The following is a work of fiction, loosely related to something that has taken up in the reality that I exist within. It is meant as a form of venting and catharsis, but if it has meaning otherwise to you by all means I hope you enjoy/get something from it.
“What are you doing?!?!”
As I look up from my phone I see the intense blue of my wife’s eyes before I cooly explain that Dakota is messaging me and having a bad night.
“Well tell her to pull on her adult pants and deal or make the right decision and leave his perverted ass”
I suppose I should back up a little as you are probably wondering who, what, and why?
Dakota is a friend of my wife’s much younger sister, 19 to my wife and I being in our early 30’s. Dakota just prior to graduating from high school began dating Brady, a 25 year old father of three small children who was embroiled in about as intense a child custody fight as possible with his ex and his ex’s family. Dakota, like my wife and I has an exceedingly young look to her and honestly not knowing differently I could easily guess her to be approximately 14-15 years old. Tiny and petite but developed in a way that leaves her a mix of boyish and feminine.
Brady, who works in a “career” as a cable installer, for his part sought me out the previous Summer when there appeared to be a brewing custody fight and indicated that there may be further issues. I provided a friends and family price for my involvements but it was indicated that a boss of Brady’s was enamored by an attorney who while incompetent puts on a good show, but honestly cannot compete when there is a requirement of litigation. She is pleased enough to flex and talk and then kindly walk clients to convictions.
As it turns out a little further issues was a multi-count indictment for various sex offenses all involving a minor child who I had come to learn represented herself as 21 when in reality she was just 14. A look at the individuals social media accounts did lend credence to her appearing to be 21, sadly our state has a very strict law regarding involvement with minor children and their being photographed and as a result this paid for attorney had assisted Brady in landing a four year stint in prison, shaken hands with Dakota and disappeared with no return phone calls.
Enter me, Dakota had become entirely dependent on Brady and as a result with his being taken into custody following sentencing she had begun to fall apart. This little girl had injected herself into a “fairy tale” only to realize it was instead an adult situation and she would be encountering adult things very very very quickly. Bills were piling up, she was upset not seeing or hearing from Brady (our state requires a mandatory silent period when prisoners first reach their sorting/intake site so that the inmates can focus on their being processed), and in general struggling to as my wife puts it “adult”.
I looked back at my wife and indicated that I felt she was correct in her feelings and honestly if it were up to me that Dakota would dump Brady and would find a way to move forward with her life rather than waiting like an abandoned puppy for his release which could be almost four years in the making, or as my wife pointed out, a college degree worth of time. That said it was not up to us. Then taking a moment to reflect on the most recent of details shared with us I slowly stated. “Or at least not yet”
Seeing my wife’s blue eyes morph from an intense steel colored stare to a duller blue-grey puzzlement I indicated that Dakota was already immensely behind on bills and struggling with funds. We having recently moved into a new residence with a portion of rooms off to the side above the garage but within the house itself had space and I proposed that we offer to allow her to reside here temporarily until there is more of a determination about the outcome of Brady’s imprisonment and the length of his stay.
An invitation for dinner was extended and accepted, and it was at the dinner table where we broached the topic and staged our intervention. It was admitted that Dakota wasn’t eating right, she wasn’t hydrating, and was attempting to avoid dreams by not sleeping but instead binging on television and Netflix shows that she and Brady would watch together. My wife being the longer presence in her life got to play the part of the good cop while I got to sit and stare holes into her with my lawyer stare. I had intentionally stayed in my suit which I am told automatically ups the intimidation that already exists given my 6’4″ 225 pound frame. My wife indicated that to help ease the financial burden we were willing to offer her a room as well as board in exchange for some housework. This would allow her to focus her financial assets into paying on bills and focusing on herself instead of working multiple jobs in an attempt to avoid “letting Brady down”.
“This sounds so great, please and thanks” Dakota beamed as she almost seemed to bounce with excitement in her chair.
The smiles were short lived as I stood and spoke. I advised that the “catch” for this kindness is based upon the reason for the kindness. That we believed she was failing at properly caring for herself in the manner that an adult would and as a result she would reside with us in a fashion that was befitting of that behavior. In short she would be reverting to living under someone acting in loco parentis’ roof and would have to earn the “adult” life and privileges back. As I saw the list of questions forming in her head I drew, almost on cue, from my pocket the agreement that I had drafted and prepared for this very situation. It was slid across the table with a pen and much to her credit Dakota began to carefully read the document. I saw her making notes and became glad it was saved in template form on the computer in my office.
Her brows furrowed and she peeked a glance at me before returning to her review of the document. She sighed and blew out her breath slowly before sliding the document back across the table to me and indicating that she would require some revisions before she would sign. She indicated that she would not agree to outright removal of Brady from her life until his release, that she was not in agreement with all of the sanctions being used as indicated in the document, and that if she was paying for her phone she shouldn’t be made to forfeit it at any time especially as she needed it for contact purposes.
To make a long story, well its going to be a long story anyway but to try to maximize the quality of the story it should be said that there was discussion and indications of compromise and the absolute limits that were presented by both sides and it was finalized that while Brady would not be removed straight out that he would be treated as if he was the boyfriend he is to her new place in our home and thus restriction was subject to her meeting expectations, that we would in addition to room and board provide for her phone, but that it too was subject to restriction. It was agreed that “Mom” and “Dad” even in jest monikers were not to be used, and that unless there was a situation involving expectations or rules not being met or followed that she would refer to us by name, otherwise it was Sir or Ma’am.
In essence Dakota would become a teen daughter to my wife and I. This wasn’t unusual as we had essentially raised my wife’s sister from afar so the idea of a teen daughter wasn’t foreign. She would have a room and the level of privacy expected to be given to a teen daughter, but she would also be expected to meet requirements that she eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and get a set amount of sleep with the provision that until she re-calibrated her internal clock that there would be a lights out and bedtime. Just as one would expect of a household with a teen living there the sanctions were what one would anticipate. There was restrictions from various things including the internet and phone, there were also sanctions that would only be implemented if the above failed to catch her attention and seemed more juvenile in her mind, but any defensiveness was dissipated by the reminder that if she did what she needed to then she had no worry about their implementation.
The contract was signed, I drove Dakota back to her place and allowed her time to secure her things and the residence before driving her back to our house and allowing her time to get settled into her room. After a while I went to check on her and let her know that dinner was ready, as I poked my head in the door it hit me that yes, this young woman had experienced a lot of life’s ugliness when she was with Brady, and yes she was in all legal respects and adult who would be soon turning 20, but she was still very much a little teen girl with her decorations and the stuffed animals she had brought and the picture of the “heart throb” boyfriend sitting on the end table.
This new reality would be an adjustment, but I was fairly confident that it would be something we could survive and get through., even if there were some bumps in the road along the way.