Today’s story, The Canary In The Family, is told by a grandmother in her 70s who lives in the US. I have tried my best to write this story based on our chats. And yes, I do have her permission to share this.
The Canary In The Family?
My granddaughter is sixteen now and I’m so happy to see how she’s growing up. Sweet sixteen. That’s what she is – sweet. To think that I couldn’t see that for a very long time in between.
I remember that she the sweetest of babies, but I was biased, she being my first grandchild. Bright as a button, she excelled at her studies and managed to pack a lot of other things too – music, creative writing and sports. We were all so proud of her.
That was until she turned twelve and life changed for us all. Amanda’s behaviour seemed to change overnight.
Suddenly, a girl who didn’t seem to take one wrong step, was acting out. Her Mom (my daughter) started getting called to school at regular intervals because Amanda was fighting with other students. One morning, my daughter landed at my place with Amanda and her things. She told me she had had enough of the girl, who was now refusing to go to school. Apparently, at home too, she was grossly disobedient with her parents and always fighting with her siblings. My daughter thought, that as a retired teacher, I’d be able to discipline her.
At my wit’s end
I tried. I shared my ‘rules’. I set her school work. I cooked meals, she used to like. But my efforts seemed hopeless. Amanda refused to cooperate. She kept talking back to me. She would not wake up until I hauled her out of bed and then would sit around listlessly.
I tried a softer approach – taking her to the movies, giving her treats, attempting to joke with her. She refused to engage beyond a point.
When one day I told her I was at the point of giving up, she told me she didn’t blame me. Since her parents had given up on her, why would I be otherwise. That cut deeply.
I called her parents over and we attempted to talk together to get to the bottom of this behaviour. I found that my daughter kept blaming Amanda for the unhappiness in her home. Her father sat quietly, hardly contributing to the conversation. Amanda said not a word, until they left. Before turning in for the night, she made a cryptic remark about wishing she had never said anything to her mother. When I asked her to explain what she meant, she told me it didn’t matter.
An answer and a resolution of sorts
To cut a long story short, with probing and eventual counselling, Amanda shared how she had come upon romantic emails and text messages her father was exchanging with another woman. She told her mother about it and all hell broke loose. After many arguments between in her parents, they decided to act as if nothing had happened and presented a united front. Amanda was made to feel that she was the cause of the acrimony between them. Remember how miners carried a canary down the coal mines to warn them of poisonous gases – the bird’s death served as an early warning of danger? Amanda was the canary in the family. Her behaviour was an indicator of the poor relationship her parents had.
Needless to say, that I had a huge showdown with my daughter and her husband. Amanda chose not to go back to her home. I wish it wasn’t so, but at least she’s almost back to being herself. She continues to live with me and bring me much joy.
For me, this story underlines how it’s so important to have that one person who will pay attention to us and see beyond the obvious. To believe us, to believe in us. To join us in fighting against abuse and the conspiracy of silence that families often enter into.
This is Day 19 of My 66-day Journey of Healing Through Writing and Sharing. As I mentioned in my post , I might be reposting some posts that I wrote a few years ago – mostly personal stories or those shared with me by others which talk about emotional pain and dealing with it.
If you have a story you’d like to share anonymously on Everyday Gyaan, do contact me. You can be assured that I will keep your name and details confidential.