She’s Only Thirteen Once

This is the hardest part of writing; if we write it as it really happened, we have to bleed on paper. @Allyvest on Twitter

I came across this on Twitter in the middle of sharing pictures from Alex’s first formal.

As I sat in the car waiting for the girls to come out the tears came and wouldn’t stop.

The pictures I posted that night tell a story…part of a story…the beautiful part…not the hard, heart breaking part…

Alex's first formal

I spent all of November, December, some of January, most of February and the first week of March, gone. Traveling for work. Leaving my two younger girls…first with Rob…then for a few weeks driving back and forth, leaving as soon as they were ready for school, not getting home until almost time for them to be in bed. Then leaving them with my oldest, leaving on Mondays, coming home on Fridays.

Alex had been so excited about formal…wanting to go dress shopping almost as soon as school started. Until she wasn’t. By December she had changed her mind and wasn’t going. She was also adamant about not going to the Deepening, our student ministry summer retreat.

She stopped sitting with her class at church. Stopped doing her homework…then classwork. Begging me to let her go to ACE, our school district’s online school.

Canceled her thirteenth birthday party…the year our tradition is to get a hotel room and let her and her friends swim and stay up all night being…thirteen year old girls…

All of these things were happening and I made excuses for it all…because I was too wrapped up in my own pain to see hers. I let her tell me it was all okay…

I stayed away so I didn’t have to deal with this new reality.

I told them how sorry I was that I had left them with their dad to take care of themselves while he drank until he passed out.

Then Rob went in to the hospital. The week of her thirteenth birthday.

Then rehab. He left. I left.

Left them with their world falling apart.

Because my world was falling apart and I couldn’t wasn’t willing to see that their world already had.

So I stayed away.

Until I couldn’t hide from reality any more.

I didn’t think my heart could break in to any more pieces…

Three weeks ago I told the girls I wouldn’t be gone so much…soon. If they could hang in for two more weeks I would be home with them. I’d still have to travel a little, but I wouldn’t be gone every week any more.

The week after I told the girls, Alex decided she wanted to finish out the year at her school.

Four days after I stopped leaving them Alex decided she wanted to go to the Deepening.

Five days after I stopped leaving them Alex came home from school, sat on my bed and told me she wanted to go to formal. With her friends. And it was in two days.

So we went dress shopping and she found her perfect Alice in Wonderland dress.

That went perfectly with her Converse, because why would you wear heels to dance all night?


Six days after I stopped leaving she asked if we could get a hotel room for after formal.

And I said no. And then yes. Because I was so excited that she was going to the Deepening. And formal. With friends.

And I had plenty of points so it wasn’t even going to cost anything so why not, right?

Then the calls to the moms…and the one who didn’t get why we would get the girls a room…it’s just Jr High formal…but they could all come.

And when I picked them up after the dance and her straightened hair was all curly…because she had danced all night.

after formal

She looked 13. For the first time in weeks months…

The weight of all the things that no 13 year old should have to bear was gone slowly lifting.

And as we drove away from the dance my heart broke over and over as I realized what I had done.

I left them with Rob while he was in the middle of a full blown relapse…I don’t even know if they had breakfast…dinner…or if they only had the lunches I would pack for them before I headed out for the week and whatever food they could make for themselves…

Alex knew what was happening and asked me…week after week…can you come home early? And I always said I couldn’t…I had to stay…I would ask her why and she would always say nothing…It’s fine…

The night of her thirteenth birthday I spent at the hospital with Rob…instead of with her…and how could I not have seen why she didn’t feel like having a party when her dad was in the hospital detoxing so he could go to rehab.

And when things started happening that I couldn’t ignore and my boss told me to stop traveling…I said It’s okay…just a couple of weeks more…

I was so wrapped up in my own pain…I didn’t want to see how Rob’s relapse had hurt my girls…or how my reaction to his relapse had left them not just without a dad…but without a mom too…

I convinced lied to myself…they didn’t need me…I was no good to them the way I was…

Maybe that’s true…or maybe all they needed was me to be here. In my messiness…brokenness…

Maybe they needed to see me like that…falling apart…unable to stop the tears…sad…angry.

Maybe they needed to see that in me so they could know it was okay to feel…




To crawl in to bed with me when I couldn’t make myself get up. To watch sad movies so we could cry together.

To celebrate a birthday with.

To spend a Saturday dress shopping instead of a last minute hour of rushing.

Sometimes to just…be. In all of our messiness and brokenness. Together.

This isn’t a pretty story…it doesn’t flow…the words feel jagged…

But it’s part of our story. A part I need to remember so the next time I start to check out I can come back to this and remember.

She’s only thirteen once. And I need to be here.


Let’s be friends!

About angelastricklin

Thanks for stopping by! If you're on FB, follow me: Instagram @angelastricklin Twitter @angelastricklin Pinterest @Angela Stricklin I'm a wife, mom of three girls and one fur baby. By day, I'm an HR manager to pay for all things girly girl and occasional fur baby treats. I add things to my Amazon wish list instead of my cart because my girls cost All. The. Money. Instead of sleeping, you can find me writing about faith, marriage, parenting and my favorite things on Facebook , Twitter , Instagram , and Pinterest.
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5 Responses to She’s Only Thirteen Once

  1. Melissa says:

    I applaud the honesty that you write with. Don’t beat yourself up, we do the best we can! Your daughter looked gorgeous. 🙂

  2. Pingback: » She’s Only Thirteen Once

  3. Cassandra says:

    This is beautiful and honest and it makes me feel not-so-alone in my parenting fails. Thank you for being so vulnerable.

  4. You are right. They need someone to bleed with who maybe knows a bit of the next step. You can do this. Praying for you all. ❤ K

  5. Just wanted to say that I love your story and it is a good story for the moms who need s crash course in remembering that it isn’t just about us.. It is about our families..

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