My oldest daughter, who moved out in May, recently visited. She left a kitten behind. A kitten initially skittish, but now so comfortable, he won’t stop walking on, biting and otherwise harassing me out of sleep.

She’s been finding homes for the feral kittens apparently swarming her neighborhood. This little guy is only the latest in a line of litters. I adamantly opposed her idea of giving the kitty to Nick for his birthday; enough critters already live in this house, depend on me for food and medical care. But when she came to visit, she brought the wee beastie and his sister. A friend took the sister, leaving the brother sad and scared, especially when our normally friendly orange cat rejected all attempts at play or cuddling. So our sympathies, already triggered by such a small, cute creature, were further provoked. Enough so that when she left, nobody had the heart to insist she take the kitten back with her.

The kitten that is now alternating between crying at my feet and clawing his way up my leg.


And now purring on my lap while sinking his little kitten needle teeth into my hands. (This makes typing hard.)

This is so typical of this daughter. To do something essentially good (save kittens), but leave the responsibility and consequences for me to deal with. I love her, of course, but when I try to reconcile my intellectual understanding that she’s her own person dealing with her own issues that she will surely resolve and move forward… when I try to resolve her current floundering, her rejection of the values she once held, her refusal to pursue anything I suggest or could help her with… when I try to resolve all that with the bright, kind, happy girl she once was, a feeling akin to vertigo spins me near tears. Because it means I failed. The one thing that mattered most, helping my child succeed in this life by protecting her and giving her the abilities to pursue her own dreams, I have clearly failed at. The outside forces — lack of money, marital struggles, psychotic mother-in-law, my own impatience and mistakes — outmattered my love and intentions.

(I feel compelled to note, for anyone that doesn’t know her, that she is, in many ways, a hard and responsible worker, a smart and thoughtful person. People have always liked her. She could undoubtedly succeed at most anything she wanted. Being her mother, however, has not been simple, and, at the moment, I feel like I’m sliding down the mountain, fingers sore, muscles aching, watching the summit recede into the distance.)

Meanwhile, the boy’s blood sugar read 241, so I corrected it with an insulin dose, hoping that was the correct course of action. All indications would suggest so, but we never know; “it seems right” is as good as it gets. He asked, while drifting off to sleep, if I’d take him on a dawn patrol (which looms uncomfortably close at this point). Of course, I said.

With soccer over, he needs something, some regular exercise. His readings have drifted high again, despite the adjustments. And my middle kid, she’s immersed in the gloom of teenagerness. The more on her mind, the quieter she gets — no way to get attention in this family. If I had money, I’d sign Nick up for something — swimming or afternoons at the rock climbing gym. I’d get K and myself back into aikido, take the family on fun trips to distract from the agony of adolescence. Lacking funds, I’m forced to rely on my own creativity, which so far, doesn’t seem to be enough.

Raising kids is a puzzle I want desperately to solve and yet, for all my trying, can’t seem to solve.

Why am I so bad at what I most want to be good at?

The kitten lies on my lap, finally setting into contentment. I wish I could find the same.