This week, Jenée Desmond-Harris and Nicole Lewis discuss a Prudie letter: “Only Child.”
Nicole Lewis: So, I have lots of thoughts about “Only Child.” I am sort of reading between the lines here, about what was shared, but also what she didn’t say. My first thought: Few things are more unbearable than someone trying to hold you responsible for their pain and suffering. Especially when it happened so many years ago. And especially when, like in this case, the parents are so clearly to blame!
Jenée Desmond-Harris: YES to blaming the parents!
Nicole: So I agree, she doesn’t need to go to therapy with her step-sister! And I am happy to see the mom chose to go. BUT, and it’s a big one: She definitely needs to go to therapy on her own, right?!
Jenée: Well, I think everyone on earth needs to go to therapy. So yes.
Nicole: I know her question was all about what to do with the step-sister, but I was struck that she never mentioned her own healing.
Jenée: That’s such a good point.
Nicole: And that some of her first statements were about her parents forcing her to do this and how she learned she didn’t need to bond with the other kids …
Jenée: LW’s childhood was really rough, too.
Nicole: Exactly. And so it made me wonder, if she had done more work to sort through her own pain about how she was dragged along, could she have more empathy for her step-sister?
Jenée: I mean divorce alone is rough, and she had to deal with a ton on top of that.
Including one of those moms who is delusionally like “This is our new life! This is our family! Everything is great!”
Nicole: Oh yeah, the worst! No thanks, Mom! Totally understandable that she rejected each situation she was dragged into. But the letter really reads to me like the step-sister is saying “I harmed her but really I was the one who was truly harmed.” It’s a cry for help?
Jenée: I can totally see that. It’s even hurtful that NOW, when LW is an adult, mom is pressuring her to do something that doesn’t really line up with her reality. It makes me think her mother maybe never really took her experience into consideration.
And still doesn’t.
Nicole: Right, like here we are in her childhood all over again! She’s just lost in the shuffle of other people’s needs.
Jenée: THAT (“lost in the shuffle of other people’s needs”) could have actually been her sign-off.
Nicole: The agony, truly!
Jenée: So now I’m wondering … was it wrong to tell her to apologize to Chelsea? Is that just continuing the tradition of giving in to other people’s needs?
Nicole: That is THE question, I think. Another way to think about it is … can she truly apologize?
She doesn’t seem sorry. And again, I totally understand her here!
Jenée: I mean, I feel like with her adult perspective and the knowledge that Chelsea struggled socially for reasons that weren’t her fault, LW kinda feels for her. But you’re right, she did not actually express regret!
Nicole: Yeah, she sees the conditions and is like … ok, so it wasn’t great. But it reads a bit like a shrug.
Jenée: Also! Isn’t the therapist kind of wrong for suggesting this? Bringing in a parade of people from the past is not really how therapy works.
Nicole: Fire that therapist! Immediately, lol.
Jenée: Seriously. Anyway, I do wish Chelsea the best, but this isn’t the path forward.
Nicole: Yeah, the healing is inside.
Jenée: And LW is entitled to be upset about and get help regarding what she endured as a child.
Nicole: So the apology issue brings me back to the question of LW’s healing. I just find myself wondering if she could move on from her own pain, could she write that apology and not feel so burdened by the request? Just decline the joint therapy session, say sorry we were both in a bad situation, and move on?
Jenée: That would be the best and most reasonable outcome.