” But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” – John 14:26
The three of us remained frozen in a surreal episode of family drama into the late evening. No one wanted to back away from the ultimatums already spoken.
“I am going to spend the night at Bret’s house. I cannot stay here with all your rules. I can choose who I date or spend time with, whether you like it or not,” said our precious first-born seventeen-year old daughter.
Sarah was the Mary Poppins of our three children, practically perfect in every way. She usually obeyed the rules and did her best to reach 100% in all she attempted, whether academics, sports, music, spiritual disciplines, or other activities. We had disagreements during her growing up, but she was just so reasonable that issues seemed to work out fairly easily. Not this time.
The Whirling Begins
“Just stay here. Don’t stir up another family’s household with our issues. We don’t have to talk anymore. You can just go to bed,” I responded.
Maybe I was too embarrassed to let another family see our dirty laundry. Maybe I was just being reasonable. Maybe I was scared if she left, she might not return.
A car pulled up. Sarah got up from the kitchen table. She went up the stairs to her bedroom, came down and slammed out the front door. This was a parental nightmare we had not experienced before and never wanted.
Barely five minutes passed before the door opened again. Sarah came back into the house and with no comment went up the stairs. We heard her bedroom door close.
“What do you think is going on? What made her stay?” I asked my husband.
Michael shook his head and displayed the same confusion and fatigue I felt. Rising slowly, feeling every year of our middle age, we climbed the same stairs Sarah had used minutes earlier, and collapsed into our bed. At some point we fell asleep, but I wouldn’t call it restful or restorative.
The next morning was a school day. Our household moved in its typical chaotic rhythm of three teens draining the clock for every possible second of sleep, and then needing the one bathroom at the same time. Michael and I moved through our own routines mechanically and without much verbal exchange. We had no idea what to expect from Sarah or how the two younger siblings were processing last night’s events. In our smallish house, there was no way they were unaware of the tension.
Because I worked at the same private school our children attended, we rode together. I don’t remember if anything was said on the ten minute drive that day. Likely our son, the quintessential peacemaker filled the airspace with funny anecdotes to deflect the tight atmosphere. Maybe he and the younger daughter teased and fussed at each other which would have been typical. All I recall is I wanted to scream, to cry, to erase yesterday’s events, and have my normalness restored. Sarah made no comment or eye contact with me. We disembarked from the van in the parking lot and all went our own way into the school building.
My heart felt like a ton weight. Staff devotions were mandatory and usually a delight, but not when you sense you could burst into tears if anyone is too kind. I tried to cover up my overwhelming emotions with a thin smile.
Somehow I got through the day without crying or acting harshly with an innocent five-year old. With several years in my same teaching position, I could move through my two back-to-back kindergarten sessions on an automatic pilot existence when I needed to. I couldn’t stop reviewing the words spoken by Sarah last night. Anxiety flooded my mind.
She is planning to pack her bag after school today and move out. This is not over. Lots of teens refuse to live at home due to impasse with their parents. Why would she stay? She is really mad.
I was glad and afraid simultaneously when the clock showed the end of the school day. Since parents provided their own transportation, students lined up at designated spots and waited for their cars to reach the loading area. Teachers stood with their classes.
My pulse quickened when the high school students started joining the line-up. I hadn’t seen Sarah all day since I had intentionally stayed on the elementary side of the campus. When I heard her voice, my dam of stored tears rose dangerously high.
While chatting with her volleyball partner, she threw her arm casually around my shoulders and stood by my side. I kept my eyes straight ahead. She finished the conversation and then said to me.
“So, Mom, we are off to volleyball practice till 5:00. When you pick me up can you bring some supper? I need to be at church for worship team practice at 5:30.”
“Sure,” I managed to squeak out, looking any direction but at my daughter.
She noticed my strained voice and moved to put her face directly in my view.
“What’s wrong, mom? Are you crying? Did a parent upset you?”
Sarah said the last part with a frown like she would be mad at whoever hurt her poor mother. How could she act like nothing had happened between us? I lamely shook my head and mumbled, “No, I am fine, just tired.”
She gave me a quick hug and hurried to catch her ride, waving from the car when they sped away. Just like any other day. Unbelievable.
So, the roller coaster ride is over, I guess? My teenager got off and forgot to let me know the ride was done. I am very confused. I am also incredibly relieved.
The Safety Harness That Holds
I gathered my other two children and drove home that day, totally exhausted. I called Michael and relayed that the cloud has somehow passed, and I had no idea what made the sun come out. He brought home a single rose for Sarah, and we composed a loving, conciliatory note to attach.
Later that night we presented Sarah with the peace offering. We talked together in that reasonable manner we associated with our daughter. We made sure we listened, not just heard, all she needed to say. By the time twenty-four hours had passed since the eye of the storm had blasted through our household, I felt I heard God answer my question from the previous night.
Why did Sarah stay? Because in a mysterious fashion, when she was four and ten and thirteen, she became convinced this home, this family was the safest, best place for her. The solution to this present problem was fixed in place years ago.
Whatever discontent or disagreement raged up in her adolescent emotions did not altar her belief. The established trust held her, giving a security she needed while growing up options and choices whirled around her. I was amazed and grateful to God for cementing her to our home and family.
Today our daughter has been happily married over a decade. She is an amazing mother of three little girls, a powerful communicator and spiritual leader of her community. We continue to have lengthy, soul-searching talks. Sometimes we experience brief relational tension, but nothing like that one event years ago. Hopefully there will be no more roller coaster rides between us except at an amusement park.
I cherish the fact she tells her friends and coworkers that we are close friends in this stage of our relationship. God is good.
♡ Gail Goolsby is a life coach and serves as a Titus Woman for Proverbs 31 Woman.
If you like this story, you’ll love this too → My Darling Daughter, Don’t Ever Forget Your First Love
Sign up for Proverbs 31 Woman newsletter!