Monday, January 10, 2011


There’s an odd presence in our house. It’s like a ghost, of my husband’s past.

My stepkids, like all of us, have elements of both parents in their personalities. Recently one of my stepdaughters has been gravitating heavily toward her mother, and doing nothing (or in some cases, not enough) about important aspects of life: school, personal relationships, job, her future.  Religion.  We love her immensely and want to see her use her talents to succeed in school and beyond. But since she doesn’t live with us, our efforts to motivate her from afar and provide resources have come to naught. Part of her Grand Avoidance is to make excuses, with the help of her mother, not to visit anyone on our side of her family.

Lack of action has never been my flaw; on the contrary I tend to leap before I look. My husband also is a great “doer” in work, education and a myriad of personal pursuits from boxing to photography. We’ve been exposed in our own homes to a variety of personalities. Our parents and siblings, and to an extent our aunts and uncles all expose us to different methods of dealing with life. And teen years are a time of new boundaries and experimentation for everyone.

I’ve always pictured “new boundaries” and “experimentation” as having actual events to them. A real live experiment. This grand lack of anything—dare I name it cowardice?—is something I’ve never encountered either in my own family or in my husband’s, and I don’t know how to deal with it. It hangs in our home even when she is not here, because she is still part of us, and her mother is part of her. If only there could be some thing to handle!

I know there is always prayer, so I’ve been doing what I can to research saints, parental sites and prayers that maybe can offer advice. I haven’t found much beyond very broad prayers—prayer of a mother, prayer for a teen, etc.—but the research and prayer give me the sense that I’m helping and give me the opportunity to dedicate some time to a girl that I love.

St. Aloyisius Gonzaga, patron saint of teenagers and namesake of Gonzaga University
Perhaps also this is a time when I have to realize that all personalities have also elements of God. After all, this avoidance, which I have no idea how to deal with, is something God has handled in her, in her mother, and in countless people throughout history. President Kennedy was profoundly inactive during the Bay of Pigs crisis, drawing intense, justified criticism…but no war ensued, so miraculously lives were saved. Did he know that doing nothing would release the tension? Undoubtedly not. More likely he just didn’t have the courage to do what he thought to be right. Nonetheless his inaction left room for God to put some calmness into riled tempers. So prayer remains my only answer.

I’ll have to trust that God will put answers in front of me, one at a time, at a pace that my stepdaughter will be able to handle.