Letter from an “Abusive Mother”:
On my birthday I missed my kids, so I decided to send them both cards. I went to the store and carefully picked out the cards, and wrote out messages of joy, compassion, love, and support. The one for my younger son, who is at boarding school, would be delivered by his dad. The one to my 19 year old, I decided to hand deliver along with some birthday cake and fresh blueberries.
I wasn’t sure exactly where Tracy (name changed for the sake of privacy) is living, but I followed the crumb-trail of medical appointments, soup kitchens, and laundromats, all tied together by Uber rides. I hadn’t seen Tracy since the Spring of 2021. Tracy likes to claim poverty, but we parents still get all these bills. So, I followed that residual parent/child bond of financial support, which led me to a neighborhood I’d never visited before—a typical urban landscape of small bungalows on wooded lots. A modernist five-story building showed some recent investment in the neighborhood, as did the small, tightly remodeled duplex that housed the nonprofit that runs the shelter houses. My teen was living in one of those houses, according to the trail of Uber pick-ups, but I didn’t know which one. I asked some people on a stoop if they knew Tracy. “No, I never heard of a Tracy,” answered the lady with pig tails. She was wearing a grey hoodie and clearly didn’t want to talk with me. I had no idea at that moment, but later on I learned that this lady on the stoop is one of the staff at the shelter. She knew my teen, suspected who I was and lied to my face. I drove around the corner, back to the program office and, when no one answered my knock, I left the small package for Tracy leaning against the door.
Apparently this delivery of cake, fresh blueberries and a card is heavy criminal activity for which I am now expecting a summons by the police. I only hope that Tracy has to appear in court to make the allegation. I think I have that right, as a criminal defendant, to see and hear my accuser.
Is that the only way I have to speak with my 19 year old? Through the court?
Enforcing this family separation is wrong and damaging to my teen’s mental health.
If going to court on charges of stalking and harassment is the only way to see Tracy, I’ll take it. But I hope to just chip away at this wall of hostility. I hope we don’t go to court. I hope that Tracy’s heart begins to open up, that love blossoms again where I know it used to flow freely, that the unrelenting hostility will give way to renewed family relationships.
My dread and disbelief overflow and combine with my certain knowledge that my 19 year old is in very real danger. I can’t get anyone to help me, and I can’t do anything myself. Even the smallest chink in the facade might be enough to allow in some light, some hope for Tracy.
This is a state-enforced family separation happening in a deep-blue city. We got here through the blind worship of the medical right to privacy that works to the detriment of family relationships and to the detriment of my teen’s health and welfare.
The ascendant trans policy holds that parents are harmful, toxic, hateful, and abusive of their children. Parents are automatically guilty of this if there is the slightest mention of it by a young person. Because of “abusive parents,” children as young as five are endorsed by all sorts of authorities — teachers, counsellors, social workers, therapists, and doctors — to lie to their parents, to hide significant dimensions of their lives, and to effectively lead a double existence. My high school teen who shouted at me that turning off the wireless modem was abusive, and a violation of his human rights, and then told teachers or counselors at his school that mom is abusive, was believed and endorsed and pushed along in that unreasonable hatred. My role as mom, my authority and my duty to provide a safe and wholesome home, all of that was thrown out the window. Never was I, the mom, ever engaged in any open discussion by any of these authority figures who endorsed my kid’s allegations—I was just silently shunted aside. The adults in charge of helping my child to grow up, they endorsed unreasonable hatred and distrust of me.
That first allegation of abuse, back in high school, was so confusing to me that I did little in response. To this day I continue to be confounded and confused by my teen’s choices and behavior. A massage therapist who helps me with my sciatica, told me about her own 30 year old daughter and how when she goes off the rails she also alleges abuse by her parents. Most teens don’t go around alleging abuse, especially when, objectively speaking, there was no abuse.
Kids get angry. Kids get over it. It’s the adults who endorse the unreasonable anger who are taking a difficult situation and making it much, much worse.
I am not someone to fear. I am Tracy’s mom and I love my teen.
In Spring of 2021 my teen ran away from home. Tracy told the family who took him in that I was abusive, just like he told his school. When I went to that family’s house (because my teen fled in an Uber, I knew the address) both parents looked terrified of me. To me this was odd and unexpected. I was holding a box of cupcakes, that I’d brought as a gift. I thought we’d all sit down with a cup of coffee and a cupcake and talk for a few minutes before Tracy and I returned home. Back then, I thought it was a temporary break, that my kid would settle down soon. That was nine months ago.
That morning on the doorstep, where I stood with the cupcakes that I bought as a present, I learned that these parents had referred my kid to a homeless shelter. They never even bothered to talk with me. They blindly took Tracy’s wild statements as fact. They threw me, Tracy’s mom, in the trash. They assumed my teenager would be better off in a homeless shelter than with me. They think I’m an abuser. If those parents had reasoned with Tracy, endorsed me as a mom, and encouraged reconciliation, this could have all played out much differently.
The night before Tracy ran, I tried for us to have a conversation about what the word “abuse” means. We needed to have that conversation because Tracy had begun to more and more frequently make unreasonable allegations of abuse. This is an important conversation if your kid thinks turning off the internet is abusive and is willing to denounce you to school authorities for it. And there were other instances too, the most recent being a report to CPS for abuse because of an argument with my younger son. Instead of helping me in a difficult situation, Tracy called CPS and alleged I was an abuser. That investigation went nowhere because there was nowhere for it to go—no signs of abuse, no records of abuse, no abuse. But still, if you want to see your mom as your enemy and as an evil, toxic person, you’re going to see all of their parental actions through that lens, and that’s where Tracy’s thinking had gone.
When exactly Tracy decided that I was toxic and evil is unclear, but I know this developed in part via online chat rooms some time in the second half of his junior year and continuing into the start of his senior year of high school. Then covid hit in the last semester before he left for college, and this walloped hard at all the groups and activities that normally helped hold Tracy’s world together. In the online world Tracy increasingly inhabited, denouncing parents as toxic and evil was the norm.
In December, at the end of his first semester in college, I received a call from a psychiatric hospital, saying I needed to come pick up my son. The hospital only disclosed depression as the cause of hospitalization. That was an obfuscation of a much more complicated situation. The following May my son told me he wanted to be a girl. That’s when I first met Tracy.
My son was an A student, a varsity team member, and talented musician. Tracy dropped-out of college, punched holes in my walls, lives in a homeless shelter, refuses all contact with me, and is intently focused on rapid trans-medicalization.
It’s been nine months since I’ve seen my teen.
The city system of shelters will not even admit that my child is living in one of their homeless shelters, much less help me to reestablish a relationship. When I point out that Tracy has a trust fund and a home, they respond saying that anyone who is not the owner nor on a lease can claim to be homeless. They say, well, if a person claims they are not safe, that’s sufficient. If a person says they want no contact with their mom, then no contact by you is allowed.
When I ask, “How can I clear my name? I am not abusive!” I get silence.
When I say, “Well, Tracy is still on our family insurance policy and yet you’ve signed Tracy up for Medicaid and we get the bills for that too,” I get silence.
That my child is suffering is extremely clear. No one’s best life is to live in a homeless shelter. No one chooses to drop out of college to live on welfare. We have to presume that this action was forced somehow by circumstance. But forced by what circumstance? No one cares. No one will listen to me, who knows the details. And no one will provide adequate care for my teen, or allow me to take care of him, as I want desperately to do.
As I contemplate the painful situation for Tracy, I suddenly get a text from a program manager for the city shelter. She won’t tell me anything in any straightforward way because, according to city policy, she is not even allowed to admit Tracy is in the system. But through a series of confusing texts it becomes clear that my teen wants to file stalking and harassment charges against me because I brought over some birthday cake to share on my birthday.
“That’s why I feel like a counter-part to the victims of Texas Governor’s new policy. In both cases the ‘authorities’ view the moms as abusers.”
Excuse me very much for loving and missing my child. Excuse me for wanting to see my kid and wanting to know how my fragile and hurting kid is doing in this rough and tumble world. For wanting to help him.
At what point can we say that false allegations of crime meet the criteria of “threat to self or others”? The harm is to me but also to Tracy, because such false accusations can themselves be a type of criminal behavior. So-called caring professionals taught and encouraged my teen to lie. They separated my family. They continue to harm my son by preventing me from helping him.
My teen is fueled by anger which generates unreasonable fear. It’s the oldest of psychological mechanisms, to lash out unreasonably at one’s mom. That’s what’s happening. I know that fear is unreasonable because I raised my kid with loving kindness and dedication. My kid had every possible advantage, but still had specific challenges, as many kids do.
In my ‘blue state’ case: I am abusive for taking away the WiFi, for ending a dinner because of improper use of electronics at the table, and for seeking treatment for my depressed child. There is no generally accepted meaning of “abuse” and what constitutes it. The state colluded with my teen’s allegations and demonized me, the mom, while allowing Tracy’s enduring trauma-injuries to remain without treatment.
I will resist the alternate path— to wash my hands of what seems a hopeless situation and walk away. My son is in danger, and I will never abandon my maternal love. I won’t be tricked into acting like my teen’s enemy, nor forced into callous indifference.
If I’m hauled into court, I’ll have my say. If I’m brought before the judge, I’ll demand to confront my accuser, my teen, and I’ll say, excuse me for loving you. Excuse me for wanting ethical medical care that helps you get past this fear-reaction.
I’ll admit to the crime of loving my teen and doing my best to get him the help he so desperately needs—and deserves. And I will never agree to stop trying to help Tracy.