her boyfriend were planning on running away next week (would make it this week) together and had planned to hide out at her house.
The pictures back and forth are not illegal, they are only 3 years apart in age so there was nothing the police could do, the officer came over and talked with my daughter about her choices and planned to talk to the boyfriend too.. Skip ahead to last Tuesday, I have been letting my daughter stay after school on Tuesdays to catch up with her teachers about past due homework with the understanding that she was to be in the front lobby area (mostly because the office has a clear view of that area) to wait for me to pick her up at 3:30pm.. I showed up at 2:45pm and went into the lobby, no daughter.. went around the school.. no daughter.. had her paged and she comes trotting down from an area where I had already been. When confronted she claimed she was in the bathroom. Later that afternoon I went to her room to check on her and she was crying, stating that her BF broke up with her cause he was scared of what i was going to do to him(mind you I have never made a threat against him and even offered to bring him into my home) Later that evening the police showed up, apparently my daughter had told her friend that she wanted to hurt herself and her friend notified the police.. since this was the second time in less than a week they wanted to talk one on one with her and my world fell apart that day.
She had a cellphone that I had taken away because of a few acts of teenage rebellion (caught sneaking out of the house, stole a leftover beer from a summer cookout, was hiding a vape pen in her room) these were over a 6 month time frame and I understood that she would be acting out, she had just gotten back from her mothers where rules are a little more relaxed.
Lo and behold her boyfriend gave her a cellphone and a facebook account that I was not aware of (she would get random inspections of messages, posts, etc) and the messages between them would have a made a porn star blush. On Tuesdays they have been sexually active at school, requests for sexual favors by him before school, during school.. This isnt my little girl from last year!! She has been cutting her upper thighs for the past few months.. and I mean cutting (I saw a pic from the phone her BF gave her) it looked like she slide 20 feet on tar with no protection... She is currently in the crisis care center.. it was one of the hardest choices I have had to make and this is day 2 now that I have been crying, wondering where did I go wrong? I have always been a fair dad, my rules are not super strict, she has 4 responsibilities.. keep her room cleaned, laundry caught up, homework done and dishes (she was doing dishes as a way to pay for her phone since she doesnt have a job.. this was to teach her responsibility) On Saturdays she got to go to work with me and do some dusting and window washing.. in return she made $20 (per week) to spend as she wanted.. I gave her space, she had her own room (down in the "cave" area so she has a big TV and a pool table.. no alcohol.. we drink maybe 6 to 10 times a year and that is usually when we are having a BBQ party or super bowl or something) Everyday after work I would ask her about her day.. I would race home from work early to get to her concerts (she loves chorus) I was actively involved in her life. Where did I screw up? Everyone (school councilors, nurse practitioners, crisis center psychologist, the police, family.. etc.. ) I have talked to says that I have been doing all the right things but then how come this happened?
As I write this, I have no more tears.. my heart hurts and my head feels like a huge fog.. I cannot seem to produce a solid thought.. just a bunch of random thoughts that kind of collide together as if it were 10 huge puzzles all mixed into one pile and I am trying to put them together..
This is such a sad turn of events for you and your daughter. I absolutely get why you feel that you've screwed up... you're a good dad and as such, your first reaction would be to blame yourself... that's what we parents do... but sometimes we just have to accept that some things are just out of our control and nothing we could have done could have stopped the chain of events from happening.
When our children enter their teens, it's normal to start letting go and allowing them to become more independent from us, it's part of growing up. In these times of social media, there are so many outside forces at play, children are more prone to damaging influences than ever before and as parents, its ever harder to monitor and maintain control.
My eldest son has a serious mental illness, I still look for things that I might have done, to explain why this has happened to him...I still want to blame myself, after all these years... but my two other children are absolutely fine, well balanced humans... so I accept that it's probably just the luck of the draw, it's just the hand that's been dealt. We all have to accept that things happen that we have no control over, there's no fault or blame to apportion... we just have to accept the reality of it.
Your girl will need you to be strong for her, in your own time you will start to feel less broken, take it one day at a time and understand that the pain will ease, and you will grow strong in the broken places... you have to you've got an important job to do, your child needs you.
Please look after yourself, get some regular sleep and make sure you eat regularly too, even if it's a little, but more often. Go do something that you enjoy and don't feel guilty about it... it's part of recovering and getting back to something resembling normality. There are some truly awesome places in Maine, where you can go and get lost in the beauty of it all... your soul could do with some of that right now, nature is so restorative.
Be kind to yourself... all the best.