When my phone rang and I heard David’s voice, I knew in my gut something was really wrong. My adrenaline started rushing through my body, and the greatest panic attack of my life set in, like a train ran over my heart. “DUI……….”, “drinking and driving………….” OMG, what if she had hurt someone?! What if she had crashed and gotten killed?! My “what if” button went from zero to 10 in a split second, because my greatest fear is to lose any of my children in a car accident the way I lost my father when I was only seven years old.
All of a sudden this picturesque day on this gorgeous yacht just made me feel like a fish out of water. I have never experienced something like this, so I wasn’t ready to share this news with Kyle and her family until I could understand what was happening and understand it in my own head. I had to get off of the boat and walk and pace until my nerves could calm down.
Even though David and Mohamed were in California with Bella holding down the fort, I was so scared of the danger Bella put herself and others in by making such a reckless choice. All I wanted was to get home. I cried so much that night. I felt so insecure, not only because Bella made such a huge, left-field mistake, but also because the fear of losing her had almost become a reality.
Bella has been an extraordinary child for 17 years–always edgy but living a very disciplined life as a equestrian competitor–so this reckless choice was so shocking and disappointing to me. I raised her as a single mom most of her life, so immediately I started to take it personally, blaming myself and doubting my parenting skills. Where did I screw up?! We covered the subject of the dangers of drinking and driving a thousand times! Her integrity and philosophy on life were always so right on and beyond her years that this crucial mistake was a shocking blow to digest for me as her mommy.
But then again, being a mother is discovering strengths you didn’t know you had and dealing with fears you never knew existed. I could not shake my emotions and cried the entire plane ride home from Spain to LA. Embarassing, to say the least, in front of the other passengers, but I was so overwhelmed with a sense of vulnerability that I had never felt before and couldn’t control. I got out my laptop and wrote Bella the longest letter I have ever written and shared with her all that I felt in my heart and needed her to know. I explained to her how much she meant to me and how fatal this mistake could have been. At the same time putting my thoughts in a row and digesting all that had happened in the past 24 hours made me realize that I had to accept the fact that she had made a human error and that it was up to me to show the lesson and the consequences that were going to come with this eye-opening experience in a way that she would never forget.
I decided to take her phone away, make her pay for her own lawyer bills from her savings, and we sold her car. The court suspended her license for one year, she received six months probation, and was required to conduct 25 hours of community service and 20 hours of AA meetings.
Bella has always been a very conscientious child, so dealing with a heart filled with regret plus the consequences and shame of her actions has been a tough burden for her to bear. Life taught her that sometimes good people make bad choices but that it doesn’t mean they are bad people…it means they are human.
The reality is that it was a very painful experience and a lesson learned for our family. The truth is that none of us are perfect. I have and still make mistakes at age 50, so expectations of a life without mistakes from my children would be unrealistic and unfair.
Sharing this personal parenting story with you is a very sensitive subject, but I felt it was important for you to hear it from me.