Monday, January 20, 2014

Remembering Paige

I stated in my first blog entry that I was not going to focus solely on my daughter,  Paige, and I intend to move on at some point. Today, however, I feel the need to get some things out of my head, in the hopes of helping other parents who, God forbid, have or will be in my situation.

I have said a thousand times, nobody writes a manual about dealing with the sexual assault of one of your children. As a mom, I'm kinda winging it here. Never during the first 13 years of my daughter's life, did I ever imagine the phone call in the wee hours of the morning that would signal the ending of a chapter in our lives, and the beginning of another. I have another daughter, Victoria, who is 7. I refuse to even entertain the idea that she would have to face the realities which have so viciously torn at Paige in the past two years.

I want to relate a couple of explanations prior to indulging myself in the cathartic process of recounting my experience.  Firstly, I wish to never say or do anything which would be disrespectful of Paige, her experience,  or her feelings. The thoughts, memories, and reactions related here are my own. Secondly,  I want to be sure to let those reading this or following the publicity circus to know that I made the decision to allow Paige to come out in public about what happened to her, with much thought and concern. I have taken some heat from people who believe that allowing my daughter to come out in the media with her story is harmful to her and a bad decision. Maybe those people are correct. However, I was always taught that decisions made when parenting should be made with your child's maturity level, personality and needs as guides. And that is what I did. And I don't regret it.

I decided to Google my daughter's name today. I was shocked by what I found. Her pictures all over the internet,  most of them related to the word "rape." The reality of that drove a nail through my heart. Let me tell you about Paige,  or Princess, as she is known at our house. Paige is my third child. She has two older brothers and two younger siblings.  She was the baby in our family for seven years. She is tiny. She has always been tiny. She walked at the age of 7 months and looked like a two month old baby walking around. Paige sings. All the time. She used to sing the alphabet in her best opera-inspired voice during class in kindergarten. Paige's first word was "no" and then she skipped immediately into speaking in full sentences. She has always had one of the most powerful personalities I have ever seen. The woman who helped raise my mother used to call my mom to hear "Paige stories," as there was a new one almost daily. She played in the dirt while wearing dresses, socialized during tee-ball games, and made pets out of earthworms. She called them her "lovelies." Those are the things you will never read about when you Google her name. And that is sad.

Out of respect for Paige,  and any legal loose ends, I will not go into specifics about that early morning in January,  2012. You wouldn't want to hear them anyway.  Once something is heard, it cannot be unheard. I don't say that for the dramatic effect. It truly was horrific.  After that day, Paige used to drag her mattress off her bed, into her brother's room so she could have him there while she slept. She screamed in her sleep. She panicked in public. School was no longer an option.  No more cheerleading. Instead her days became filled with darkness, depression,  suicidal thoughts and eventually hospitalization. That is not where the story ends, however.

As difficult as it was, as a mother, to see Paige struggle with something I could only marginally understand, I also witnessed her growth on a phenomenal scale.  When things were darkest, she always brought me hope. Once while having familial turmoil, paige said, "Mom, if you want to give the babies (her youngest siblings) something you couldn't give us (my oldest three children), give them a happy mom." Heavy words for a barely teenage girl. I have seen her absolutely metamorphosize under the media scrutiny.  She has come out of her shell, has gotten angry, cried, and laughed, like she hadn't for two years. I witnessed her answering questions about what happened to her that night, over and over again. I told her that when she was finished with the media, we would stop talking to reporters. On the plane ride home from doing 20/20 in New York, she quietly said, "Mom, this is my last interview." I said, "Ok."

She is now back in school and doing well. She has a boyfriend who has been extraordinarily  supportive. She has her cats, four of them. She is a fantastic aunt to my grandson.  We call her Aunt Meanie. I suppose the point of this story is that I am in awe of Paige.  As a mother,I have made so many mistakes.  I look at her now and know that somewhere, something went right. I hope that mothers or fathers who struggle through these trials with their children can come to this point as well. I hope they know that our kids are resilient and capable far beyond what we realize. A tragic event like this does not mean a life of darkness.  It simply means you have to stand together with your child and lead one another toward the light.