|This is Maddy.|
I was off today because I ended up working a thirty-hour shift yesterday/early this morning. I've also essentially maxed out my hours for the week, so I'm only allowed to work four hours tomorrow, and I'm off this weekend. I can use the break. This is a tough rotation in many ways for me. Less than a week into it, I'm already counting the days until it is history.
When I finally made it home this morning, I needed to unwind a bit before I could actually sleep, so I did a rather uncharacteristic thing, which was to watch an episode of Dr. Phil. I normally eschew Dr. Phil, as he's a bit self-aggrandizing and bombastic for my tastes, but as I was surfing channels for something to watch, I came across the show introduction, and it was the proverbial train wreck from which I could not turn away. This particular episode of Dr. Phil featured an amazingly dysfunctional white middle class family presumably from somewhere in middle America. The show was every bit as torrential as the opening promised it would be.
Tom and Karen are the parents of fifteen-year-old Madison, thirteen-year-old Liz, and at least one younger sibling, with a seemingly venomous grandmother who likes to play armchair quarterback in regard to the family's dysfunctionality as the supporting cast. While there was plenty to criticize, the grandmother blamed her daughter-in-law too much for the myriad of family issues. This family was so troubled that there was ample blame to be shared.
The show featured two absolutely beautiful blonde girls, Maddy and her younger sister Liz. Maddy has, for the past three years or so, essentially terrorized the family, and to some extent, their schools and communities as well. Though she had previously shown a life-long disdain for her younger sister, the two had joined forces to become literal partners in crime. The mother repeatedly referred to the two as "partners in crime." Usually people are joking when they use the expression, but it was deadly serious with the two girls in this family. The thirteen-year-old, Liz, had smoked marijuana, cyber-bullied others who attended her school, and physically assaulted another girl in one of her classes on the second day of school this year, just to highlight a few of her behavioral disturbances. Maddy stole and sold close to $20, 0000 dollars of her parents' possessions, physically attacked them, and, the night before the family appeared on Dr. Phil, was part of a group that robbed another person of his Xanax and drove the getaway car in a high-speed chase (without possession of a driver's license). She's had so many brushes with the law that it would be redundant to list them all, though she's never been formally charged with anything. My parents were relatively upstanding and prominent members of the communities in which I grew up, yet I doubt they would have had the influence to make all of Maddy's crimes go away had she been their child. I also don't think my parents would have aided me in any way in attempting to avoid prosecution once I committed my second crime and probably not even after my first. I really don't know, though, and I don't want to unfairly blame the parents for everything without really knowing exactly what went wrong.
One reason this horrible episode caught my attention was that I had a comparatively rough period in my life from the age of thirteen until I was almost sixteen. I thought I had been a very difficult child. After viewing this, I can see clearly that I let my parents off entirely too easily, though I would not want to live the lives of either of the two girls on Dr. Phil today. Some of what the girls accomplished by way of violence directed at their parents was beyond my physical capability. The girls are very normal in size and could hold their own physically against either parent. I still weighed eighty pounds at the age of fifteen and couldn't have come out ahead in a physical confrontation with either of my parents without a weapon. My father would have had the physical advantage of being male and more than twice my size. My mother was, in her previous career as a public school educator, a trainer of appropriate restraint and physical intervention tactics for educators to use with violent students and would have used her training to easily overpower me even thought she's only 5'3" and maybe 110 or 115 pounds.
It would have been highly enlightening to have seen footage taken in previous years in order to spot the roots of the dysfunction. Behavioral disorders of this magnitude aren't created in a single day or even in a single year. Most likely there were parenting practices even in the daughters' early years that would make a typical parent's skin crawl. Beyond that, the footage we saw was when the parents knew Dr. Phil's camera was rolling. I don't know if it was a hidden camera or if the crew physically showed up and started taping. Regardless, I'm sure we didn't see exactly how Tom and Karen normally handle their daughters' misbehavior when no one outside of the family is present.
I would suspect, however, that Tom and Karen got an especially strong-willed kid in Maddy just as the luck of the draw. Some children are more difficult to parent than others are. The younger daughter, Liz, seemed more pathologically demented and more dangerous. It may be that she has been the victim of violence at the hands of her older sister and has responded by joining her as a "partner in crime" as the easiest way to survive. I don't know, though I hate to give her any kind of a pass, as she seems truly vitriolic and sociopathic.
A relative of a relative of mine had a difficult child, though she was Mother Teresa compared to Maddy and Liz. Her primary method of acting out was non-compliance, particularly when in the care of her mother (her parents were divorced) as opposed to Maddy's violence and destruction. The relative of a relative got into drugs as a young adult. It came out when she was going through treatment that she had been molested over a span of several years by a relative who held an important job and was a pillar of his community. He threatened her that she would not be believed if she and that she would suffer consequences. As a result, she didn't tell. Instead, she dealt with the situation by acting out and later by abusing drugs. I can't help wondering if anything like that might have happened to Maddy.
Dr. Phil, with the consent of the parents, placed Maddy in an in-patient therapy program. She was not pleased. The parents got to take Liz home with them. If what I saw of her was not a misrepresentation or a distortion (I'm a bit skeptical of the authenticity of the footage), I would conclude that Dr. Phil erred in not placing her in a residential treatment facility as well. She's the one of whom the parents really need to be wary. Because Tom and Karen were afraid of Maddy, they had been securing their door with multiple safeguards at night so they wouldn't be killed in their sleep. I hope they don't discontinue that practice just because Maddy is no longer in the house. The only thing about that which bothered me was that even though she wasn't shown, there is supposedly at least one other child in the home. She is unprotected if the parents cope simply by locking their daughters out of their room.
I never knew what force was at work in causing me to be somewhat rebellious back in the day. For some children, puberty with its wild hormone swings is a major causative factor. That would not have been the case for me. I didn't officially reach puberty until months after I had turned eighteen. I'm hormonal now, but I wasn't at thirteen. Perhaps I was unconsciously angry that everyone else at school was hormonal and I wasn't. I have no idea. I'm really grateful that I suffered no serious trauma in my childhood and that my parents were sensible people who, for the most part, knew when to make an issue of a behavior and when to ignore it. Perhaps I would have been as evil as Maddy and Liz are had I been raised in their home.
I don't know if Dr. Phil follows up on his cases. Conceivably we will have an episode detailing the outcome of treatment. I'm not optimistic. I don't really see how the two girls can ever make it from their present state back to civilization, if they ever were there in the first place.
UPDATE: I read on Dr. Phil's Facebook page that Liz is being sent to a residential treatment facility, though not the same one that is serving her sister.