The niece experiment

31 10 2008

If you know me or follow this blog, you know that a couple months ago we asked our 17 year old niece to move in with us for the school year.  She moved in two days before our baby daughter was born in mid august.  Well, it has been an interesting experiment to say the least and very much a learning experience.  Well, I am sad to report that the experiment is over.  One week ago, she moved out.  Her mother rented a new place in another town and together they made the decision for our niece to move in with her.  She had to switch schools mid-semester which is something she is all too use-to.

My wife and I have a myriad of emotions about the situation.  We have never wavered from our priority of making this a successful school year for our niece.  We put that above everything in our lives and I am happy to say that we have no regrets and that we never changed our stance on that at all.

So, because of that, we are sad that she moved out.  We really did sacrifice a lot to make it work.  And, when we initially invited her to come live with us, we asked her to commit to staying for the year (which she did).  So, we were also hurt by the decision.  It is hard for us to understand how our efforts and sacrifice can be so easily traded in.  It is hard for us to understand how anyone can see it as a positive thing for her to once again switch schools mid-semester, especially considering how good a start she was off to.

But, of course, it is not at all surprising.  The very fact that we pushed for such a commitment from her demonstrates that we anticipated this day would come.

Along with sadness and hurt that we are feeling, comes relief and even some excitement.  There were times in these last two months that we actually looked forward to this day.  We never wavered in our efforts to maintain a stable environment for her, but at the same time, it was an incredible stress on our family.  She brought a drama to our household that we were not used to, and as much as we expected the drama to come, there was really no preparing for it.  For those of you wondering, adding a teenager and a newborn to a household at the same time is pretty much an insane thing to do.

Honestly, I think the biggest sacrifice that we made is one that most people involved will never even know.  We gave up the first two month’s of our daughter’s life.  In other words, instead of being able to enjoy and savor her and welcome her into our family like we did her two older brothers, we had to do it in the midst of other changes and tumult.  My wife particularly has felt this loss the most.  So, now, we have a tingle of excitement in our lives for how we can make up time with our daughter.  We really do have some catching up to do.  I am not writing this because I am angry or because I am upset, I am writing this to get it out.  This is therapeutic for me.

So, what did we learn from this experience?  Wow, it’s a long list.

We definitely learned more about the mystery that is the teenager.  Even though once upon a time, we ourselves were teenagers, there is a world of difference between being a teenage and being responsible for one.

We learned more about how to communicate and motivate a high schooler.  We learned how to communicate with parents of teenagers.  (Or should I say we learned how not to communicate with a high schooler and parents of said high schooler?)  We learned that actions speak louder than words.  We also learned that even actions can very easily twisted and misconstrued.

We learned that teenage boys like teenage girls.  We learned that teenage girls like it when teenage boys like them.  We learned that myspace and the internet have completely changed the high school social scene.  We learned that teenage sexuality at its core has changed quite dramatically since our high school days.

We learned quite a bit about medical insurance and what it means to have someone in your family that may not have it.  We learned how to distinguish between real medical emergencies and those that need to be slept on and checked in the morning.

We learned that you can’t hide good food.  🙂

We learned that it is better to give than to receive.  We learned that despite your best efforts, things don’t always turn out the way you hope.  We learned that my wife and I are a good team (actually we already knew that but it was nice to have it reconfirmed).  We learned that we can set a goal and prioritize it and not falter no matter what is thrown our way.

We learned a lot of things the hard way and in some cases we learned that we already have good instincts.  We learned that we still have an awful lot to learn.

So, would we do it all over again?  I can honestly say that I don’t know.  Knowing everything that we know now, I am still not sure we have enough information to make that call.  I still think we helped her get out of a bad situation.  There is no telling what we may have saved her from.  Further, there is no doubt in my mind that we got her off to a good start for the school year.  We hope and pray that this will carry over to her new school and her new home life.

All I know for sure is that we gave it all we had.  We have no regrets.  We layed it all out and didn’t hold anything back.  Only time will tell whether this will have any permanant results.


open house

13 09 2008

This week I did something I wasn’t expecting to do for about another decade – we went to a high school open house.  As I mentioned in a previous post, our 17 yr old niece moved in with us for the school year.  We saw on the school marquee that the open house was taking place.  When we mentioned it to her, she seemed surprised that we were even thinking about going.

But, we did go.  It gave us a chance to meet all her teachers personally.  In a few cases, we were even able to speak with them briefly and let them know that we want to be 100% supportive of our niece and do whatever we can to make this year successful for her.

More importantly, though, I hope that the time invested in this event proves to her that we are serious about supporting her through this school year and that we honestly desire to see her succeed and go on to graduate from high school…and college…

creepy story

12 09 2008

We had a creepy situation happen in our family this week.

I went for a run in the morning on Monday morning.  When I got back, I noticed this strange car parked to the side of our house (we live on a corner).  There was a man sitting inside the car.  I didn’t think much about it; I figured he pulled over there to make a phone call or look at a map or whatever.  So, I went inside and took a shower and started helping my boys get ready for the day.

Well, after at least a half an hour past, our front doorbell rang.  Our 17 yr old walked to the door and said it was our neighbor girl who goes to the same school.  They were going to walk together which isn’t anything out of the ordinary.  We said our goodbyes and I wished her well.  For my 2 yr old, though, simple good-byes were not enough.  He wanted to go out and watch them walk away.  I didn’t have any reason to deny him that, so out we went.

First thing I noticed when I got out the door was that strange car parked now in front of my neighbor’s house.  Immediately, I called my niece over and asked her who that was.  She stated she did not know.  So, I said, “Well, don’t get in the car with him”.  She agreed and at that moment the stranger sped away.

I was really creeped out by this, but I let our niece and her friend walk on to school.  In hind site I should have probably driven them or walked with them even though I knew neither of them wanted that.

Well, all day long I was creeped out by this.  My wife and I tried to call her school counselor to make sure she made it to school, but we didn’t get a response until the next day.  I called the dad of the neighbor girl and let him know what I had seen.  He was of course concerned too.

When our niece got home, we didn’t waste anytime in sitting her down and asking her to shoot straight with us on who that guy was.  It turned out he was a just a kid from school.  Apparently, our neighbor had gone to school early that morning.  This kid had taken her home and was waiting (lurking) around to take her back to school again.  Our niece said that she had seen the guy around at school but that when she came out of the house, she didn’t know his name or why he was there.

Anyway, I tried to make a long story short in this post, but I don’t think I did.  But, my point in this story is that a) I was creeped out by it and b)I want her to see that we take her safety and well being seriously.  I think that message came across.  In this case, it appeared to be an fairly innocent situation that just looked weird.  But, next time, I want her to know that we really care about her safety and we want her to know we are watching and expecting her to make good choices.

Wow, having a teenager in our house has really added some stress to our lives.  Hopefully, we will look back at this year as a turning point in her life.