Many of you have asked what happened with Kate. In case you don’t remember, Kate was a homeless teen I found myself coaching in Florida. When I realized she was homeless I bought her a plane ticket to come to my house. We made our guest room into her room. I bought her all new clothes, and I told my sons to stop asking how long Kate is staying for. I told them, “This is her home. It’s the only home she has. She leaves when she wants and comes home when she needs to. Just like you guys will do when you’re older.”
I remember when she arrived, I felt I was doing something that is my life calling. It was so easy for me to understand her because she grew up just like I did. She kept asking me how I could open my house to her so easily and I told her, “I can’t help myself as a teen, but I can help you.”
I spent a lot of money trying to give her what I thought she’d need to launch into adult life. But the things she really needed were things we cannot buy.
She lied to me and my husband about birth control. We told her she had to use condoms until her new IUD started working. She told us she was insulted we would think she’d have sex when she had only been in Wisconsin two weeks and she didn’t even know anyone.
We said, “Just put the condoms in your purse. Just in case.”
She said, “That’s so slutty.”
That week she got pregnant. I didn’t find out until two months later, when she miscarried, in the toilet in the back stall in the bathroom at cello lessons. She brought me to the bathroom to ask if she’s dying. “This came out of me.”
I looked in the toilet and to be honest, until that moment I had no idea how much I knew about blood in toilets. “You had sex the week we told you to use a condom, didn’t you?”
“That’s a miscarriage.”
She lied to me and my husband about visiting her friend’s parents a few towns away. Instead she took our car across state lines with a guy we’ve never met and stayed in hotels with him with our credit card. When we accused her of lying, she told us she didn’t go with the guy. Even though all the receipts showed she did.
My husband was dumbfounded that she could be so dishonest to people who are helping her. He couldn’t believe she’d take our car and disappear. I was forgiving. I had done the same thing with my parents’ credit card when I was her age. I would have stolen from anyone when I was her age. It comes with not having parents who take care of you.
We had a pattern where my husband would go nuts that we have a lying, deceitful, unmanageable teen in our house, and I would go to therapy with her where I would explain what happened and the therapist would talk about responsibility and Kate would listen. I think.
I remember listening to a therapist at her age. I also remember wearing stolen clothes to those therapy appointments.
Kate told me she was too old to live with a family.
I asked her if she had ever had the experience of living with a family and abiding by house rules.
She said she wished her parents had stayed married. She said, “The best time of my life was when I was really little and we were living with my real dad.”
I said, “But you told me he was using heroin with your pre-teen sisters.”
“Oh yeah. Well that wasn’t good. But the rest was.”
I listened to that and I told myself that I, too, had been incredibly delusional about my father when I was Kate’s age. I told myself traumatic childhoods can only be healed with stable living environments. I could give her that. I stuck by Kate through everything. I took pleasure in telling her, every time she did or said something awful, that I would not kick her out.
She tested and tested and said, “I can’t believe how loyal you are.”
Every therapy session became a discussion about how family members abide by the rules of the family because people care for each other.
So Kate left.
She got an apartment in an area of town where I’d never let my kids live. She took a towel, throw pillows and other small things I did not tell her she could take. I only realized it when she sent me pictures.
She never had a bedroom of her own. I was too happy for her to accuse her of stealing.
She got a job that didn’t pay rent. She sent me a picture on her first day of work.
She got fired the second day. “I have a felony,” she told me.
“For what?” is what I asked. What I thought was that I’m scared she is going to get into some sort of trouble that I can’t handle.
The felony is because a friend’s mom put a restraining order against Kate and Kate kept seeing the friend. Kate told me the mom was crazy.
But I start worrying that probably everyone in Kate’s life is not as crazy as she says they are. But also, if they are that crazy, then what am I doing here?
My husband tells me I have to stop giving Kate money.
I pay her rent for one month. And I give her our car that we weren’t using anyway because I didn’t think it was safe in the winter.
I tell her we’ll put the title in her name next time she comes to visit.
The next time she comes to visit it’s too late to go to the DMV to change the title. But Kate is lonely at her apartment. She has a job but no friends. She takes home a kitten. She wants one of our favorites. My kids say no. She asks for my husband’s favorite. He says no, too.
She doesn’t want an older cat because she says it’s too hard to train an older cat to love you. She says she’d rather have a damaged baby and she goes home with a kitten who’s blind in one eye.
She is happy with her cat. She is happy with her car. She comes back to our house to get the car title. She asks if I can pay for gas. And she asks me to pay for one month more of rent. My husband makes me tell her I won’t pay for anything else. She can come back to our house to live, but we won’t support her in her apartment. “No more money.” I have to say it to her when my husband is sitting next to me so he knows for sure it’s clear.
Kate comes back to have dinner with us. The boys are so excited that they bake her cupcakes. She says she can’t stay for dinner but she wants a second cat.
My husband says he knew all along she wasn’t staying for dinner.
I tell him he’s too cynical.
We don’t have any more kittens but my in-laws do. My mother-in-law has been bottle feeding a kitten that she loves. She tells Kate that Kate can take the kitten but if there is any problem, or if Kate doesn’t want the kitten, she should email my mother-in-law and give the kitten back. It’s hard for my mother-in-law to part with the kitten she’s been taking care of for so long. My husband assures her Kate will take good care.
The next morning Kate calls me.
“You’ll hate me,” she says.
“I’ll never hate you. What happened?”
“I gave the kitten to animal rescue. It was too annoying.”
“I don’t hate you. We knew you have an attachment problem with people, so it’s not surprising you have it with animals. But why didn’t you call us? Why did you give the cat to animal rescue? And how did you even get it there?”
“They came and picked it up.”
“They picked it up?”
I am sitting at the breakfast table. Now the boys want to know what happened. They are hearing everything.
I hang up with Kate and my husband tells me we have to get the kitten. The boys will know that Kate sent the kitten to animal rescue and my mother-in-law will be too upset. And we can’t tell the boys to lie.
I tell Kate.
She says okay she’ll call animal rescue.
They are not open until 3pm and she has to go to work.
I tell her to go into work an hour late. “Tell your boss we need to get the kitten back before they give it away.”
She says no.
I say we are coming to her apartment to talk with her. To explain why we need the kitten back.
She says she won’t tell us where she lives.
I didn’t realize that I paid rent and gave her a car, but I don’t know her address.
She stops answering her phone.
We go to the Best Western where she works at the front desk. There are three employees there, and the manager, and no one is doing anything except listening to us talk to Kate.
She tells us to go away.
We say we don’t have another way to talk with her.
Her manager asks her if she wants him to call the police to take us away and she says, “Yes.”
We go back to our car and look up animal rescue in Madison. It turns out that it’s animal control and it’s kill-only in Madison. Now we know why Kate didn’t want to help us get the cat back. But animal control tells us they picked up the kitten and felt so bad killing it that they held it until the animal shelter opened and brought it there.
We went to the animal shelter and got the cat back.
I want to tell you I never heard from Kate again. But I did. She kept charging her braces to our account.
I called her and told her to please stop. She said she wasn’t doing that. I didn’t even argue with her. I just hung up.
And then, for three months, I told myself I’m so stupid. So stupid for thinking I can save the world. So stupid for letting her lie to me so many times. I hate how much money I spent on her. I hate how much time I spent. Incredibly bad judgment. And the conversation with my sons about how Kate is not able to trust people so she is not able to be trustworthy. That was so difficult to have.
I was so mad at myself for so long. But then my husband started reframing. He said she could have stayed at our house much longer, and made the pain for the family much bigger. And my therapist reminded me that I learned a lot about myself, and how much I’ve overcome, by seeing how many hurdles Kate still has to face.
So I made a mistake. I misjudged Kate. And I misjudged myself. And I guess it’s okay. It’s okay to make a bad decision. And get burned. But it’s not okay to dwell on it. So this is me, giving you the update and moving forward.