The forgotten child

Sarah is my youngest daughter. My heart breaks for the things she’s lost as our family has been torn apart by addiction. She’s the innocent bystander suffering the collateral damage.

There have been a few times I’ve thought I’d write something about Sarah but as I start rambling, my thoughts run off on some tangent and turn into a post about Matt or Laura. It seems that the squeaky wheel does get the grease and the addict child does get my attention. I can picture Sarah’s little face, an expression of disappointment, so many times while Laura was demanding my attention and Sarah’s needs were put on the back burner. Too often I had to leave her with David (or other friends before David and I met) so I could go deal with whatever “emergent” situation Laura needed me for. I remember Sarah’s disgust watching the behavior of her older sister, telling me “When I’m a teenager I am NOT going to act like that!’ I feel so much guilt for her exposure to all of this. How can we protect our little ones from the ugliness of addiction when it lives under the same roof?

As a parent, I want to be able to divide my attention equally between my children but when one of them is creating so much chaos it demands all of your attention it leaves you feeling guilty for not having enough for the rest of them. I will admit there have been so many times I felt inadequate… So many times I felt like I was neglecting Sarah.

The dysfunction that addiction has created in our family has had a big role in shaping Sarah’s personality. I guess I should be thankful for that because she is a fabulous young lady. I’m very proud of who she has become. Still, I’m concerned about how it all affects her. She’s complained to me that I compare her to her siblings. She thinks I choose what things to let her do or not do based on my experiences with them. She’s right. I do. How could I not? She’s still a teenager, subject to peer pressure and poor decision making. They all are, right? I think it’s natural to let my fear from past experiences dictate my decision making a little bit. Although I understand where she’s coming from, I’m not going to kick myself too much for that.

Sarah is so empathetic. She gravitates toward people with emotional issues. I know she does this because she wants to help them. I worry about what that will cost her though. She had a boyfriend that had some pretty big hurdles he needed to get over. We monitored the relationship pretty closely because we didn’t want her to be influenced in the wrong way. He started being mean to her though and she still stuck with him, trying to help him get better. She made excuses for his behavior and let him drag her down emotionally. She dated him for a year before finally standing up for herself and saying she was done. It is my belief that her love for her siblings has helped her develop an ability to see the good in someone, even through all the crap. My fear is that the same empathy has the potential to lead her into abusive relationships. I don’t want her putting her own needs behind the needs of the “squeaky wheel”, sacrificing herself for the happiness of others.

Sarah will be 18 in a few months. She’ll be graduating high school and going off to college (if I’m lucky. I thought the same thing with my other 2 but I haven’t seen a child graduate yet). As I think about her venturing out on her own I wonder what she’ll choose to do with her life. Will she remember that her own needs are important? Will she be able to have a servant’s heart without becoming a martyr? Will she take a stand for the weaker people of this world or let them wear her down until she becomes one of them? I pray God gives her the strength to keep herself from being the forgotten one.

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