LETTER TO LOVEFRAUD: My adopted daughter became her biological mother

Editor’s Note: Lovefraud recently received the following letter from a reader who posts as “Hannah4.” Donna Andersen will offer comments at the end of her story.

V and B join our family

I retired from teaching two years ago. I have been married for 38 years to the same man and gave birth to two sons who are now grown. Sixteen years ago, my husband and I became guardians of two girls who are biological sisters (who attended the school where I taught). One of the sisters, V, joined our family when she was nine years old. One year later, her younger sister, B, who had just turned nine, also joined our family. At the time, I taught in a private Christian school where the philosophy was “it takes a village to raise a child.”

Parents in jail, children with grandparents

V and B were two of six children living with their maternal grandparents. Both of their biological parents were in jail and Grandma was having a particularly difficult time with V. V was failing in school and constantly fighting with her family. My oldest son had just left home to attend college, so his room was empty.

My husband and I were asked by G, the parish secretary, and pastor to take V into our home Monday through Friday to give her emotional, academic, spiritual and physical support. She was failing in school and my goal was to nurture her to help her become more academically and socially successful, as well as to help her learn to deal with her emotions in an appropriate manner. We did this for several weeks, and then V started to refuse to return to her Grandparents’ home and they did not want her back. I could not understand why her Grandmother never asked for my phone number, where I lived, if I had a bed and room for her grandaughter. It was just, “take her.” The school secretary, a dear friend of mine, G, had spoken to the Grandma and told her about me, so in Grandma’s defense, she probably trusted G’s instincts.

The moment I met V, life changed

I had met V early in the school year, when after school one day, several of my former students came to me and said there was a new student who had just started and she really needed my help. I had no idea what they meant, but the minute I laid eyes on her my life changed forever. The day I met V, my former students brought her in to introduce her. My former students had changed from their uniforms into cute, stylish outfits for the after school program. V was such a contrast to the other students. V and her siblings all had very short haircuts because their grandparents’ home was loaded with lice. They were sent home every Monday and the grandparents were reminded to de-louse everything. They returned on Tuesday still loaded with lice. One by one, the school nurse and the parish secretary would wash their hair and return them to their classrooms. So here stood V, before me with her short lice filled hair, wearing an old stained man’s t shirt and an old pair of ill-fitting shorts with dirty gym shoes. She looked down at the floor. Right there she had me. My heart ached for this child.

In retrospect, through V and all of the children I ever taught, I was trying to heal my inner child. I always thought the pain I’d known as an abused child made me stronger as an adult and gave me insight and empathy to children who were suffering.

V consumed my life

From the moment V entered our lives, she consumed my life. I used to play the piano, volunteer at the hospital and at Church, keep a journal, etc. Everything came to a screeching halt, as V demanded every waking moment of my attention. She called me “Mommy” but she refused to acknowledge my husband. She liked the attention my sons gave her, but within a few months, my younger son went off to college and V begged for her younger biological sister, B, to join our family. B was a much gentler little girl than V, so my husband and I thought B might have a comforting effect on V and B joined our family.

Looking back, there were so many red flags. I had both girls evaluated by the state Child Psychologist at Child protective Services. I was not allowed to see the evaluation, because I had no legal right to that information. (Ridiculous, I know, but technically I was not a blood relative and did not have legal custody, although I was their “mother” in every way imaginable). However, the State Psychologist called me. He said he NEVER called parents, because he was so swamped with work, but he wanted to tell me that he had never seen a child more neglected than V and that I had done such an incredible job with her. I wish I would have recorded our conversation to remember his exact words, but he said something like, “You are her only lifeline.” When I got off the phone with him I felt as though her success in life depended on my commitment to her.

Dealing with lice

I hate to admit it, but the lice got to me. V went back to Grandma’s on Friday nights and she’d start calling me about 5:00 p.m. begging me to come and get her. I could hear Grandma screaming in the background and 9 times out of 10 I would go and get her. I think she only went back on the weekends for about a month, although my husband says he thinks it was a little longer. The hassle of spending three hours on Sunday nights combing through every inch of her hair while she watched television, was draining. Lice shampoo is not meant to be used weekly on a child, so physically pulling each egg off of each hair was the only way to rid her of them. It was just easier to let her live with us 24/7 and visit Grandma once in a while. V loved the arrangement and Grandma and Grandpa seemed content with it too. My husband and I carried all financial responsibility for both girls and never asked the Grandparents for anything and they never volunteered to help in any way.

At this time, I thought of our arrangement as temporary, until the girls’ parents were released from prison. At the time, their bio Dad was in prison for murder and I honestly don’t remember what bio Mom was in for at that time, as she has been in jail so many times since. Bio Mom is currently incarcerated for murder.

Over time I became concerned about what would happen with the girls when the parents were released from prison. I knew that both bio parents used drugs and the girls had never lived with either parent. They had always been with their grandparents. A mother of three adopted children at the school where I taught, recommended that my husband and I become foster parents so that we could get Child Protective Services involved, forcing the bio parents to at least go through drug rehab before getting the girls. My husband and I went through the classes and became licensed foster parents to the girls.

Biological parents out of prison — for now

Their bio Dad was released from prison first. I learned through G that he had no interest in taking the girls. Both V and B separately went to visit him overnight and each said they did not want to go back again, and they did not. When bio Mom got out of jail, she told me that she could see the girls were happy and she could barely take care of herself, so I need not worry about her wanting custody of them.

However, because the state was involved, all of the six children (children of V and B’s bio mom) were required to attend counseling together with bio Mom for one year while Mom went through drug rehab. When I would ask how things were going, V and B said they didn’t talk to the counselor; they babysat the younger siblings while Mom talked to the counselor. Mom made no effort to meet with the girls to develop a relationship with them outside of the counseling sessions. Mom, did however, apply for and was granted custody of two of the younger children who received social security benefits from their bio dad who had since died, (V and B’s half sister and half brother). That lasted about a year and then bio Mom went back to jail. Those children went to foster care, as Grandma had died and Grandpa could not take care of them.

That’s the general background of V’s story. Her behavior was very very difficult. I have a master’s degree in early childhood education, and I continued to read everything I could on how to manage her behavior. She lied about everything. Even when there was no need to. She argued for hours at a time. I was so exhausted from her demands I couldn’t think straight.

Through the doggy door

When she was in 7th grade, I got a call from the school principal saying that some of V’s classmates reported she had stolen liquor from our home and drank it with them. She denied it. She started sneaking out at night through our doggy door. One night I went in to kiss her good night again, after I had tucked her in. There was a shape of a body stuffed under her blanket and I almost didn’t go to kiss her, but I did and found no one there. We had an alarm system on, so at first I couldn’t figure out how she’d gotten out and then I realized the only way she could have gotten out without setting off the alarm was through the doggy door. I sat in the dark, staring at the doggy door, terrified at the thought of what I had brought into our home. Soon she crawled back in, surprised at seeing me there. From that point on, it was war.

My husband and I took her to a psychiatrist and a counselor. The psychiatrist said she was ADHD and put her on ritalin. The counselor found her so charming. V refused to allow my husband in to any of her sessions, claiming that as a child she had been sexually molested by her grandfather’s cousin (which I do not doubt), and that she would not talk openly in front of a man. For years I drove her to the psychiatrist, to the counselor, to gymnastics, modeling school, dance classes, basketball and volleyball team games…everything she wanted. (All the things I would have adored to participate in when I was a child). But in the background of our busy schedules she made our lives hell with constant chaos.

V’s plan to ruin our family vacation

When V was a freshman in high school, my husband and I planned a family vacation at Christmastime, at a hotel two hours north of our home. My older son came over Saturday morning and the girls wanted to drive up with him. My husband and I drove in our car right behind my older son’s car. On Sunday morning, my younger son was going to drive up and join us. Driving up to the hotel I looked so forward to a break. My husband worked two full time jobs and I worked a full time job teaching. It would be so nice to have our sons and the girls all together for a beautiful family vacation. In retrospect, the Narcissist, V, could not stand the thought of a boring vacation with the family and had cooked up a horrible plan to throw us all into chaos.

To make a long and painful story short, she had given the house key and alarm code to a friend to have a party while we were gone. In one evening over 500 beer cans were tossed into our home and backyard, coke and/or heroin was burned on my spoons, all of our Christmas tree ornaments were broken, our carpets were drenched in liquor, vomit was all over the bathrooms, our tv, stereos and valuables were stacked by the door Sunday morning, ready to be stolen, when my younger son stopped by the house to make sure everything was okay and discovered three intruders still in the house.

V is out!

We immediately called the police who informed us that they could do nothing because a “family member” had willingly given the intruders our key and alarm code. My older son grabbed both girls from the hotel and drove them to his house where they stayed for one day. He was afraid that my husband would crack under the pressure. My husband called Child Protective Services and had V removed from our home. She never cried. She never admitted any culpability. She had left a signed note on her bed to the girl that she had given the key to telling her where to find the “surprises” (liquor? drugs? who knows) and to “straighten up before she left so my Mom won’t know.” My older son held the note up to her telling her to just admit, for once, the truth. She refused. When the CPS case worker picked her up, my son screamed with frustration because she coldly said she had nothing to do with it. He said he was done with her. My husband agreed. B and I watched V leave with the case worker and drive away. We sobbed and sobbed. V never shed a tear.

V was put into a group home a few miles from our house. I visited her almost every day. I went to counseling with her. I cried. She was rather cold toward me, but I thought she was just trying to be strong, coping with living in a group home environment. When she moved to the group home, CPS transferred her to a different high school. She started to date a boy and later I found out they were having sex. This boy died one year ago. He committed suicide. He was a heroin user, had two children, and his live in girlfriend was extremely physically abusive toward him. He had a tragic codependent personality, perfect for V’s needs at the time. She dumped this boyfriend as soon as she left the group home. He never got over her and kept in touch with her on and off throughout the years.

Group home closes; V is back

After she was in the group home for six months, I got a call one day that Child Protective Services was closing down three group homes run by the same person. One of the homes was V’s group home. They said they were desperate to find a placement for all of these children and would I consider taking her back. I immediately said yes without consulting my family. My husband was, needless to say, very angry. My older son would not forgive her and was frustrated with me. My younger son was disappointed but kept an open mind. B was hopeful, as I was, that she would have changed.

As you can guess, she had only gotten worse. I re-doubled my efforts to save her. We continued to take her to counseling and to the psychiatrist. She enjoyed the attention and had them laughing at her antics. Once the psychiatrist said almost like he was telling a joke, “Well, V, some people see someone stick their hand into the fire and they just know not to do it, but you are one of those people who see someone stick their hand in the fire and you just have to do it to see what it feels like.” She said, “Yep!” with a big smile on her face. I had no faith in the counseling sessions she was getting and had her go to a new counselor. She loved the new counselor, who would look at teen magazines with her during sessions. Everyone felt sorry for her past and no one could help her (or my family) deal with the present.

 “Tough love” didn’t work

She totally controlled our lives. The counselor told us to use “tough love” with her; take away her things when she was disrespectful or refused to follow the rules. She did not care. We had taken everything from her. All she had left in her room was a mattress and pillow on the floor. I bought her a tan skirt and navy blue shirt to wear to school. Each day she would come home in a cute outfit that one of her friends had brought to school. She told us she didn’t want her things back when we told her she could earn them back. She truly did not care and did not earn anything back. It was all about control and she was going to win.

V is 25 with a son

Fast forward to 2014. V is 25 years old and has an adorable 2-1/2 year old son who I will call M. M’s Dad is 27 years old, smokes marijuana daily, works at a minimum wage job, lives with his Mom (who does not work) in her boyfriend’s apartment.  M’s Dad has never paid a cent for M and he sees him on holidays or when his father (paternal grandfather) asks to see him.

V was recently involved in an 18 month relationship with a wonderful man we will call A. He is 27 years old, is from a warm loving family in another state (I have never met them, but he has talked about them and I have seen his Facebook page). A is in the military and after 18 months of having been lied to and financially been broken by V, he has moved on to his next military commitment in another state, alone. 

When A entered the picture, my family and V’s bio siblings had all washed their hands of her. They had completely given up on her because she had taken advantage of them in every way possible. When A came into her life, he replaced me and slowly I was able to begin to see what was happening. She had the same hold on him that she had on me; he was constantly off balance and confused and broke. He was so trusting and naive and she took advantage of him in every way possible. Of course, I didn’t realize this until later because she kept everyone away from him, unless she was standing right next to him for very brief encounters.

Researching V’s behavior

Fortunately for me, in trying to understand V’s behavior, I had read several books about borderline personalities and narcissism, but it wasn’t until I came across Zari Ballard’s WHEN LOVE IS A LIE that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that V was a sociopath. It is interesting that when the Jodi Arias case was aired I had to watch it every day. I could not get over the similarities between her and V, yet V was so much more evil. When I read the 13 characteristics of a Narcissist in Ballard’s book, I was able to check off each one. Now I am into Ballard’s second book dealing with the difficult and painful process of “No Contact” with the N.

When I look back at all my husband and I did for her, the sad part is that it took away from our two sons and B. We put V through technical school which cost a lot of money and she lost her license because she was stealing from several places where she worked. Over the years she has done many illegal things, some which could have landed her in jail for many years. Sadly, she has turned into her biological mother.

V’s boyfriend says good-bye

The night before A left to go to his next tour of duty, he came to say good-bye. We cried for a long time. He still does not realize what he has just been through or what he has been saved from. He has a top secret clearance and she recently had three warrants (two traffic and one criminal for theft). A was warned he would lose his clearance if he didn’t leave her. I am so grateful to him because until he stepped into her life and he became her narcissistic target, I was the target and I could not see the forest through the trees. No psychiatrist, no counselor saw her as she is. My husband, sons and V’s siblings did, but I just couldn’t accept what I considered their “harsh judgment” of her. Once I saw the pattern in her treatment of A, like an alien ripping apart a human for the fun of it, and then checked off those 13 characteristics of a narcissist, I was able to pull my head out of the fog and begin to take control of my life again…16 years later.

Looking back

I went out the other day with a former teacher I used to work with and we chatted about our kids. I told her a little of what I’d been through with V. She said, “No wonder you always looked so sad.” I was shocked. I thought I had been able to hide the horrible pain I was always feeling; obviously not.

The hardest thing I am having to deal with right now is missing M. I was there when he was born and I adore him. I confronted V two months ago about her drug use and so she has kept me from him. I don’t know her phone number and do not know where she is living. I have decided to cut the cord with her (and painfully that means M as well) and go NO CONTACT. I was telling my sister how much I miss M and she said I have to forget about him (easier said than done). She went on to say that she believes V got pregnant just to have one more hook into me because she knows how empathetic I am toward children. I immediately disagreed and said that V is just impulsive and got pregnant without thinking. Having read Ballard’s book now, I am not so sure.

The pain I’m feeling

I made an appointment with a counselor about two weeks ago. I brought Ballard’s book WHEN LOVE IS A LIE with me and another book on narcissism to share some revelations I had had about V. I told the counselor my plan for the future, and suffering in trying to go “No contact.” I had hoped he would give me tools to cope with the horrific pain I am feeling. He said I was doing all the right things and told me to pray. I was so disappointed. I have prayed all of my life. I was praying he’d have some tools to help me get through this lonely and painful time.

Then I started working on the difficult exercises in Ballard’s second book, STOP SPINNING, START BREATHING, which brings me to why I am writing on this blog…I am STILL having cognitive dissonance. In trying to do the activity: (complete the sentences) “Even though I know it wasn’t real, I still miss________________.”

I have plenty to write, but then there is this voice in my head that says, “Who are you to say she is a narcissist? Maybe you just never got her the right help? You are cutting her off and she still needs you. What mother walks away from her child?”

I need help to process these doubts. I believe I need to cut her from my life completely so that I can enjoy my family (including my three other grandchildren), yet I am having trouble coping with the guilt of missing  M and one day maybe having to face V if she returns.

Searching for info on narcissistic daughters

I have not been able to find any articles or books on dealing with narcissistic daughters. It seems everything available is for adult partners. I have been able to learn from these resources, however, as a mother, there is an added layer of guilt that is so difficult to objectively assess.

Do you know of any resources available for parents?

Do you have any advice for me to help me cope with letting go of M?

Donna Andersen replies

Hannah4, I am so sorry for your experience. To answer your questions, Lovefraud has published quite a few articles about dealing with disordered children, which you will find in this category:

For Parents of Sociopaths

The most revealing statement that you made in your entire article is this one:

In retrospect, through V and all of the children I ever taught, I was trying to heal my inner child. I always thought the pain I’d known as an abused child made me stronger as an adult and gave me insight and empathy to children who were suffering.

You don’t describe what you experienced as a child, but I’m sure the bottom line was that you were denied the love you needed and deserved.

As an adult, you drew on your childhood experience to offer empathy and understanding to children in similar situations. V, unfortunately, was unreachable. You offered her limitless unconditional love, and your love was rejected.

I see a direct correlation between the denial of love that you experienced as a child and the denial of love that you experienced with V.

I believe your experience with V isn’t about you being able to help her because you, too, endured pain in your childhood. I believe the purpose is to allow yourself to actually feel the pain of your childhood now, as an adult, when you are strong enough to process it.

The objective is to clear your heart and soul of all the disappointment, betrayal and negative emotion.

You are doing the work. Release the pain all of it. As you do so, the pain will be replaced by peace, and you’ll feel better than ever.



Comment on this article

25 Comments on "LETTER TO LOVEFRAUD: My adopted daughter became her biological mother"

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What I connect with about this story is the utter disappointment, emptiness, and betrayal at pouring your heart out to someone so completely and finding that they cannot ever receive it. The reason almost doesn’t matter. I have done this with my younger sister over the years, and she continues to push me away. It is an ongoing challenge (which I don’t spend too much energy on these days) to figure out whether to keep pouring out love to her or to just walk away and cut my losses. I’m almost 54 and she is 52. I will say that she has at least learned not to be abusive, though I think she secretly thinks badly of me and attributes bad motives to me. At least through therapy, she has learned to apologize when she blows up and keep her communications respectful, whether she likes me or not. She is a business woman, and she knows how to put on her game face. This may be the best I ever get from her, so I don’t focus too much on that relationship.

One thing is I do have a great respect for her for splitting our mother’s estate with me. By some bizarre fluke, my mother left only a very old will which – for unknown reason – left 3/4 of the estate to my sister and named her as the executor. We had agreed before we ever saw the will that if she left her estate to either of us, we would split it fairly. She kept her word, though I don’t know if she resents me for it or not. I respect my sister for her integrity, though I don’t think she does it out of love – I think she is a bit of a martyr and just wants to do things “the right way.”

In any event, she is not someone I will likely ever have much of a relationship with. And she is my only living family member. So I can relate to the pain of loss of love that you always hope for but never receive. It’s good as Donna says to really feel the loss of love. At its core, it’s the parental abandonment. It’s very painful, as as a core issue, can color everything that you attempt to create for yourself in your life.

Thank you for your comments. Yes, it certainly is disappointing. I read a book by Barb Schmidt, THE PRACTICE. In it she says that when we have EXPECTATIONS about another person’s behavior, we are likely to be disappointed; it is better to have PREFERENCES. I have found this to be so enlightening, as words hold such power. When I have certain EXPECTATIONS for my daughter, I was always wiped out, because she could cut me to the core so easily. When I changed my thoughts to holding a PREFERENCE for her behavior, somehow it made my disappointment less painful. Schmidt says the word EXPECTATIONS has “entitlement” attached to it. PREFERENCES simply means it is something I would prefer that my daughter would “do” or “become” but if she doesn’t, she doesn’t.
This seemingly insignificant clarification of terms has really helped me to put things in a very helpful paradigm. I hope it may help you as well.
Thank you.

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