Rule #17 in raising traumatized children is that they will hit you when you’re already down, like the second anniversary of your mother’s death, for example. That combined with teenagers’ complete lack of frontal lobe development are the chief ways in which God punks us.
First, it’s important to not blame my kids for anything I’m about to write. As adults, we have such a long way to go to improve systems and resources for traumatized children, and I’ve written a lot about that. Virtually every system I can think of has failed my kids. Today I want to thank some people, though.
Two days ago, my adult daughter started spiraling, and that always results in me being the bad guy. It’s best to not try to make sense of it, because it doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s part of attachment issues (the mom is always the bad guy.) When spiraling happens, bad things happen, and this time it’s the hacking of every single one of my online accounts. You may ask, “how would your kids know your passwords?” My kids are scrappy, manipulative survivors, because they’ve had to be. It’s virtually impossible to live in an online world, enter your password on your phone or your computer or at the ATM without your kids noticing. Plus, my kids have phones that I pay for, which gives them a bit easier access than if they were strangers. Regardless, it sucks.
So, now I’d like to thank Vickie in Omaha. Vickie works for Paypal. By the time my kids hacked my Paypal account, I’d already been dealing with this for two days. I’d been playing the Whack-A-Mole of monitoring emails and text messages continually to keep an eye on my accounts. Dealing with customer service people is pretty generally frustrating, because I have to explain what is going on and they’re pretty often horrified or judgmental or have no idea what to say or all of the above. For example, when I called AT&T and asked them to lock down my account immediately, because my kid was trying to order new phones, add others to my account, and file an insurance claim on her phone, all while I was driving down the interstate, the customer service representative said, in a tone I can only describe as ignorant condescension, “well, ma’am, have you tried talking to your daughter?” Thanks, dude. Why didn’t I think of that? So, super helpful.
So, back to Vickie in Omaha. When Vickie picked up the phone I quickly went “oh, Vickie sounds like she might be around my age. Maybe Vickie has kids. Maybe Vickie has lived some life.” I was cautiously hopeful.
I said, “Hello. At the risk of embarrassing myself and probable judgment from you, I need to let you know that my adult daughter has hacked my Paypal account and is sending my money to herself and others. Can you help me lock it down ASAP? I’ve already reported the charges and changed my password, but I’d really appreciate you making sure that’s all I need to do.”
She said, in a calm, understanding tone, “Oh, honey. I got you. Let me pull up your account.” I said, “man, thank you. You sound like you understand, and I can’t tell you how valuable that is.”
She said “kids who are hurting have a way of hurting us when we’re already down, too. I hope she feels better, soon.”
It was at this point that I said, “Vickie, I think I was supposed to talk to you today. Today is the second anniversary of my mom’s death.”
She said, “I just lost my mom last year, and her birthday was last week. I lost my dad a year and a half ago.” She laughed and said “I guess that’s what happens when you get old.”
I told her I’d like to hang out and buy her a martini. She said, “did you say martini? That’s my drink!” I said, “I’m telling you, Vickie we were supposed to talk today. I’m sorry about your mom and dad. It doesn’t get easier, by the way. You just learn to integrate it into your life.”
She said she’d raised a nephew who had a really tough time, but who is now doing really well and is a great dad and person. I thanked her for that. By now she had checked everything, fixed it all, and we were finished. I asked if I could email someone to say how fabulous she was, and I did just send that email. But, I think Vickie, and everyone like her, deserves more than an email.
So, thanks to all those beautiful people who have lent an empathetic ear, an “oh, honey, I got you,” or a bone crushing hug to parents who love their kids, are doing their best, and are having a really, really bad day. Always be Vickie.