Recently my brother reconnected with his 17 year-old daughter, who has been estranged from him and the family for much of her life.
We are elated at this chance to get to know her and to welcome her in. For us, she has been a part of the family since her birth. We’ve noted her absence at family events, tracked her age with the rest of the grandkids, and hoped that someday she would be curious about her dad’s side of the family.
And the day has come.
We are elated at this chance to get to know her and to welcome her in.
I was over the moon when she friend requested me on Facebook, and when she wrote me a private message, I thought I was going to burst. I spent an hour crafting what I hoped was a perfect reply: asking a few specific questions that could lead to more conversation without asking too many questions and seeming nosey, while being sure to include some personal details about my own life that were hopefully relatable.
I hit reply and waited.
And I’m still waiting.
As I wait, it occurs to me that this beautiful, spunky 17 year-old girl with a whole family waiting in the wings to wrap arms around her is also a very hurt and confused 17 year-old girl.
I hit reply and waited…And I’m still waiting.
I remember being 17. I remember trying to navigate the awkwardness of growing up, of figuring out who I was and where I fit in. I remember the boys and the crushes, the heartbreaks and the disappointments. I remember hating my hair and being convinced my parents were against everything that was cool.
I remember 17 being hard enough with two parents who loved each other and got along.
As a family, we are learning to manage our expectations, our hopes and our ideas of who this sweet young girl might be, as well as accepting her for who she is.
She’s a spunky, articulate young woman.
She’s also a little girl who missed out on birthday parties, weddings and the annual Christmas traditions. She didn’t get any of the teasing amongst the cousins or any of the hugs. She never went to a father-daughter dance, and she has been letdown in many of the moments that have mattered most. She struggles with feeling abandoned and desperately wants to know how precious she is.
Building a real relationship will take time. It will require patience and endless amounts of grace.
Building a real relationship will take time. It will require patience and endless amounts of grace. It will require that we hit reply and then wait. And wait some more.