Kate and I are getting acclimated to each other.
I am used to how when I was coaching Kate she thought everything I said was genius. But now that she lives with me she would like me to not be so bossy.
Kate discovers that the best time to talk with me is late at night when the boys are asleep and I’m too tired to work—that’s when I’m the least stressed out. And she is getting used to me having an assistant for everything.
Jeanenne and Kate spend the morning on the sofa trying to figure out how to get Kate health insurance. But after all their effort, it becomes clear that Kate is not insurable until open enrollment for our family policy. I tell her not to do anything dangerous. Which sounds ridiculous coming from me; what could be more dangerous than her letting me buy her a plane ticket to come to my house when she has no money and she’s never been on a plane and she’s never met me?
I tell her to throw out all the clothes that have bad memories. She is hesitant. She unpacks her small suitcase. Then she takes most of it out of the drawers and gives it to me for the garbage.
I ask, “What makes these shorts bad?” and she says, “I wore them the day my step-dad threw me out of the house and I had nowhere to go.”
I want to ask about every item of clothing, but I don’t. Instead, we just buy new clothes. Kate has never owned winter clothes. Or a purse. She asks me to take a picture of her so she can post it on Instagram. I give her my necklace. It’s too preppy for me. Then I click.
Kate is nervous to leave our house. Finally I find out that it’s because her step dad wouldn’t let her leave the house to see her friends. She assumes we won’t want her to leave either.
I say for sure she should go out. “Be a nineteen year old! Nineteen year olds go out!”
My son says, “Where do they go?”
My other son says, “Bars.”
Kate says, “I am too young to drink.”
Kate goes on Tinder.
I say, “I think that is for one-night stands. I don’t think that’s good for you.”
She says she’s meeting good people on it. I think, okay. Maybe I am too old to know what Tinder is for. I think, maybe in small towns Tinder functions differently than in big cities.
She goes out with a freshman at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He takes her back to his room and she says she wants to wait a few more dates before they kiss and miraculously he does not date-rape her before he kicks her out.
While pretending that he is not waiting up for her, my son says, “Mom, I don’t think Kate should go out with guys she meets online. She doesn’t know anything about them.”
I say, “I think she can see the guy’s Facebook page from Tinder. I think it’s okay.”
He says, “She needs to meet girls, not boys. She needs to have friends.”
I say, “Uh huh.” And I wonder how a nine-year-old boy comes up with this stuff.
Then he says, “I know where she can meet girls. I saw an ad for a site that’s called Girls, Girls, Girls. And you just click to meet one.”
Kate stops looking for dates online.
She switches to dogs. She wants a husky and she finds a web site devoted to them.
My husband, who has owned about 20 dogs in his life, says a husky is a good outdoor dog because it can tolerate Wisconsin winters but huskies are not particularly loyal.
I suggest a golden retriever.
My kids want a dog that will sleep with them. But they have two beds. So they want two dogs.
“The dog will sleep with Kate, ” I tell them.
My husband makes sure Kate knows the dog will do everything with her. “A dog is a lot of work,” he tells her.
Then she announces she wants a puppy.
My husband says forget it.
I tell him I think we should tell her how hard it will be and she should make the decision.
He tells me it will ruin the house.
I tell him we can’t run her life for her. She says she wants a dog. She is lonely. She has no friends. She needs anxiety medicine to sleep at night. A dog seems like a good idea.
We pay $600 to a place that is pretty much a disgusting puppy mill only 45 minutes from our house. I consider reporting them to the police or something but my husband says it’s not against the law. And anyway, Kate is so happy.
It turns out that she’s a devoted dog owner. She wakes up twice every night to take the puppy out and assures me it’s no big deal because she did that for her nephews when her sister was in prison.
The boys love the dog and insist on being co-owners, though their part of ownership seems not to be related to walking or feeding the dog.
Kate can’t really go anywhere because she can’t leave the dog alone at home. That was part of the deal—he has to be crate trained to leave him at home.
He is not crate trained but he is good with the goats. And Kate finds herself spending lots of time with kids who are friends with my sons.
Kate is happy. The boys are happy. The dog is happy. For a moment, things are perfect.
And then things are not perfect. Then Kate realizes she will never get a life if she is with a dog all the time. Who will date her? How will she get a job? How will she ever leave the farm?
My husband says (I am summarizing here), “Duh.”
And I say, “Okay, so fine. She made a mistake. It’s okay to make a mistake. I made lots of mistakes when I was 19.”
Also, I tell him about how we should think of failure as an achievement. People can only fail when they take risks, and we can’t grow unless we take risks. I announce, “People who don’t fail are not doing anything interesting.”
He tells me how that’s great for Kate but not great for the dog.
I say, “It’s a $600 dog. I’m sure we can find another home for him.”
Melissa meets us in Chicago. She tells me that getting a dog that we can’t take care of is irresponsible.
I tell her I think it’s important to let Kate try things that don’t work. I tell her the New York Times says we are in the Age of Failure, and I am on trend.
Melissa snorts which is her version of rolling her eyes. Then she takes out a pile of New Yorkers which is her sign that she is unmoved by our conversation.
But Melissa puts down her New Yorkers when Kate walks in the room.
Melissa teaches Kate how to do her makeup.
Melissa likes the results so much that she decides Kate needs her hair straightened.
“What?” I say. “I don’t have straight hair. Why does she need straight hair?”
Melissa tells me, “You don’t need straight hair because you’re successful so you can look crazy. You don’t even change your clothes regularly,” she tells me. “Straightening your hair would be a waste.”
We all look at my clothes. And if you are wondering, I think they look clean.
Melissa says, “Kate needs to look very pulled together because in reality she is not.”
Kate is thrilled. She takes a picture the minute she leaves the hair salon.
Kate has been very expensive. I think I got carried away. She has three pair of boots and four coats and now she has hair that costs $400 to maintain.
Jeanenne thinks Kate needs a job. I brush off Jeanenne’s advice because I think Kate needs time to recuperate from traumatic living conditions. I give her books about family violence that she doesn’t read. I think maybe she’s not ready. I give her suggestions for how to teach herself about online marketing. I think maybe she is not the marketing type. I notice that coaching people is a lot easier when they are not at my breakfast table each morning.
I take her to my therapist who tells me that I should not rush Kate, and Kate needs her own therapist. I take Kate to her own therapist and then I tag along on her third session to say that I don’t know if I should push her to get a job or to go to school or just what I should do or say at all.
Her therapist says I should ask Kate.
Kate does not know.
And I don’t know. So we do nothing. Day after day. In very nice clothes.
And now I think that it’s true that mistakes are how we grow, and it’s great that failure is a badge of courage because I think I might be watching my own failure unfold right here, in this moment.