Long time lurker, first time poster

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Dancerat, Sep 19, 2013.

  1. Dancerat

    Dancerat Member

    I have read this forum for the last several years whenever I have felt sad, depressed, or unable to cope. I think I finally need to share my story because I see a lot of support here and feel like I could use some advice from people that have been there and done that.

    I have three children, two older easy child that have gone on to do good things with their lives and are self supporting, and their younger brother, which is, I suppose my difficult child. I am luckier than most people on this forum, being that my difficult child is not violent or abusive. He is 20 and I just had to release him into the wild yesterday for the first time. I am an agnostic, not what you would call a strict parent in any sense. I really have had no issues with moderate alcohol use, I tolerate smoking cigarettes (not in the house!) and actually am okay with occasional pot use. I always had the guidelines that do whatever you want, as long as it doesn't harm you or other people, and that you make good grades, stay out of law trouble, keep the house as peaceful as possible, and work. Pretty lenient, huh?

    This seemed to work fine for my now 26 and 27 pcs. They both graduated high school, went on to university got their degrees, one with a masters, and are doing very very well, financially, emotionally, and with a great work-life balance. My 20 year old however... Is a different story. He did not graduate from high school, although has put in effort in to gaining those last credits to get his HS diploma, has repeatedly flunked out of community college, has gotten fired from every single one of his last six jobs, and has repeated brushes with the law.

    However, I've loved him unconditionally and supported him all through this, perhaps too much. He started dating a girl last year who has bipolar disorder and being with her seems to have set his path down a darker trail. He has issues, and paired with her issues, they just exacerbate each other. After he lost his last job, I stated, look, I have only two rules. One: get up by 11 every day and look for work. Two: girlfriend can stay at my house, but no drama.

    That was it. He has a really nice car I bought him, his piano, a beautifully appointed room, Xbox, iPhone, gym membership with towel service. I love this kid. I love his sisters. They have all had everything they ever wanted. In fact, because I was worried about his mj use, I even hooked him up with a mmj card so he could have mj legally. He doesn't drink alcohol and he doesn't do other drugs. His girlfriend has been kicked out of both her mother and fathers homes, and I think is a recovering addict with alcohol issues. He thinks he can fix her.

    The straw on the camels back was this week. Last year when they started dating, they would get into huge fights at our house, to the point where the neighbors would call the police. The police would come to our house separate them and then leave. This happened when we were not at home, or in the middle of the night when we would be awakened by screaming in the front street and then the inevitable blue lights. We tried to work with them both, repeatedly, for months, then they broke up and we thought, oh life will get back to normal. It didn't. He chased her, she moved in with another guy for a total of four days until he kicked her out because of her issues, and then she landed right back with my son. At our house.

    This week, everything seemed okay for the first three days. Then my husband and I were woken up by screaming and caterwauling on the back porch. She was crying, screaming, slapping my son, and this went on for two hours. I didn't intervene because I was hoping (right?) that he would finally come to his senses. She controls his phone, his computer, his social networks, and abuses him physically, and yet... He doesn't see a problem. Well, I'm hands off until it interferes with my peace.

    The next day, was my easy child daughters birthday. She is in town visiting us, and it was a great visit. None if us had any sleep from the night previous. We are all sitting around the dining room table, bleary eyes, and exhausted. difficult child and girlfriend are sleeping. They slept until 3 in the afternoon. At this point, I'm done. My husband leaves to go teach, my easy child goes to have celebratory birthday drinks with friends, and I realize I cannot live like this.

    i knock on the door and state that girlfriend is to get up, take a shower and leave. I'm done. difficult child snarls that if she goes, then he may as well go too. I think about this. I go and fill his tank up, get 20 dollars, come back and get a sleeping bag, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, soap and deodorant, pack it all up and say, "okay, you are both out".

    i left the house to collect my thoughts. When I come back she is taking her lengthy 1.5 hour shower. No I'm not exaggerating. He has packed some clothes up and I hug him and tell him I love him, but he will be fine. He has a car, he has a gym membership (with towel service, remember), iPhone, and perfect teeth, a handful of resumes, and intelligence with no physical handicaps.

    The last I see of them yesterday is he in the kitchen packing away the yoplait yogurt I bought her in the hopes that maybe she would eat and we could maybe get along.

    So they found a couch to sleep on last night. He shows up today at my door, with her in the passenger seat and he asks if they can take showers. I looked at her and him, she won't even look at me. I said, Not her. She is not allowed in the house. She can go ask her mother and father if she can shower at their house.

    He gets angry when I say this, and his sister hugs him and said, love you baby bro, but you have pushed the parents too far this time.

    I look at him. He doesn't offer to hug me. I don't offer to hug him.

    They leave.

    This is very hard for me. I really love my son. I am kind to strangers. I have opened my door to her many many times. I just cannot handle the abuse, the yelling, the drama. I feel like she is heroin and my son is using and has yet to hit rock bottom. I really think that once she realizes the gravy train is over, she will dump my son and go to the next guy that can support her.

    One last thought. My son has had many GFs. I have never seen this kind of girl. In fact, I am still friends with some of his exes, and he was too, until this girlfriend came along and cut him off from all of his friends.

    Thank you for listening to my story. I feel like I did the right thing, although my husband would say, just cut him off from all the support, cell phone, car, etc. I don't want to do that though. I want him to be in a position to where he can live independent of me and has the tools to do so.

    One final kind of small funny in this though. He was talking to his sister and was saying that there was no tp in the place he stayed last night! I thought, yup, welcome to the world without mom and dad. What will be really interesting is when this girl will get them kicked out of where they are staying because of her manic moods in the middle of the night.

    i am fully prepared for them to live on the street, in his car, on the couches of whatever friends he has left. If he wants to come back, I'm trying to decide what rules to impose. Obviously, no drama girl. Get up by 11 and look for work. I'm thinking about putting in a third rule. Car between 7 am and 7 pm until he gets a job. Weekly therapy visits.

    This is hard. Not as hard as some of you have it, by any means. Do I answer the phone when he calls? I think maybe not for awhile. I'm still reading how to detach. Tough tough tough.
  2. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member

    Hi and welcome,
    I think you did just fine. You said "no drama" and they brought drama, and you're setting boundaries...seems reasonable to me. Your house rules are very flexible, and I think you're offering a lot! I'm surprised girlfriend left compliantly and without drama...you're lucky. Stick to your guns. I like that you are making regular therapy appts. a condition of moving back. Your son must have significant issues himself if he's attracting and remaining with, and trying to "save" his girlfriend. Good luck...you're very strong, and I applaud you.
  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I also think the son has issues. He wouldn't be allowed to go jobless and sleep until whenever in my house nor bring his girlfriends to my place to live. He wants to live with them, that's fine, but you're an adult, get your own place, pay for it and act like a man. Your two older kids are PCs and could apparently handle your lax rules, but this kid will milk you for all you have.

    I think you did the right thing, sending both of them on their way. Your son really needs to grow up and get his life together rather than expecting you to buy him a car, feed him, let him do no chores, not work, etc. If you're paying his cell phone bill too....it's time for Junior to leave the house even if the girlfriend issues disappears. Can't see him becoming mature if he doesn't have to. He's not motivated. This mess is NOT just on her. He is doing nothing to further is life and he isn't getting any younger...

  4. Dancerat

    Dancerat Member

    Thank you for your reply. My son has played piano since he was 6, and usually plays every night for a few hours. I think that's going to be the hardest for him, because it's part of his routine. This girl hates his playing. Well, I don't know how she can, because he plays and sings so beautifully. I think it's just a control issue for her. It's one of the few things she could not control. I used to hear her ridicule his playing, and for awhile he wouldn't play at all while she was over. She cut him completely off from all his friends, he had to delete all of his female friends from FB, and is not allowed to talk to anyone she doesn't approve of. It's like... Shades Of Gray, YA style. In reverse. I'll probably be posting a lot here on this forum. Again, I am lucky because I have the support of my husband and my daughters, and we are all on the same page. I have to have faith that he will figure it out. Crazy eventually shines through, right? He should eventually figure this out. I wish there was a success story forum area so I could hopefully read where some young men have figured it out. At least the weather here is pretty and not horrible yet, the street kids are actually pretty nice and he's not drug addled. Unless you count this girlfriend as a drug, which I kinda do. I was joking to his dad that I should probably join Al-Anon. I'm busy scribbling down all the thoughts I have. I read somewhere where you don't, or aren't supposed to text back right away when difficult child texts, and I'm trying to figure out exactly what that does.
  5. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome Dancerat. Interesting story.

    Has your son ever been evaluated for any conduct disorder, or any other issue?

    Well, it certainly appears as if your boy has a failure to launch going on, along with some entitlement issues, but what jumps off the page for me is that he is in an abusive relationship. That level of control and raging is unhealthy at best and quite damaging. Why would someone stay in a relationship like that? That would be the question I would be asking myself.. Abuse is systematic, all connections are severed so control can be complete, this feels creepy to me.

    Detachment is hard. I don't know if any of us can be "fully prepared" for our kids to live on the streets. It's horrific. This all is very new for you, there aren't really any formal guidelines for detachment like "don't text right back." That is a choice some parents make who've been enmeshed with their kids in such a way that they are always available, in particular by text or phone, so they limit their responses. We all approach this quite differently, mostly to find our own boundaries, as you are now doing, so we can find peace and joy, so we can stop enabling our kids so that they can either have a healthy, successful and independent life or at least understand that they won't and then make decisions based on that knowledge.

    If your boy is not doing drugs, has no psychological disorders, has flunked out of school, can't keep a job ,has "brushes with the law," and has hooked up with the girlfriend from hell.............I don't know, it all sounds as if he is either in the throes of some disorder, or he is screaming to be independent. My experience is that when our kids reach adulthood and we continue taking care of them, we send a message that we don't believe they can make it on their own. As much as they want us to take care of them, in equal measure, they want us to stop so they can grow up. It's an odd dance of dependence versus independence..............and when they begin to feel like a victim, their anger at the person taking care of them intensifies.

    I may be totally off base here and forgive me if I am.............but this sounds more like a family dynamic that has become dysfunctional for all of you, not just your son. Your other children are daughter's correct? Your son is a man. His requirement as such is to act like a man, which has much to do with taking action, being independent, making his own choices..........somehow he is not able to do that and it has now manifested in his girlfriend taking complete control of his life. Something is very wrong here. If I were in your shoes, I would find a therapist for your son, you and your husband and start untangling this family knot
  6. Dancerat

    Dancerat Member

    Hi, thank you for your response. I am prepared to hear everything, so no, you are not out of order at all. My husband and I have had marital therapy about 12 years ago, and it really helped us forge a strong relationship, and gave us some good communication tools, so we are good there. I had therapy last year when difficult child was 19 and was having failure to launch, and my therapist at that time also said that being too caring can send a signal that we don't have faith or confidence in our children. That is a weird concept to me, but I guess could make sense. I know, it's very odd about the abuse. We are a very peaceful, non violent non argumentative family. We talk things to death before we would yell or scream or resort to physical violence. I can't recall ever spanking or slapping my children. But difficult child has always been respectful and has only lost his temper towards me once, even in his worst teenage years. That's why this is odd, and his other GFs have always been sweet girls. The job thing has bothered me, but he was always able to get another job right away... But it's been getting harder as he's getting older. I think I'll probably go towards the independent piece, but we've always given free reigns to our kids. There weren't curfews for our two girls, because, they've never needed them. They were self imposed, easy child. difficult child had to have curfews because otherwise he would have stayed out all night when he was in high school. He does seem to have weird sleep pattern. Up all night, sleep most of the day. After he turned 18 though, we turned him loose with no curfews.

    I found a great therapist for my son last year, but he stopped going after a few visits. He started with another one a week ago, but missed his second appointment, because he overslept. If he does ask to come back home, I'll make sure that is part of the package. If he has a mental thing going on, I'm not sure what it could be. He doesn't have bipolar, or schizophrenic tendencies. Maybe a little depression, but not outward signs, except for the sleeping. I think we have a okay family dynamic. I will say, that husband is his step father, and he's never met his bio dad in person, only on the phone.

    You may have something there I will mull over, which is he doesn't really have a stereotypical strong father type. husband is very caring, and scholarly, but is kind of like me in that we sort of expect our difficult child to be self regulating like his sisters, and we are constantly trying to figure out why he's not a motivated person, at least until this latest turn of events, and now we just aren't sure of what to do. I like the idea of going to an expert at parenting, and discussing this. I will ask husband tonight what he thinks about that. husband has an excellent relationship with both girls, and has tried numerous times with difficult child, but is rebuffed a lot. He never gives up though. He's very sweet that way.

    In our family, women have always been taught to be independent and breadwinners. The girls were expected to work and get a degree before marriage took place, and both girls work 40 hours a week, so taking action and being independent is for everyone, not just males. I work in a male dominated industry, and have worked my whole life, so it's not that laziness isn't tolerated, it's just not expected in the family. The girls both worked since they were 16, including all through school. I'm just sort of at a loss as to how he is the way he is. He is making a choice to be in this relationship though. I think he sees himself as a knight in shining armor, trying to fix her, and showing her all the patience that he thinks will help her. He's just so young, he doesn't know that some people can't be fixed. But I can't have her in my home. If he wants to try and fix her, it will not be on my time. I've let him go as far as I can stand.

    Interestingly enough, he has not texted me since he left today, so I'm sure he's figuring it out on his own. Either that, or she took his phone so he can't communicate with us.

    this forum is a life saver. Thank you all.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2013
  7. 1905

    1905 Well-Known Member

    Welcome, and you're making good decisions, just keep it up. Don't cave after a few days, have something ready to say when he asks you what he is supposed to do now. And he will. Here is what I love to say, "You're a smart boy, I'm sure you'll figure something out" If he calls you...."someone is at the door, gotta go". He has a lot of growing up to do because he is used to everything just handed over. The way he'll change is if you just let him figure out that's not the way. I promise you it will get ugly for awhile, just be strong, he'll figure it out (even if it takes years), he'll come back to you, thanking you for helping him see the light. I know you meant to help him, make his life easier and of course you would, but now, all that has kept him stuck. He will find his way, he will, hugs to you.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    As the parent of four kids, three adopted so that they are all genetically different, I can tell you that without it being your fault at all that various kids need different things from their parents. Obviously your girls had a good self-regulatory system and were able to do well without a heavy hand or structure in the house or too many rules. I actually have a child like that, however I would feel uncomfortable not giving her guidelines anyway. But that's all I really have to give her. She is seventeen and follows society's rules easily because she is a very easygoing kid, driven on her own, wanting to do well. I have an autistic son who needed strong boundaries as a child, but miraculously does not really require us to push him to do well. He is a very hard worker, proud of himself with a job well done, eager to please. And that's the key.

    If you have a child who is eager to please, the child will do so. It's a snap to parent a child who is like this. I have a few kids who were and one who is still not eager to please. The one who was more concerned with her peers than what we thought got into drugs and we didn't know it. With your son's disturbed sleep pattern, I would not be surprised if you came here one day really shocked to find out that you son IS using serious drugs. I used to think, "Why does my daughter sleep all day and stay up all night?" Now she DOES have a sleeping problem. She has been drug free for years and still has insomnia. Maybe that triggered her drug use.But she did it at night, when we were asleep. Have you ever checked your son's room, facebook, cell phone messages, just to make sure he is making good choices? I think he has some red flags there. He is with his girlfriend for a reason.

    I have a 35 year old son who never grew up. Now he has a job and moved to another state and was married, but he still is emotionally like a very small child and needs me in a frightening way for a man his age. I have had to pull away. None of my grown kids get money or expensive gifts from us, including him, as we want them to stand on their own and be proud of what THEY accomplish. Remember, we can not live forever. Are your son's sisters ready to forego their own children to buy cars and pay cell phone bills for their brother? Why can't he hold a job? Have any of those jobs been jobs t hat he could have supported himself on?

    Children LIKE to have boundaries, even the best ones, but some can live without them. Your son was not one who could. He still can't. He is taking advantage of your generosity by refusing to grow up. You DON'T want an eternal Peter Pan who runs to daddy and mommy every time he wants to buy cigarettes (a habit, by the way, that I think it's not good to enforce...it is so incredibly unhealthy).

    He will not like it if you suddenly tell him he has to grow up and take care of his own needs and you don't have to do it all at once, but my layman's advice is to wean him away from his dependence on you and stop blaming all of this on his girlfriend. He picked her for a reason and she has no power over him except the power he chooses to give to her. Perhaps, as RE said, he is used to other people making decisions for him and that won't work as he gets older. No boss wants to hire a thirty year old who thinks like a teenager. And do you really want him to be a stockboy at age thirty? Would that be in his best interests, do you think?

    "Give them roots to grow and wings to fly." Even my most difficult kids are on their own and working good jobs and financially on their own. They knew they'd have to be so they are. It seems you don't like to hear that perhaps being too indulgent is not a good thing, but it's not. I know you mean well, but showering kids with material items and letting them do whatever they want is not realistic with the world at large. Nobody in the workforce is going to care that you bought your son a car or that he thinks rules don't apply to him because he never had any rules. And he has to learn to live in the real world that doesn't think our kids are as wonderful as we do.

    It's hard for us, but it's sooooooooooo necessary to stop enabling our adult children or they stay children.

    Hugs and I hope you can work it out. I may also add that at your son's age you can't force him i nto therapy, but I think it would be good for you and your husband to see a therapist to learn how to detach from your grown son or at least how to relate to him now that he is 20 and making poor choices. I'd also check out possible drug use. Having had a sneaky drug user, I'm not convinced your son is only smoking pot. And smoking pot every single day is not good either. It kills motivation and your son doesn't need that!!

    By the way, 20 years old is not SO young. My autistic son is 20 and far more mature than your son and has to work for his things and he is eager to move out and be on his own next year. That's part of the problem. He is not a little boy. He is a man.

    Be sure to check back with us :) We honestly care about you and your kids.
  9. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    For me it seems, that your son has two separate, but of course tangled, issues going on. Other is his failure to launch. Other is, that he is in abusive relationship. Unfortunately there is little you can do to help him with either, if he doesn't want it himself.

    Kiddies are different and it seems your two oldest are high achievers and 'golden children.' It is not uncommon for younger siblings of 'golden children' to feel inferior and struggle with that (I feel lucky my 'golden child' is my youngest, I think that makes it little easier to my struggling child.) Most get over it sometime during their twenties and it is just one of those typical growing pains many have to go through.

    That he has ended up to abusive relationship (and yes, he was likely partly vulnerable because of that. He wants to prove himself that he is important, and 'saving' his girlfriend gives him that feeling. And girlfriend, like most abusers, are good at taking advantage of that kind of sentiments) of course makes things more complex. It is very unlikely he can emotional continue to grow up before he gets out of abusive relationship.

    You can't make him get out. He has to want it himself. Trying to separate him from girlfriend likely backfires and girlfriend is likely trying to separate your son from you, or at least from your influence, your money probably is totally okay for her. That of course doesn't mean you should let girlfriend live with you. Or let her into your house and have a shower.

    If you think she will leave your kid, after you stop giving them money or place to stay, that is awesome. After that you can get to helping your son to launch. But do remember that she may well continue playing yo-yo with your boy, so letting him back home can easily bring her back, if you let that happen too early and easily.

    Because of the abusive relationship aspect I would be wary to go with usual detachment route with "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. You are a smart boy, I'm sure you can figure something out." After he decides to try to brake out from abusive relationship, he may need help and not be able to figure it out himself right away. I'm not sure with your system, but I have to say our DV-shelters etc. don't work so well for men who have been in abusive relationship, so often more help is needed from parents and loved ones than with female victims. Just letting him handle it on his own may not be the best option. Let him at least know, you are there for him and will help him navigate through it, when he decides enough is enough.

    What you need to do now, is sit down with your husband and come up with the game plan. What are you going to do in different scenarios? Now you have little bit time to actually think things through and plan. And to get to the same page. When things happen and you get a phone call or he is at your door, it is much more difficult to think ahead. So plan now.
  10. Dancerat

    Dancerat Member

    Thank you very much for your input. I agree with you on the support. I would never hold back emotional support from any of my children, I just can't have this girl in my home. husband and I have discussed this all day as we have painted our laundry room to give us something to do. difficult child called me this morning to ask when he can stop by to get his SS card so he can sign up for food stamps. I thought, wow, awesome! He learned a survival skill already. So I think he's going to be fine. He called at 9 a.m. which means he was up and out of the place he was staying. I haven't seen up before 10 in forever. Amazing. husband and I will make sure that we have some kind of gameplan in place.
  11. Dancerat

    Dancerat Member

    Thank you, you are correct, 20 is not a little boy. Being a man and taking care of yourself doesn't automatically happen when you turn a certain age, although I wish it did. I appreciate your honesty and straightforwardness. I have done my son no favors apparently up to this stage so far. difficult child came by last night to make a sandwich and I sent him home with food I would not eat, top ramen, a loaf of bread, pb&j and some chicken that I was getting ready to throw out. He's not going to starve, and he said he has been out looking for work all day and planned on going out all day tomorrow in addition to applying for food stamps. I feel pretty good about these decisions that he's making. I think he's upset and angry at the situation, but he's figuring it out. Hoping that as he finds the strength to navigate survival skills, that it will give him the skills to also say bye to the girl, or at least lay some boundaries down with her.

    Thank you so much for the good thoughts and advice. I'm trying to figure out the detach thing. This seems like the hard part. I hate dwelling on the fact that it's getting cold, that the weather is turning gray and wet, and that he doesn't have the life skills he needs to survive well yet in this world.
  12. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Dancerat I commend you on your open mind, your willingness to listen to input that could be difficult to hear and your own ability to be quite frank. I think all of that will bode well for your own path of detachment and being able to hang tough.

    I forgot to invite you to read the article on detachment at the bottom of my post here, I think it's helpful.

    I hear a lot of stories here and I also have my own difficult child to deal with, so I'm pretty well versed on all the shenanigans that difficult child's come up with. My intuition is whispering that your son is different then many of our kids..........in a day he moved through stuff some of our kids take years to do.

    Your son knows he is loved and he respects you, but it seems he can't quite figure out who he is. I don't know why, but I am reminded of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars and the heroes journey.

    I think your plan is a good one, keep him at a distance, allow him to figure it out on his own, with some guidance from you................if he can just get some empowerment under his belt, some sense of his own inner certainty, his own worth as a young man and ability to make good choices...........he could launch out into the world well.

    It sounds as if you have enabled him to some degree which can keep him stuck, but it doesn't sound excessive. Perhaps all you need to do is hold on tight, keep up the detachment, keep your heart opened and follow your instincts.

    He sounds like a good kid who just got lost. I think it's tough on boys when they are essentially abandoned by their fathers, even if your husband has been a wonderful Dad, he is not your boys bio dad. It's remarkable how deep abandonment goes. It's as if he is searching for his role model to be a man. Being a caretaker to his girlfriend is a somewhat twisted view of being a hero, but it could be construed as such by someone quite young.

    Wishing you peace in this upside down world of detachment............keep on posting, it helps. Glad you're here.
  13. Dancerat

    Dancerat Member

    You sound like a professional therapist! I'm not a very good Yoda, but I love the idea of a journey. I suppose there are archetypes for a reason.

    I've read the thread on detachment and I'm thinking through it. My house has been so peaceful since the drama has left, and sad to say, I don't really miss my son yet. My husband says he'll probably be back sooner than later, but this is a first flight and birds have to start somewhere. He also uses such pithy sayings as "three steps forward and two steps back". I'm lucky to have a good support system with him and with my friends and daughters. We will always love and support difficult child, too, just not financially.

    I have read and read so many postings tonight. My heart goes out to everyone in this forum. I hope I can help support with advice. I guess it's a trial and error thing. Too bad people don't come with a user manual.

    i need to figure out how to do the little biography note at the end. I'm going to go hunt through FAQs now...