Our teenage daughter was destroying our marriage. We had always had our ups and downs, but when Kylie turned fourteen, it felt as if our world had ended. The house was like a powder keg, and we couldn’t escape her dark and destructive impact. She was expelled from two schools and went from bad to worse. She developed bulimia, told her psychologist we abused her and smoked weed in the garden.
I was in a total state, and my first instinct was to fix things. I quit my job and put every ounce of energy into trying to heal Kylie and get things right again. I had to hold myself together in front of her and take her torrent of hate and rage, and when Alan got home I would collapse every night. This went on for three years. It came to a head just before her seventeenth birthday. She turned up at a local police station and filed a case of child abuse against me. I was arrested and charged. That night, after posting bail, Alan sat me down and said the words I had dreaded for so long: ‘It’s her or me.’
I went upstairs and packed Kylie’s bags. Alan found her at a friend’s house and he drove her the four hours to my mother’s house in a small town. I still had not seen her since my arrest.
Kylie refused to speak to me for eight months. Not a single word. She came back to drop the charges against me, but she refused to see me. For that entire time, I felt as if my life had ended. I had failed as a mother in the most public and dramatic way, when my life had been nothing but a series of successes before that. But then I realised I could breathe again. I found that I could think properly. Alan and I could speak to each other without wanting to snap from the stress.
After two years, she came home for Christmas. I cried, and she left to catch an early bus back to my mom. She talks to us now and comes home for visits on some weekends. It’s usually hell and I cry for hours when she leaves, desperate to have my baby girl back instead of this angry young woman who hates me. She loves my mom and they have a relationship that she and I could never have had. She has a job and a boyfriend. They both do drugs, but at least I get to see her now.
Painful as it may be, we cannot control our child’s perception of us. Sometimes it will take years for their adolescent antagonism to cease; in some cases, they remain estranged forever. It’s a risk we take when we have kids, but it shouldn’t reflect on your performance as a mother or as parents. Don’t let their bitterness come between you and your partner. Release them into the world and get on with your own life.