I Know it’s Tough Love, but Why Does it Feel Like Abandonment?

Job 17:15

…continued from yesterday.

The part of me that craved knowing the details of Sarah’s ‘plan’ for what she would do when she reached New York City kept me probing and prying more than I should have. The idea of Sarah on the loose in New York City in her current state of mind (and vulnerability) terrified me.

By this time, I had convinced myself that Sarah had somehow gotten entangled in the snare of drugs and alcohol—after all, some of her Facebook posts hinted at the amazing experience of utter freedom that she had discovered with ‘friends’ on the beach.

Looking back at the texts and instant messages on Facebook, I can see that my need to know probably earned me the sound (virtual) slap that she gave me two days before they left Puerto Rico. I sent her a cheery text to find out how she was, and when she said she was headed to the beach and then she’d be ‘free’, I bluntly asked her if she was going to try to ‘score some more weed.’

I accused her of wanting to score weed because I’ve seen one too many cop show where the wise officer states as a matter of fact something he or she only suspects.
I solaced myself that perhaps the altered state of conscious had produced her bizarre behavior and strange texts. One minute her texts would affirm her love for us, and the next text would contain abusive recriminations that we needed to just leave her alone because we made her feel horrible.

Not my brightest parenting moment. She reminded me once again that as an almost 21-year-old, she had been able to smoke for three years (though she had never exercised that ‘right’) and that weed made her “feel amazing.”

Sarah Ojeda: But I’m not gonna get into that. Don’t worry. Ok enough about that and I already told you how I am. How are you and Dad?
Anita Ojeda: Pretty shaken up and confused.
Sarah Ojeda: Well I don’t give two flying
Anita Ojeda: Than why ask?
Sarah Ojeda: Be however you wan to be.
I will be too
I’m going to London
Gonna be free
Clean of all alcohol and drugs.
Anita Ojeda: I know. I realize it.
Sarah Ojeda: Gonna be with my best friend.
I don’t need your s**t.
Anita Ojeda: No one is trying to stop you.
Sarah Ojeda: No way.
I know
But you are making me feel like S**T.
How many times do I have to tell you
Anita Ojeda: Do whatever the heck you want.
Sarah Ojeda: You better believe I will
blocking your a** if you don’t stop with this mom.
Anita Ojeda: I love you.

And then she unfriended me on Facebook. She wouldn’t respond to my texts. Within three or four hours she had unfriended Laura and Pedro as well. After a few hours, I childishly decided that if she wouldn’t answer my texts, I wouldn’t text her any more (looking back, I can see the flaws in my logic). Of course, I couldn’t handle the lack of knowledge, so I sank to my lowest parenting moment of all. I contacted a few mutual Facebook friends to find out what she was doing.

My spying on her didn’t really net me any useful information—but it provided a small measure of comfort that she hadn’t disappeared from the face of the earth. I also called on my prayer warrior friends to start praying without ceasing through this critical time.  In retrospect, I should have called on them much earlier.  Pride got in the way of allowing others to minister to me.

Never let pride get in the way of asking for your #prayerwarrior friends to gather around. Click To Tweet

Sarah had burned through $90 of cellular data in a week, and so Pedro and I decided that when our new billing cycle started—which also coincided with her departure from Puerto Rico—we would suspend her phone service. We knew she would have free wi-fi in the airport in New York if she actually chose to carry out her plan to stay there and travel to London.

Cutting off her phone service terrified me. At the same time, we saw it as a natural consequence of her irresponsible behavior, a form of tough love. The night before she left Puerto Rico Pedro could hear Sarah playing loud music in the background while he tried to talk to his parents. He asked me to text her and tell her to turn it down.

Anita Ojeda:
We can hear how loudly you’re playing you music/video because dad is trying to talk to Papi Abuelo.
Did something happen to your earphones?
Sarah Ojeda:
Ok yes yes
Anita Ojeda:
Bummer.
Sarah Ojeda:
Tomorrow please send pictures of my card again.
Anita Ojeda:
Just curious, but what happened to all the ones I’ve already sent?

After Pedro hung up with his parents, He told me that Sarah had done some really bizarre things and basically trashed the room she’d stayed in—breaking things and leaving half-smoked joints all over the floor.

Her behavior convinced me that whatever ailed her had to be more than just teenage rebellion. What rational young adult would blithely plan to spend a month in Europe with no contacts, no money, no plan, and then get so incredibly angry when anyone questioned her choices. I feared for her sanity.

The next morning I sent the requested photos of her debit card, and slipped a prayer in, too:

Anita Ojeda: Dear Father God, I lift Sarah up to you in prayer. She’s angry and hurting and unable to express why. I don’t know if it’s because she feels that she’s done something unforgivable—please comfort her and let her know that you forgive everything—all she has to do is ask. I don’t know if it’s because she is so filled with hurt that she can’t think straight—if that’s it, please send the Holy Spirit to comfort her pain and hurt. All I know is that suddenly she has quit being Sarah—the one who you created to sing, to draw, to bring a smile to the faces of those around her. She hurts herself and others and the change has been so rapid that we feel as if she’s been hijacked But we love her so. Father, draw close to her. Send your legions of angels to protect her. Help her to understand the depth and width and height of your love. I ask these things in Jesus’ name, amen.

And since she appeared to read what I sent, I texted her something the next morning, too, this time, a verse from Romans 10 in the Message version:

Anita Ojeda: “That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” Here’s what I found this morning. So often, I try to do the cleaning up myself. I try to act perfect and do perfect and I forget that no matter how ‘good’ I think I am, I’m just a nasty, dirty sinner without God. He has to do he cleaning and changing. I have to wait for his results.
I love you, but you’re about to get your wish.
I will ALWAYS love you.
I love you! Have a safe trip!
Know that we will always love you and we are always here for you.
Sarah Ojeda:
Thanks love you all too zzzz
Mum
Send my debit card pix please 🙂
Lost them in all my 4,000 iPhone pictures /:(

I didn’t understand how she could have lost the photos of her debit card that I had just sent her—for the third time, no less.

I spent the afternoon crying sporadically and praying a lot. I confessed to God that I interfered too much in Sarah’s life and that by not being patient, I had probably irrevocably ruined our friendship, and most likely our mother-daughter relationship as well.

The day of her departure arrived, and I logged on to our cellular service provider account and suspended her phone. I wouldn’t hear from her for two long days.

…to be continued.

(Note to readers:  This series is co-written by myself and Sarah. She sees each post before it goes live and approves of the content).

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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