When She’s Gone

May 6, 2014


Just Write.

Mama calls me the next day.

“I just had to call because you’ve been on my mind all day. I can’t stop thinking…can we talk about yesterday?”

Of course we can. Because I know the words before they’ve left the proverbial building. I know what she’s going to say. And she knows that I know. And funny thing is, with all this knowing going on, nobody has even a crumb of an answer.

“She’s…I mean…within months. That kind of change–within months? Our fireball of a girl.”

Mama’s right, and I don’t like it, not one little bit. Our fireball, firecracker, wildling, what-have-you. The girl who used to wake up in the morning spinning like a dervish, the girl who shook adversity off like gutterwater, the girl who used to say, “I have a name. And that name is awesome.”

That girl is gone.

We didn’t see it coming and frankly, we still can’t believe it.

Suddenly, we have Solemn Girl. Monosyllable Girl.

She doesn’t want to swing outside on the playground anymore, or fly headfirst into the sky on the trampoline. She doesn’t want to draw funny little comic strips or bellow Katy Perry songs at the top of her lungs. She doesn’t sit at the counter after school and share gossip and details of her day.

She especially doesn’t want to share details.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” I say to Mama. “She’s changed and it’s been fast and I’m pretty sure she’s not okay and yeah, I’m just frantic about it. I always feel a little sick inside.”

“I feel sick, too.”

“She won’t talk to me. She won’t talk to her father. We try. We try so much that it’s annoying even to us. We feel like crazy people. The counselor at school says that her teachers report that ‘she’s fine.’ But ‘fine’ isn’t a girl who hides in her room and doesn’t invite friends over any more.”

“Every time I ask her how she is, she says, ‘I’m tired.'”

This from the girl who never had a “tired” day in her life.

Instead of saying “I’m awesome,” she says, “I’m nerdy.”

I found a text on her phone that said: “Everyone at school thinks I’m a freak.”

I now need her phone for information?


Thanks, middle school. You’ve stolen my daughter.

Give her back, dammit.

Because nothing feels right when she’s gone.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Camille Brightsmith May 6, 2014 at 9:19 am

Oh shit. Scary. And I think I might know a little how you feel. This sent painful pangs of recognition into my heart. Thank you for writing it. Sending love.


Jody May 6, 2014 at 9:30 am

Time to re-read Reviving Ophelia? That was the first thing I did.

Love you. And her. Ms. Awesome will be back.


Abby May 6, 2014 at 10:00 am

Middle school was the worst, most awkward time for a majority of girls that I know. And it’s so easy to tell her not to worry about it, to be herself, but when she wants to be anything BUT herself she won’t listen. It sucks, but we’ve all gone through it and at least she has you when she needs it–or when she admits that maybe she wants it. XO


Shannon May 6, 2014 at 10:06 am

I wish I had words to help and magic advice. I don’t. I only have love and support to give. Sending so much of it her way. And yours.


Kim Bongiorno Let Me Start By Saying May 6, 2014 at 10:19 am

Oooohhhh middle school. Painful.
You want to know you want to know you need to know. I know. And I wish I had some superpower to help you know. You know?


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri May 6, 2014 at 1:20 pm

I remember middle school. Painful with a capital P. No words of wisdom, but plenty of virtual hugs. xoxo


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes May 6, 2014 at 1:54 pm

She will be back, I promise! Hugs!


Michelle Lamarca May 6, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Oh girlfriend I feel you and I know, like with a capital KNOW how difficult this is. I pulled my daughter out of middle school and homeschooled her for a year because it got so hard and then at some point it got worse. The good news is that she is awesome now but my heart aches for her and for you.


S in AK May 6, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Fuck. That ain’t “fine.” Have you checked with a trusted doctor for a referral to your own counselor? Even if s/he only saw you and the hubs–it might give you some ideas.


Tiffany May 6, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Stay on top of her, momma. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, she wants you. Even if she acts like it’s annoying, she wants you. It’s so tough…hopefully the awesome is just hiding for a bit.


Jamie May 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm

This one ripped my heart out and stepped on it a few times. I hate that she won’t talk to you—you must be going nuts. Hang in there


Laura Plumb May 6, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Heart-wrenching, and so true. Middle School is painful. At 16, our child is through to the other side. But there were days, weeks, months, years even, when we thought the world was coming down on top of him. You too will see the other side of this and as Jody wrote, “Ms. Awesome will be back,” better than ever. Love, deep, always, utterly, radically accepting love will get you through. You know that. Of course. Best wishes and prayers.


elizabeth May 6, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Yeah, middle school is utter hell. I have no idea if this will help, but maybe presenting her with a nice, empty sketchbook and the encouragement to get off of her computer/phone and let it out in a purely private space may help her work through her funk.

It’s so fucking hard–it’s so, so good that she’s a freak/nerd (M proudly refers to himself as a mutant and it’s served him well as an adult, and he likes to think of both myself and his brother as freaks/mutants too) but when you’re in middle school and represent any deviation from the wholly arbitrary social norm that’s set, it’s nigh upon impossible to feel OK with yourself. The more I think of it, maybe encouraging her to let that freak flag fly in a safe space whether it’s writing in a journal, or taking an art class, or finding a group of like-minded kids that feels as passionate about whatever seemingly defines her as a “freak” may help.

Lots of hugs to both you and Miss M.


C. Troubadour May 6, 2014 at 5:09 pm

This hit like a dodgeball to the stomach — that’s not the D. we’ve seen here. I’m with S in AK. Middle school angst is normal until it isn’t, especially in someone who’s typically one to bounce back after setbacks. You know your girl, you know your gut. It’s the “I’m tired” that worries me most.

Hugs to you both.


Rachel Cedar May 6, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Oh Dana! This must be so hard. I would be worried sick. Not a mom of girls, or even tweenagers yet so I have no advice except to be there (as I know you are!) and keep trying to connect. *Hugs*


Katybeth May 6, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Ouch. ♥


Alison May 6, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Oh hon. I don’t even have the words. Just sending you and your Ms Awesome a lot of light and love.


jacquie May 6, 2014 at 7:25 pm

i’m so sorry for you all – it all sounds so incredibly hard and scary. I hate to ask this but is there any chance she could of been sexually assaulted? while her withdraw and moods might be just attributable to early teens when i was reading your post something reminded me of the behavior of younger person who has been assaulted. As someone else suggested you might want to have her evaluated by a doctor &/or counselor. i hope it is not that but one never knows especially in the current environment. i hope you all find some little bit of peace and ease. double hugs


Melanie May 7, 2014 at 5:14 am

This is what I hear about middle school and it pains my heart. I’m sorry. Big hugs.


Kel May 7, 2014 at 8:50 am

Ah, hell. I hate that Miz Awesome is feeling that way.

And I want so desperately to tell you, “Don’t worry; she’ll be totally fine!” but while I think she probably will, I know you know that it isn’t always that way.

My Artist slid through middle school as a silent wraith, staying in the shadows, unnoticed. She had her one friend, and that was it. She’s always been a bit of an introvert, so we tried not to worry *too* much. However, while we breathed a sigh of relief when she seemed blissful in HS (she chose homeschooling like her sister), and she seemed to have some more friends, we slowly realized that the effects of middle school reached further than we thought. Her eating disorder emerged slowly at first, but then with a vengeance that shocked us. She is finally getting help at age 20, and is starting to overcome it. But it has been a treacherous road.

Please, please, I beg you, do not think that I am trying to be condemning or pessimistic. I’m not. You and Dr. TKW are both kickass, involved parents who would do anything for their kids. The Scientist and I are both like that as well. I’m just saying that you need to keep trying; maintain your vigilance. Because while some kids do simply “come out on the other side” of Middle School, altogether too many of them bring some of the poison along with them.

If you ever want to talk, my email is always open. This is definitely a place I have been, having 3 kids go through Middle School. I’m sending tons of love to you, Dr. TKW, and to your Minxes.



Justine May 7, 2014 at 9:32 am

Oh, my heart. It aches both for you and for the future that awaits me.


D. A. Wolf May 7, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Watch everything with that magical third parental eye. I swear, my kids morphed into variations of who they were before, during middle school. And GIRLS can be unbearably mean to each other.

At this age, its like they pass behind the dark side if the moon. We hold our breath and observe everything. (But also, enlist other parents to keep an eye out.)

My mother’s heart aches for you. The worry is terribly difficult.



Ami May 8, 2014 at 8:28 am

Junior high is like the eighth ring of hell. I wish, wish, wish, I had some advice or words of wisdom or could, in some way, help. This is my biggest complaint about public school: it fosters an environment that teaches our children to hate themselves. The good news is that the majority of us get through this hellhole and find ourselves to be stronger on the other side. The bad news is that we’re never as shiny again.


Barbara May 8, 2014 at 9:55 am

My first thought on reading this was you should find a good counselor, it might help her at the same time relieving your anxiety. Then I read the teacher says she’s fine. Don’t know what to make of that…is she an observant teacher? Does she have time or inclination to know her students?
I had a terrible time with my boys…talk about secretive ( and worse) but my daughter went through all those stages easily.
Difficult to know what’s best, but counseling wouldn’t hurt if you’re really worried.


Robbie May 9, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Middle school is so damn hard. I hope that she doesn’t get lost in this mess. It is heartbreaking to have to watch and not know what to do. It was easier when we could kiss a boo boo and apply a Dora bandaid. Sending hugs.


Jennifer May 16, 2014 at 10:52 am

Well there goes my heart breaking right in too. Precious babe… I wish they knew that if they talked about it and shared that burden with us that it would be lighter. Maybe. None of that stuff has to be bottled up. But how do you open that dam? I don’t know.


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