Life is about to get interesting once again…

We got a phone call late last night with news that Courtney’s biological mother had officially been released on parole as of last Friday and is wasting no time in trying to contact Courtney. It’s one of those days you know is going to come to pass eventually, but you still entertain the fantasy that it might never happen. I haven’t talked a whole lot about my past relationship with Courtney’s mother—her first name is Kim—here on SEB, but I regard it as one of my all-time great blunders and it serves as an excellent reminder that I’m not beyond making idiotic decisions at times. Come to think of it those two entries I linked to are pretty much the most I’ve said about Kim ever on this blog and those were just minor comments on taking Courtney to visit her at prison.

I won’t go into too much detail to spare you folks the boredom, but to say that Kim was a disruptive force in my life for many years is probably an understatement. Not just mine, but the lives of my friends and family as well. If I have anything to feel guilty about it’s that I brought her into so many other people’s lives where she was able to do more harm than good. Courtney is literally the only good thing to come out of that relationship and the only reason any of us continued any contact with Kim at all—a fact she was aware of and used to her advantage more than once. When she was arrested the first time for embezzlement it managed to surprise a number of us at first even though it probably shouldn’t have. She managed to escape with three years of probation by pleading hardship and claiming that she had no family support and there wasn’t anyone who would take on Courtney if she went to prison. When she was arrested again a year later for the same crime it came as a surprise to no one and the court wasn’t about to let her wiggle out of it a second time. She ended up being sentenced to five years out of a possible maximum of 25. The politest way I can think of to sum things up is that Kim “had issues” which contributed to her problems and the general lack of desire many people, her immediate family included, had for spending time with her. The last five years have been a welcome bit of relief after 9 years of having Kim in my life and it allowed me to concentrate on getting Courtney acclimated to her new life with me that wouldn’t have been as easy to accomplish had Kim been around to disrupt things as she had a tendency to do. 

It would be three years before I’d consider taking Courtney up to the prison to visit her mother and that was in response to Courtney’s requests. I fully expected that to the be first of many such trips in an attempt to allow Courtney to start to re-establish a relationship with her mother as the time of her release drew nearer, but we never went back. I had made it clear during the prison visit that Anne and I wouldn’t function as intermediaries between Courtney and her mother so any communication would have to be initiated by Courtney and it would only contain what Courtney wanted her mother to know. I’m not sure if Courtney’s request to visit her was to satisfy some form of curiosity about her mother’s fate or what, but despite her claims that she did want to keep in contact with her mother she continuously procrastinated about writing letters or doing what needed to be done to establish regular communication. Contrary to what Kim probably thinks, I did remind Courtney on a regular basis of her stated intention of writing her mother and establishing a set time for phone calls—much to Courtney’s frustration at times. There were at least two letters that she wrote after getting angry with me for reminding her that I refused to allow her to send because they were obviously written just to get me off her back about the issue and probably would’ve done more damage to her relationship with Kim than anything else. She did eventually sit down and write a nice letter, but she never mailed it. That was around about a year ago and she even mentioned it a couple of weeks back and I suggested that it might be a tad bit out of date and in need of a rewrite by now.

Every now and then Courtney will open up to me during a conversation, usually when we’re riding together in the car, and from those I’ve gleaned that Courtney seems to have mixed feelings about her mother. Despite the fact that living with me is a lot different than living with her mother—particularly in regards to school attendance and homework—and we’ve had our fair share of conflicts, Courtney tells me she’s very happy with our little family. She has told me that on the one hand she’d like to have a relationship with her mother, but on the other hand she’s worried her mother is going to cause problems and mess things up. It was surprising to hear Courtney state a fear that Anne and I have both privately held ourselves and, if nothing else, it shows me that I’ve done a pretty good job as a father that she values the life she has enough to be concerned about its future.  I’ve tried my best to be fair with Courtney about the whole situation. I’ve made it clear to her on many occasions that whatever my personal feelings about Kim happen to be, I don’t feel that Courtney shouldn’t have a relationship if she wants one. I’ve also explained that I will do whatever I think is in Courtney’s best interests, which could include stepping in if I felt Kim was becoming a problem, but if it should come to that I would make my reasons clear and I will listen to and consider what Courtney has to say about it.

I don’t know how Kim’s freedom is going to impact us as a family in the future in part because I don’t know how she has changed in the time she’s been in prison. What little I do know is largely fragments from others who have spoken with her and the story changes each time I hear it with regards to how much counseling she got in prison or what her plans were once she got out. I suppose I’ll find out soon enough and I’ll deal with it the best I can as it comes up. I’d like to think that she’s better for the experience and got the help she needed, but I’m not optimistic on the matter. However, I have to allow for some benefit of the doubt for Courtney’s sake even if I have no trust for Kim left in me. One thing I do know is that Kim is already showing signs of impatience. The call came from Courtney’s Aunt Dawn, Kim’s sister, during which she gave me Kim’s email address so I could pass it along to Courtney. Kim had asked for Courtney’s email address, but Dawn had felt it wasn’t her place to hand it out so she refused and Kim reportedly wasn’t too happy about that. Not an hour or so after the phone call I got a bit of email in my inbox from Kim, but it wasn’t addressed to me. She had tried to guess what Courtney’s email address would be based on the Jenkins Online domain name not realizing that I never set Courtney up with an email account on our websites as she already has an account through another service. My web host sends any emails for accounts that don’t exist to the root email address, which would be mine so I got the email instead. I understand she’s excited to be out and wants to try and reestablish contact quickly, but this is a worrying sign. Rather than just contacting me and asking—my email address is all over the sites here—she opted to take two different approaches around me and has given me reason to be wary already.

Courtney’s currently spending a few days at a relatives house, she’s barely been home at all in the last few weeks, so I haven’t broken the news to her yet. I’ll sit down with her when she gets back to talk about it and I’ll forward along the email from her mother without any comment from me. I’ve not spoken about this much in the past, but I have a feeling it’ll come up more often as time goes on as it’s sure to affect my life in some way. Hopefully for the better, but only time will tell…

11 thoughts on “Life is about to get interesting once again…

  1. Mmmm. I’m here if you need anything, Les – just give a ring. Good luck – I’m sure some struggles are coming, although I hope I’m wrong.

  2. She has told me that on the one hand she’d like to have a relationship with her mother, but on the other hand she’s worried her mother is going to cause problems and mess things up.

    This probably sums it up nicely, and I suspect this ambivalence will always be with her.  I know from experience that it can be hard to support a loved one who has a troubled (or nonexistent) relationship with someone else, where it isn’t your business, and you don’t WANT it to be your business, but you can’t help being involved just a little because you’re in their lives. 

    I hope Courtney knows that it’s okay to feel ambivalent (sometimes strongly so), and that she may be working on this issue for years to come.  Hell, even those of us who have GOOD relationships with our mothers can feel ambivalent about them at times. 

    The important thing is that she has your support in whatever she decides (even if she changes her mind every so often), and that she has a good life with you and Anne now.  She’s not going to lose either of those while she has you, no matter what she or Kim might end up doing with each other.

    Good luck to all of you …

    (“directly”)

  3. Wow.  Sorry to hear about the troubles, but it sounds like you’re taking the correct course so far.  I’ll refrain from unsolicted (and uninformed) advice (even if it kills me) and just wish the best for all y’all.

  4. I read your blog everyday and it usually makes me laugh.  So sorry to hear what you and your famiyl are going through.  I would like to wish you and your family luck in your current situation.  I know firsthand how hard it can be on a child when parents are no longer together, even if that other parent is a potentially destructive force.  Peace for you and yours.

  5. I appreciate all the good sentiments, but the shit hasn’t hit the fan yet. I just figured I’d fill folks in on stuff I thought I had talked about before, but hadn’t. What problems, if any, Kim will bring into our lives is yet to be known. I try not to worry too much about the future, but that doesn’t mean I don’t keep an eye open for any potential rough bumps in the road ahead.

  6. As I reread this entry and the comments left with it, these thoughts suddenly occur to me:  maybe, we’ve been giving a mixed message of sorts to Kim, hence increasing her fears and mistrust. 

    I had made it clear during the prison visit that Anne and I wouldn’t function as intermediaries between Courtney and her mother so any communication would have to be initiated by Courtney and it would only contain what Courtney wanted her mother to know.

    Maybe she interpreted “…wouldn’t function as intermediaries” as a refusal to speak to her at all?  Or the lack of a willingness assist when appropriate in maintaining contact between the two of them (when it is Courtney’s will).
    I’m sure Kim trusts us about as much as we trust her right now.  Her past negative actions have made a large wake which is still rippling though us all, even now.  Hence a great deal of hostility is to be expected (she might expect a great deal from Les) and she has received a great deal of hostility from not only most of the outside world, but all of her past relations.

    This is bound to be difficult, but as long as Courtney desires it and it does not harm her, we will be supportive of her decision to have a relationship with Kim. 

    I just hope Kim realizes that our bottom line is Courtney, her happiness and her safety.  We aren’t out to stop Kim from having Courtney in her life.  We are concerned with Courtney having Kim in her life in a way that is comfortable, positive and safe if she so chooses.  And in the meantime, we too must ride the wakes of Courtney’s ambivalence, remembering that she is only almost 14 years of age.

  7. I wouldn’t be surprised if what you suggest is the case, Anne. We’ll just have to take it one step at a time and figure it out as we go along.

    Adrienne, we’re just doing the best we can with what we’ve got. grin

  8. Mom & daughter stuff is so… anyway.  My mom was a pretty destructive influence emotionally until I refused to have contact with her in college.  That motivated her to counseling & medication which has brought some dramatic improvements I never thought possible…so I hope for the same for Courtney & Kim for everyone’s sakes, although I know it meant 2-3 years of hard shit for me.

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