Resilience is one of my strongest traits. I guess you could compare it to the calluses on my hands from lifting weights. Much like those calluses grew over time to protect my hands, so did my resilience as I went through various life experiences.
It’s the fight inside me that refuses to give up or how I have managed to find the positive in any situation that has helped me build and solidify that resilience. I don’t know if it’s something you are born with or something you can build or acquire through those experiences, I am guessing it can go either way.
I am not the most resilient person I know. That honor would have to go to my daughter, Melrose. At only eight years old, she has already faced a ton of adversity over her short life, and I haven’t seen anything faze her yet. Besides an occasional spat with Grandma over what she is going to wear to school, she seems to go with the flow and is doing just fine.
Both of her parents have had their fair share of struggles and for that reason she lives with her Grandma, my mom. I am guessing Melrose has at least inherited some of my optimistic traits because I haven’t been in her life enough for her to have learned them from me. The only thing I have had a hand in is creating a negative environment that has called for resilience in the first place.
I am not here today to beat myself up about that. God knows I have done that enough over the last six years, but I think it’s necessary to acknowledge my role. I am sure Melrose has faced tough questions from her friends over the years about her situation, and there will be tougher questions to come after my release. I will be released to my mom’s home soon, and there will be a whole new set of emotions and challenges that will await, only time will tell how we react to those. I’m confident my daughter will persevere because I can’t imagine getting me back will be any harder than losing me in the first place and then going without for so many years.
Early on, when I was first incarcerated, Melrose refused to admit that I was in jail. And I think it was simply a coping mechanism that she used to deal with her emotions and uncomfortable feelings.
Over time, however, she was able to accept reality, and I have always told her if she has any questions, I will answer them openly and honestly, but the questions still haven’t come.
I want to make sure she is dealing with them in a healthy manner and not ignoring them like I did when I was growing up because I now know where it led me.
I hear about my friends in here just trying to deflect or avoid those hard conversations with their children. I have even had friends over the years lose contact with their kids, either permanently or temporarily, because the kid’s mom says it’s too hard on the child. That the child is fine until a phone call with dad sends them back into a whirlwind of emotions and that the mom doesn’t want to deal with it. All I can do is sit here and think about how fortunate I am never to have experienced that predicament. The reason for that is because both my Mom or Melrose’s Mom have made sure that I have open lines of communication with my daughter throughout my incarceration. For that reason, I have been able to continue to work on myself and my relationship with my daughter.
When I was writing this post, I realized I should reach out to my Mom to see if she had anything to add, since she has been there throughout the years to see first hand what has made Melrose so strong, and below is what she wrote…
During your first year of being gone, Melrose had just turned three, Dacotah wasn’t feeling well, and Melrose was rubbing her back, and she said, “It’s okay mommy, daddy will be back soon.” She already had an understanding that daddies can help fix things.
She has always made friends easily, and that is something we have talked about since she was very young. We have talked with one another about why is it that friends like to play with her – she is smiley and pleasant, eager to play and interact, and makes others feel welcomed.
She has also transitioned between her mother and me very easily. There has only been one time she was 4 and 1/2 when she cried going with me and leaving her mommy. They were living in Fargo at the apartment complex for mothers/children.
I think because she has always been easy to transition and adjustable to her surroundings and when she knows her environment is loving, safe, and healthy, she is a pretty go with the flow kid.
We do lots of talking about life, and as she asks lots of questions or makes a comment that we will have a good discussion about. She will mention that her tummy is feeling scared, which she now knows that might be a feeling of being anxious. She has lots of successes with new and unknown factors (classes at school, new friends, and sports), and I will point out how that anxiousness changes to something really great when she has made it through.
As you know, we made a plan early on to help her navigate through the stages of people asking about why she lives with her Grandma. We weren’t going to cover up where you were and when someone asked…We said that her parents weren’t able to take care of her for right now. We knew she could be about five when she figured out where her parents were. So far, only a couple of times, kids have asked why do you live with your Grandma? I think it is much more common today, and for that reason, it’s not asked more often.
I believe the good Lord gave you this special easy-going girl for a reason. He knew you both were going to have challenges, and she didn’t need to be one of those challenges. She has been such a blessing to all of us.
Hope this helped…love, Mom.
It certainly did help me, Mom. And over the years I have always realized how lucky I’ve been, because without that added stress or challenge coming from home, you can work on yourself and grow as a person, to improve your chances of not coming back.
Over the past 18 months, as my release date has been drawing near, I have started to ask more questions to both my mom and Melrose’s mom, to try to figure out how I am going to fit back into my daughter’s life.
I have also started to ask Dacotah (Melrose’s Mom) how we are going to parent together.
Dacotah is also very strong in her recovery, living a healthy life, and has put a good amount of space between herself and her past and is moving forward. I am glad we can have conversations that have only one thing in mind, and that is to provide the best environment for our daughter.
We both agree that we don’t want her to be plucked out of another school, and we hope that Minnetonka will continue to be her place of education, and we can build a plan where we can co-parent even though we will not be co-living together as one family.
I am confident we will make it work for both ourselves and Melrose, and I am excited to get out there and put that plan into action.
Thanks for listening!