Pretty much from the moment Youngest Daughter found out she was expecting a baby, she began thinking about creating a home for her, her baby and her partner. Obviously, as they are so young, we knew this would be difficult, and I offered them my home for as long as they needed it. This all seemed fine for a while, but then other adults kicked in.
As I’ve mentioned before, the early days of her pregnancy were difficult – the toxic cocktail of teenage hormones and pregnancy hormones, coupled with the fact that E had finally started responding to her texts, meant that, for a while Youngest Daughter completely rejected me. I was everything she disliked; I was doing everything wrong. Every suggestion I made was irrelevant compared to what her Midwife, her Dad and her partner’s parents had said.
Whilst this was hurtful, I knew she wasn’t herself. She was young and vulnerable, and I was terrified of pushing her away at such a difficult time of her life. She was also behaving in a way completely unlike herself. Youngest Daughter is one of the most loving, compassionate and caring people I know. She’s always been fiery, but never unreasonable. So, I gritted my teeth, avoided arguing, said nothing, when she sent me volleys of angry texts. Under any other circumstances, I would have shouted back, told her clearly why I disagreed with her, point out how hurtful she was being to me and suggest that she thought about what she was doing. But I felt that this would just make things worse, so I kept quiet.
One of the only arguments I engaged in with her was about housing She’d apparently been advised, by her Midwife and by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, that she and her partner could be eligible for social housing, but that in order to be accepted onto the priority list, she would have to be evicted from her home She sent me a text telling me this, and assuming that I’d just write her an eviction notice.
To me this was fundamentally wrong. I completely understood their wish to find their own home, but I just wasn’t prepared to lie. I wasn’t prepared to let them jump in front of someone who had a genuine need of emergency housing, someone who didn’t have a loving a secure home to fall back on. I was also not prepared to evict one of my children from my home – it’s something I would never do, something I could never do.
I texted her back trying to explain this and it was like I’d made a declaration of war. I was accused of being selfish, of only refusing to evict them so I could get more money at Court (I explained that e was paying nothing towards her and that the Court wouldn’t change this), I was accused of emotional blackmail and hypocrisy, I was, basically the worst person in the world.
I remained steadfast in my refusal to evict them. I made it clear that I would do everything and anything I could to help them find a home, but that I just wasn’t prepared to play the system in that way. I stopped responding to her angry texts. I tried to speak to her, but she avoided me. I explained again and again how much I loved her. But to her, I was ruining her life, wrecking her baby’s chances of a home, making things unnecessarily difficult.
In the end, I just refused to engage in the argument, and eventually, it went away. As she progressed into the second trimester of her pregnancy, whirlwind of hormones that had engulfed her seemed to calm down and the Youngest Daughter seemed to be herself again – it was like the sun coming out. We talked about finding her a house, and I she seemed happy to wait until she and her partner could find a private rental and seemed happy to stay with me until she did. I felt like I had my daughter back. I did still have to grit my teeth, and assume my calm face, when she talked about her wonderful her Dad was (by now we’d been to Court and he’d reneged on everything he’d agreed to, and I was facing another court date), but she seemed happy again, engaged with the world again, so I was happy for her.
In January she told me that she and har partner were going to stay at her partner’s parents’ house for a week, to dog-sit whilst his parents were on holiday. I didn’t really think too much about it – in fact I saw it as an opportunity to get into her room and give it a good clean. So, I hugged her and told her I’d see her next week.
A week went by and I texted her to ask what day she was coming back. She replied saying her partner’s parents weren’t back yet and she’d be home ‘in a few days’. After two weeks, I began to worry, I was only communicating with her by text (she doesn’t answer her phone) and all her replies about coming home were vague and non-committal. As we got into week three, I was worried sick. I texted her telling her I loved her and asking what was going on.
She replied, saying that she hadn’t said anything before, because she knew I’d be upset, but her Midwife had made a referral and she and her partner were living in temporary accommodation ten miles way and that they were hoping to get a house to move into before the baby came.
When I discovered E’s first affair, it was like the ground disappeared from beneath my feet, I never thought I’d feel that again, but as read that text I felt like I was falling, plunging downwards, again.
I had so many questions. What had they said or done to get this referral? Where were they living (Youngest Daughter wouldn’t tell me her address)? How on earth did her Midwife and the other professionals looking after her, think that putting a pregnant 17 year old into a bedsit, ten miles away from family and friends, with her partner working all day – meaning she would be alone – was preferable to being in a secure home, where she was loved and supported and had her family and friends around her? What had they said to these professionals about life at my home that had convinced them that temporary (homeless) accommodation was the better option for them? I felt a massive sense of betrayal. How had this all been arranged with no reference to me? Why had no-one spoken to me? I’m her Mum. I’ve always loved and protected her. I knew she was 17 and that there was no legal obligation on anyone to consult me, but everything had been taken out of my hands by other adults who felt they knew better than me what was best for my daughter.
I was stunned and shocked and I was frightened of losing her completely.
Initially I responded with a volley of questions. Was she ok? Was she safe? Where was she? How had she got the referral? Her answers were vague but smiley. She told me she loved me but that this was best for her and her baby. I tried hard not to be cross or confrontational (I knew this could lose me her for good), but I wanted to shout at her, argue with her, tell her what a bloody stupid thing this was. Most of all though I wanted to hug her, tell her I loved her, wrap her up and protect her from the world. I wanted my feisty, stubborn, argumentative, determined, beautiful daughter home again.
After a few days, I realised that there was nothing I could do. All I could offer was to be there when she needed me. I also realised that she was always going to follow her own path. That determined stubbornness that I was so proud of, that drove me mad, was exactly what had propelled her down this path. I remembered the times I’d dissuaded her from things she’d wanted to do, and that, actually, I’d been wrong on those occasions and that I should have let her choose her own path. I decided to trust her.
It’s hard. I love her so much. I miss her constant singing. I miss her mad energy. I miss her random conversations about You Tubers. My home has lost a little piece of its heart and is missing a vibrant part of its energy. It’s strange just being me and the boys. It feels unnaturally calm and quiet without her. I’d give anything to yell upstairs for her to keep the singing volume down, or moan at her about the dirty dishes in her bedroom.
We’ve got through so much as a family, and we’ll get through this. Youngest Daughter has promised me she’ll let me know if she needs me, and she still wants me on standby for when the baby is born. The love is still there. There’s no ‘falling out’. I just miss her.
Sometimes the hardest part of parenting is knowing when and how to let go. I’m not sure that I’ll ever accept that this was the right time, I’m not sure if I’m doing it right, but I have to trust Youngest Daughter on this one.