QUESTION: I am writing to you in hopes that you can provide me with some sort of advice and direction. Several months ago my 22-year-old daughter who lives independently, asked to borrow my mink coat to wear to a special party. QUESTION: I am writing to you in hopes that you can provide me with some sort of advice and direction. Several months ago my 22-year-old daughter who lives independently, asked to borrow my mink coat to wear to a special party. I initially said no!!!! However, her persistence won me over and, against my better judgment, I loaned her the coat. I pleaded with her to take special care of it. My primary fear was that she might be careless and allow it to be stolen. She assured me that she would take good care of the coat.
A few days ago, I called her and asked her to bring the coat back because I needed it to wear to a special event. Finally, after several calls, she came to my house without the coat. She said, “I have a confession to make. I sold the coat.” She refused to tell me to whom, when, and how much she sold the coat for. To add insult to injury, she never once apologized. I was so disgusted, I asked her to leave my house immediately.
I am very hurt, betrayed, and disappointed in her. My daughter was aware that the coat was given to me, was very expensive and had priceless sentimental value. I could never afford a mink coat on my income. I’ve been broke many times since I’ve owned the coat and never once considered selling it. I am certain that my daughter is not on drugs which would be the only thing that might make some sense in all of this. I don’t know how to handle this.
ANSWER: Wow!!! I can hardly imagine a daughter bold enough to sell her mother’s mink coat. More than that, I cannot imagine lending an expensive mink or anything else that valuable and sentimental, to a 22-year-old. My thought is that the first mistake you made was not following your instincts. Your initial response was, “No.” Clearly there must have been some reasons or past experiences that made you intuitively feel that lending the coat was not a good idea. Each of us must learn to trust our intuition and listen to it. Our intuition is designed to protect us. Secondly, when you loaned the coat to your daughter, you should have given her a date-certain to return it to you. You allowed her to keep it for several months. This behavior does not send the message that you highly valued the coat.
My first thought as I began reading your letter was that your daughter may be using drugs and needed the money to pay for her habit. However, you indicated that you “are certain” that she is not on drugs. If you have been able to convince yourself that her need to sell the coat was not to purchase drugs or anything else that might be habitual or problematic, then I strongly urge you to find out what her reasons were. As her mother, you should not simply accept her silence on the matter of who, what, when and why.
I know that you were initially angry when you asked your daughter to leave your home. However, give yourself some time to calm down. Then try to move past the loss of the coat and begin to focus your attention on the bigger and more important relationship issues between you and your daughter. There appears to be serious issues of trust, betrayal and accountability. In this regard, there is a lot for the two of you to talk about. Explain the meaning of trust and how she has violated the confidence you placed in her. Explain to her how important it is for you to understand her behavior in order to determine how you will allow it to impact the level of trust and confidence you will have with her in the future. Share with her your feeling of betrayal. Let her know that the mink coat is not nearly as important as the trust between mother and daughter. Finally, talk with her about accountability and consequences and together, find a means of restitution for the loss of your coat.
Nelvia M. Brady, Ph.D. is the former Senior Vice President of Carrington & Carrington, LTD., a prominent executive search firm where she speciali