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SEVEN no one took Jess

While Jess was in the last half of her freshman year, she and her mother continued their close relationship. They still did practically everything together. But Jess was also developing a close relationship with someone else and was unsure how her mother would react.

Jess did not make friends easily but in her English class she met a girl named Katie. They began spending time together between classes and a nice friendship started developing. As their friendship grew, Jess knew it was time for Katie to meet her mother.

Kathy was friendly toward Katie when Jess invited her over one evening for dinner but later when the girls went to a movie together, she could not help but be a little jealous.

Kathy knew it was not right to be jealous of Jess' new friend but she feared this inevitably would mean the end of her isolated relationship with her daughter. She was happy Jess found a friend she liked so much because she knew it was not easy for Jess to get close to people but the feeling of competition grew every time Katie was around.

She never told Jess how she was feeling. Instead, she just made snide comments on nights Jess would be spending with Katie. And when Katie was around the house, Kathy tried her best to ignore both of them.

After a few months passed, Jess realized her mother was not handling this well. She had hoped over time her mother would learn to accept her new friend and get to know her like Jess did. She decided maybe the two of them should invite her mother along with them on some of their outings.

This idea turned out to be wonderful. At first, Kathy did not feel like tagging along but the three of them ended up having a great time together. Kathy came to realize how special Katie was and what a valued friend she was to her daughter.

By the time summer break had arrived, the three of them were enjoying each other's company. Kathy did not always go with them when the girls went out but she did not mind. She began enjoying her time alone at home and baked the girls cookies or relaxed with a good book. Every once in a while she got lonely but the feelings would subside.

With a month left before school began again, Kathy started feeling like there was something Jess wanted to talk to her about but was too afraid to bring up. Jess would often sit silently with her mother like she was pondering some deep subject.

One night, Jess finally got up the nerve to talk with her mother. "Mom, there's something I've been wanting to discuss with you," she began.

Kathy grabbed the remote and quickly turned the television off so there would be no distractions. She knew this was going to be a serious discussion. "What's up?" she said, trying to put her daughter at ease.

"Well," Jess said, taking a deep breath, "Katie and I have been discussing living in an apartment off-campus when school starts back up."

Kathy said nothing. She was too stunned to reply.

"I know this is coming as quite a surprise but I think it would be good for me to get out on my own. And it would be really nice not to have to commute back and forth to classes," Jess continued.

Still no response from Kathy.

Jess kept on talking. "I know it would be asking too much for you to pay for my rent and utilities so I will be getting a part-time job on campus to help pay for my half of the bills. It might not be easy but I think I should learn the responsibility of living on my own."

Jess again looked at her mother for some kind of answer. "Aren't you going to say anything?" she finally asked.

Kathy got up from the couch and looked straight into her daughter's eyes. "Absolutely not! That is my answer and this discussion is over and not to be brought up again!" Kathy stormed out of the room into the kitchen.

For the next few days, no words were exchanged between Kathy and her daughter. Jess was shocked by her mother's outburst and Kathy was shocked her daughter wanted to leave her.

"How could she possibly want to leave me all alone?" Kathy would ask herself. She could not begin to understand her daughter's feelings because she was too absorbed with her own.

The next few months as Jess started school again were torturous for everyone. Jess and Kathy still were not communicating well and Kathy also noticed Katie was not coming around as much.

Jess did find a part-time job at a daycare center and she was glad for the time away from home. She loved her mother very much but she knew she could not stay at home forever, no matter how lonely her mother was.

When Jess was at home, she stayed as far away from her mother as possible. She would stay in her room studying or reading a book while her mother sat in the living room watching television.

But Kathy was not really watching television. She was spending most of her nights in deep thought. And as the days turned to weeks and the weeks into months, Kathy painfully began realizing what she was doing to her daughter.

When Jess celebrated her twentieth birthday at home with her mother, Kathy broke down in tears. Everything she had been doing wrong was finally coming to the surface. As she watched her adult daughter blowing out the candles on her birthday cake, it hit her like a slap in the face. Jess was no longer a little girl.

Jess was an adult who had been so smothered by her lonely mother she had no life of her own. She had no friends, no boyfriends, and that was mainly because Kathy could not let her grow up. Kathy could not let her explore what the world had to offer. Instead, she used her daughter to alleviate her own pain of being lonely and not having a life of her own.

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For weeks, Kathy did not know how to deal with this realization. The thoughts of how she ruined her daughter's life haunted her day and night. She had to do something to amend the situation, no matter how painful it might be for her. She had to talk to someone about all of this before she drove herself insane.

The following Friday, as she was driving to her parents' house for dinner, Kathy could barely take it anymore. She decided, if the opportunity arose, she would talk to her mother about this. Her mother had been an important part of Jess' life. Maybe she would be able to shed some light on the whole thing and give Kathy the strength and direction she needed to get through this.

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Kathy pulled up to the two-story, white house that belonged to her parents, the same house she, Joyce, and Larry grew up in so many years ago. She loved spending time here because it made her feel so comforted and relaxed. She needed that today, of all days.



     @ In GETTING STARTED and in other sections, the main person in the vignettes or discussion is usually referred to as you; but this simply reflects a personalized writing style. The you in the story or discussion only refers to YOU to the extent you see yourself. At times you may; but usually you will not.

     @ At the end of each vignette in the sections below is a list of signs that are related to the vignette. The list is suggestive of signs that the family has a problem in the specific area. The list is not intended as inclusive of the problems that may be related to the topic.

     @@ The term spouse is used in its literal sense but also is intended to include your significant other if you are not married.

     @ The examples in a child's perspective sections are adapted from OUR HOME - YOUR HOME; Gary & Letha Crow; American Foster Care Resources; King George, VA; 1993.

     @     If a question does not apply to a family member, simply skip it. For example, questions about school or work would not apply to a toddler. To the extent you do not know the answers to questions, your sample is incomplete and your conclusions are less clear.

     @ The relationship risk chart and the accompanying discussion is adapted from THE FUNCTIONING OF THE FAMILY SYSTEM; Gary A. Crow and Letha I. Crow; Charles C. Thomas, 1988 and OUR HOME - YOUR HOME previously noted.

     @ The number of relationships only equals the number of people in your family if there are three of you. If there are two of you, there is one relationship. If there are four of you, there are six relationships. If there are five of you, there are ten relationships. Just be sure to assess each relationship.

     @ Only a few risk points are highlighted in each section. There are many others you can identify and assess. You are encouraged to do this to sharpen your skills and understanding.

     @ Please note that the text reflects the series of events as they happened. Given the suspicion of serious neglect, her lawyer or Kathy should have contacted Children's Services or the Department of Social Services for assistance. Jess being outside in very cold weather would be the main concern. This would usually be investigated at no cost to Kathy.

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Please send comments or questions to Gary A. Crow, Ph.D. GAC@GaryCrow.net