My 16 year old daughter, Zinni, recently broke up with her boyfriend of 1 year standing.
We'd been through a lot with this young man, not because of any problem with him, but because of his megalomaniac parents. Who happen to be members of our church. They also lie. And yes, they call themselves Christian, and indeed they are, they're just Christians with problems, bigger than average problems, but Christians ne'er the less. Their problems don't affect my faith, but they do test my behaviour and thought patterns! I've learned a lot about patience, humility, prayerfulness and how difficult it is to behave with grace and dignity when my instincts are for revenge.
In January my Zinni turned 16 and we had a party for her. Prince Charming helped us with the arrangements and made her day very special. The next day he left for a week away with his family. During this week he found out that despite a less than spectacular result in his final school exams, he had been accepted into his university of choice to study aviation and breathed a sigh of relief. His plan had been that if he was accepted he would defer for a year. During this deferred year he would work and earn the right to attend university the next year as an independent student, receiving a government allowance which would enable him to be independent of his parents.
When Prince Charming returned from his week away with his family these plans had been turned on their head. He announced to Zinni and a group of friends that he was going to university in 3 weeks time. Wow! The shock for Zinni was huge and there was no time on that day for them to discuss the change of plan. Of course she ultimately had to accept the decision and see it in a positive light, though she remained unhappy about it.
While I smelled a very big rat, there was no point saying anything and waited on the sidelines for whatever crash was going to happen. Prince Charming's mother had made it known that she wanted him gone, out of her house, out of our town and of course, out of Zinni's life, and it seemed she was having her wish granted.
Prince Charming's parents had told him that if he agreed to attend uni this year they would pay for his board and would also pay half the student debt he would incur. As his total student debt will be around $150,000 this was no small offer. Prince Charming had worked as a casual for Target for 18 months, and it was assumed he would be able to obtain a transfer to a Target near his uni. This work was to provide the necessary money to pay for his mobile phone, clothing, petrol and the little things that make life enjoyable like going to the movies. The board his parents arranged was with a friend of his mother's and the thing he kept stressing to Zinni was that it included internet, so they could still talk to and see each other.
Prince Charming duly left for uni, having first spent Valentine's Day with Zinni, declaring his love for her with as much intensity as ever. Communication between Zinni and her Prince Charming was difficult. He ran out of phone credit almost immediately, and as he had 80 cents to his name, that wasn't going to change quickly. Yep, his parents left him embarking on his new life with nothing in his pocket. Their way of motivating him to make sure he organised work. The internet connection his parents had done the hard sell on? Dial up. One line in a household of 6 people.
Prince Charming came home for a weekend just 3 weeks after leaving, to celebrate his father's birthday. He called in briefly to see Zinni before going home on Friday night. He picked her up from her work Saturday afternoon and they were to spend the afternoon together. My 13 year old son, Davey, and I had a social event to attend that afternoon and when we returned around 5pm I was surprised to find Zinni at home and no Prince Charming. Through tears I learned that he was feeling 'unsure' about their relationship and so it had ended with them agreeing to be best friends. You could have knocked me over with a feather.
That was all back in March and it's now the end of April. Zinni has almost regained her equilibrium, but it's been a tough time for her. She kept her chin up in public, kept herself busy, listed her status as 'lost' on facebook and slept in my bed for a month. Last week we had a little driving holiday and therefore lots of talk time - especially when Davey had his headphones on in the back seat. Zinni told me a few things I didn't know before about Prince Charming. His parents had told him that if he didn't go to uni this year they wanted nothing more to do with him. Not only that, if he wasn't obedient to them their entire extended family would be so disappointed in him for his disobedience that they would want nothing to do with him either. (I don't think the entire family would have shunned Prince Charming, but hey, when you're 17 you believe this crap.) Prince Charming couldn't cope with the thought of losing his entire family network and so agreed to his parents' demands. Here was the rat that I thought I had smelled at his sudden change of plans.
While I've been really, really sad for Zinni, I'm sad for Prince Charming in a different way. I can't believe the lengths his parents are going to to mess him up as a person. This kid is going to have to work through some huge issues as he matures. Maybe he won't work through the issues, and that will be even sadder because that means he'll probably just replicate them.
As for the best friend deal? Well, he still had the phone credit problem and ah, Zinni wasn't going to be doing the calling. Work has not eventuated for Prince Charming, so he's totally reliant on his parents for everything. After the break up with Zinni his mother did provide him some sort of phone plan, but, ah, I smell another rat and I suspect this poor young man has sold his soul. My heart really, really aches for him, but he has to work his way through the mess of family manipulation for himself, and as far as relationships with girls go, he'll be trouble until he does.