Friday, April 6, 2007

Slow learner

There's a Buddhist prayer that says, "Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed...." Which is so profound and true, and SO hard to live by. Of all the organized religions in the world, Buddhism makes the most sense to me. So you'd think I'd automatically try a Buddhist approach when facing trouble. But you would be wrong. Like most of us, when trouble looks me in the eye I either, 1.Run away, or 2.Try to beat it into submission. Neither approach has a high success rate.

Recently, as some of you have read here, trouble is mostly taking the form of my newly teenaged daughters, with their boyfriends, their massive self absorption, etc. Our newest challenge has been the near-constant presence of their new best friend (or "bff, lol!" as they would say). She's not the easiest kid to warm to; her affect is a tart combo of sullenness and suspicion. Anyway, the few waking moments she's not around, they're IMing or text-messaging her and begging us to let her come over. (They're not allowed to go over to her house; she comes from a messed up home. Mom has multiple kids by multiple men and the current man is abusive. Friend lives part time with her grandma.) Although it may be coincidental, their friendship with her has coincided with a bad case of sudden-onset grade slippage here.

For a while I tried option #1, Be cool and hope it would go away. Utter failure. Which led me to #2, and I tried laying down the law with the twins -- friends over only two school nights a week, one sleepover per weekend.... Rules and consequences are things I believe in. But I also know they work better when they're laid down calmly and happily. Which I wasn't. Which the twins most certainly weren't. They were mutinous, I was irritated. Fun was being had by all. So last night, after she'd already slept over the previous night and hung around all day with no mention of ever going home, I stood outside the girls' door and tried to figure out what the heck I was going to do, because, of course I understand that there are very good reasons for her not to want to go back to her home. I just had to find a way to make it all work in our home.

And finally (better late than never is my life motto) it occurred to me to try embracing the situation. So I walked into that room and invited her to stay overnight again. Then I told all three girls that, as far as I was concerned, she could live with us as long as my girls did their chores, took their place as part of this family. And the surface of their sullen friend seemed to melt away and she gave me the soft, shy smile of an insecure girl. And my heart opened up and took her in. My girls rushed to assure me that they would do thier jobs, and yes, they would play with their younger sister, and they would walk the dog and clean the bathrooms. Which they did, and their friend helped them.

These solutions always seem so humiliatingly obvious, once I've found them, and I always feel like a nitwit that it's taken me so long. But hey, at least I got here. Good thing too, because she's been here for 48 straight hours and so far not a peep about going home. Well, I keep telling Kirk that I wish we had more kids.....

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