Advice Please

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Albatross, Jul 13, 2015.

  1. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    From the smartest moms and dads I know!

    Difficult Child has been maintaining an apartment and a job for about 6 or 7 months now. He has done this very much on his own. We see or hear from him about once or twice a month, but he has received no financial support from us.

    Difficult Child has decided to return to school in the Fall and has been slowly chipping away at back tuition he needs to pay before he can enroll. When I asked him why he has decided to finally return to school after talking about it for so long, he said he is seeing people he went to high school with now graduating from college and starting their careers and he "doesn't want to live this way anymore."

    Difficult Child is still Difficult Child, and he does his share of partying, as do his roommates. But it is "normal" in that he pays his rent and shows up for work. His eyes are bright and he is more emotionally engaged. He has goals.

    As it turns out, the roommate who was in charge of sending the rent check told the others she was paying but in fact did not, then hid the mailings regarding late rent, eviction, etc.

    By the time they figured out what was going on, they were several months behind.

    They got that roommate off the lease, and landlord is allowing Difficult Child and the other roommates to catch up on the rent rather than face eviction, but it now leaves Difficult Child $150 short for the back tuition he needs to pay to start classes in the fall.

    Difficult Child has not actually ASKED us for help, just mentioned the bits and pieces of what has happened in conversation.

    Please advise...what is the right thing to in the rabbit hole?

    In ANY other scenario we would OF COURSE front the $150. Going back to school is a GOOD thing, and we want to support that.

    But we all know that helping DCs has a way of backfiring. If I have trouble remembering that, all I have to do is read over my "Thinking of Getting Involved? Read This First" list to see that in the past any "help" on our part has not had good effect.

    Dear husband has thrown out that maybe we could make an anonymous payment and ask the financial aid people to chalk it up to a "clerical error" or something. That to me feels like the start of getting sucked back into the vortex of gaming and scheming with a Difficult Child and I don't want to go back there. I think if we help him we should be honest about it, rather than trying to manipulate things behind the scenes.

    His aunts and uncles have both contacted us privately and said they would like to help Difficult Child with his tuition, but they are also fearful of messing up a good thing, so to speak, by "helping" Difficult Child. I think it was COM who pointed out last time that Difficult Child has taught us well what happens when we "help."

    So what are your thoughts, please, on the right thing to do for Difficult Child?

    And for the record, I really hate feeling like this. I really hate asking this. A mom ought to be able to help her son pay his tuition without worrying about all of the possible repercussions....
  2. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    He is doing well. I would help. JMO
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  3. Carri

    Carri Active Member

    Reward him for all the good he is doing...I would help him.
  4. hopeandjoy66

    hopeandjoy66 Member

    You could make it a loan. With a outline of payments and signed contract. Perhaps $25 dollars a month. I know it isn't a lot of money just to give but...? Make sure you outline your expectations in writing and what the possible consequences are for failure to pay. Just a suggestion.
  5. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    We get it. It would be nice to just be normal about normal stuff.

    I totally agree.

    Would I help? Yes, somehow.
    Not sure I'd "give" the cash.
    Loan is one option.
    Or, work it like a pawn shop - is there something of value he can give you to hold onto for him, as collateral, and you give him the money. When he wants the item back, he gives you the money. And he has a longer window than a pawn shop would give him - like six months, or a year (which would allow for next summer's work season when college is out).
  6. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    This is what happened with my Difficult Child who stopped using drugs and went to a community college and it was a win/win for all. We didn't know she was planning to do it until she was in the process and she was very pleased with herself. She did get help buying materials for classes.

    Daughter talked to the financial aid office at school and got lots of grants and a small loan. It was a two year college, which I feel is the best bet for a Difficult Child, since most don't even get through that. They can always go on after two years. She didn't ask us for anything, which was proof of how much she had changed and her job as a retail clerk was not a big paycheck. She was not living at home so t hey only used her income to figure out how much money she could get. Two year schools do not cost as much as four year schools so her balance was small w hen it came to paying back and it turned out that the college itself hired her.

    I like to read about the struggles of people like our kids and sometimes like us to see how they work it out in the end. I am currently interested in reading about drug addicts who quit. In all the books I've read (about five) the parents get overly optimistic too soon and rush to help, usually with a lot of money involved. Of course, they are people who could afford to put out the money. Often they did not k now for years that their money had gone stright to booze or drugs and that their Difficult Child did not even go back to school. They didn't find out until it was too late and the money was gone and their Difficult Child hung his head and said, "Sorry."

    We help Jumper, our easy child, with school...not the actual tuition...she has grants and a small loan. But we pay a lot in helping her pay for her car to go to and from college, for extras, for fun, etc. She just recently got a job. Before that, we gave her a lot of the money that we don't But we knew Jumper was going to do with the money exactly what she said she'd do with it and we saw this when we gave her use of our credit cards, etc. She doesn't use drugs. She doesn't even drink.

    I think each child needs to be treated differently, without announcing this to the world. If a child is responsible, help!!! It makes you feel good. If it is a Difficult Child, hellp too if you want, but realize the money may go straight to drugs/alcohol and you may think they are straighter than they are. The books I've read are written by the recovered addict and I am amazed at the ways they are able to manipulate hopeful parents into thinking they are clean when they are not.

    Having said all this, if you can afford it and don't mind MAYBE losing t he money, do it. But I agree not to be deceitful about it. I have never been in this situation and am not sure what I would have done if Princess had asked for any help. By the way, the good news is that your son could find a career if he stays clean and stays the course. My daughter graduated and I cried like a baby because I'd been so sure she would end up in jail or dead. Her drug of choice was meth.

    One almost sure fire way to know if your adult child is clean is to look at his/her friends. In all the books and with my own daughter, once the person decided to really stay sober (and withdrawals are hard and painful and difficult), their friends changed. Drug users were no longer in their lives, even l lifelong druggie friends as they knew that seeing the partying and getting pushed to take drugs/drink would easily cause a relapse. If your adult kids still hang around with drug users or have as SO who uses drugs, it is almost a sure sign that they are also doing it.

    But if my daughter could quit the meth and even cigarettes on her own, without rehab, your son can quit too. Just be realistic. It took us a few years before we were pretty sure Princess was done with drugs. She had "quit" so many times before. Now, when we send her gifts, we trust her 100% and we do help out when necessary or just because maybe we want to or want to buy her baby something for no reason at all.

    Good luck with your decision. There is no right or wrong answer.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2015
  7. Lil

    Lil Well-Known Member

    I agree with everyone else. If my son had, in the past months, done what yours has done, paid rent, worked, chipped away at his debt so as to be able to go back to school, and got blindsided by a less-than-honest roommate...I'd tell him how proud I was to see him changing his life and as a result of the obvious progress, I'd pay his student loan the remaining $150. I wouldn't give it to HIM, I'd write a check to the loan people.

    I'm so pleased to hear he's doing well!
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  8. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    This is awesome!! His actions are really showing some positive things here.
    What a great life lesson for him and how nice that the landlord is working with them.
    This can be a slippery slope. I know my son will never come right out and ask but instead talk around it in hopes that we will pick up the clues and offer to help. Not sure that is what your son is doing.
    I think the idea of a loan is a good one. I agree with being honest and up front rather than just paying it "anonymously".
    I do have to ask, how soon does he need to pay this and how long would it take him to save the money on his own? I understand if he needs to pay it right away but if time is not a factor then I would let him do it on his own.
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  9. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    Wait until D C asks directly. Then, give him the money. Ask him at the time whether he wants you to make the payment for him or whether he wants to handle it himself. Then, disburse the money as he suggests.

    It is crucially important for our own sakes that we play it straight with the kids.

    Until he asks, give him this time to figure it out on his own.

    The kids have survived the betrayal of the roommate. That is a great lesson. They have dealt admirably with the landlord. Another stellar lesson. They are handling themselves well. You are in contact fairly regularly, and that is such an incredible thing it makes me want to cry.

    Not enabling is working beautifully for your D C.

    $150 isn't that much money. D C may be able to work extra shifts to take care of it himself. This will be where he decides who he is.

    Give him that time.

    So, that is what I would do.

    If he doesn't ask, you can always decide, as the deadline approaches, to pay it yourselves, with or without his knowledge.

    You have time. With a D C, that is the thing it is crucial for us to remember. We have time.


    I really am so pleased for all of you!

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  10. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Do NOT set up some scheme where you ask the financial aid dept to lie to him about an error. They cannot legally do that and it would be incredibly unethical even if they could. A lie is NOT the way to start out a clean chapter of his life, Know what I mean?? It is incredibly codependent thinking to even contemplate schemes like this, and NOT doing them is incredibly important to both your son AND yourself/your hubby.

    I would NOT NOT NOT offer to help pay for this $150 or any of his tuition/expenses for the first semester. He needs to prove he can do this. if he asks for help in a limited way, say for the $150, then I would loan him the $ and let him do yard work or something to work it off.

    I would take the help you want to give him, and any $ the relatives want to give, and put it aside in the bank or an envelope. AFTER the first semester when he has grades and has proven that he can go back, give him the $ for the next semester IF you sense he would be receptive. DO NOT tell him about this ahead of time, make it a surprise and a show of faith. But make him EARN it with this first semester's success, even if that isn't all A's or B's.

    WHY am I suggesting this? been there done that and have seen it with others also. I live in a college town and most of my life has revolved around the university. My mom was a prof, I always had a job near the univ, my husband works with the univ, and most of the friends I have ever have have been involved with the university in some way. The kids who got into trouble and then worked to pay that first semester tuition when they came back always seemed to stay and actually finish a degree and not stop and fall back into whatever addiction or issue kept them from finishing their degree. Parents helped with gas or groceries or an occasional bill or helping them handle a loan, but stayed out of the actual paying for tuition and expenses and that seemed to be the basic recipe for actual success.

    I think it has something to do with proving you actually CAN do it, that you can actually succeed and things won't fall apart. It also has to do wtih confidence. By giving him that money, esp when he hasn't asked for it, it isn't the reward that you are wanting it to be. It is a sign that you don't think he can do it with-o your help, and that he doesn't have what it takes to earn that extra $150, so why would you think he could succeed at school?

    I know that YOUR thoughts don't say anything of the kind, but that is what HIS thoughts tell him, and it is how HE will interpret big financial gifts like paying his fees or tuition right now. By letting you know he is doing this, and by NOT asking you to turn on the money for him, he is telling you that he is trying to be an adult and handle this himself. He wants you to have faith that he can do this all by himself, and it is crucial that you back off and let him do it. Of course if he asks and you can help, that is different, but until/unless he asks, you need to back off and let him do it his way. Even if that is hard.
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  11. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    First of all, I am really happy for you, my old friend Alb, that your Difficult Child has been doing so well. I'm OK with them being normal partyers..we can't expect our kids to become saints, and saints are boring anyway (well some people might say that attitude is why I have a tendency to spawn Difficult Child's)

    Second, I am totally with Cedar on this.

    Do NOT jump in unasked. That gives him the message that he you don't think he can figure things out on his own.

    Let HIM play it straight with YOU. If he wants it and is hoping you'll offer it because he is dropping hints..that is manipulation. He should play it straight with you by asking, and then you should play it straight with him by answering directly. No games or trickery.

    If he asks for help, you could consider giving him work to do (or if your sibs who want to help have work he could do) to earn it.

    Or, if he asks, you could pay it.

    I wouldn't engage in any deals of pawning or loans. There is too much toxicity in that kind of arrangement with Difficult Child's.

    Let him figure it out. SOme of figuring it out might include asking you for help. Or he may figure it out on his own.

    Keep posting! and feel free to ignore my advice.

    And nice to hear from you again,

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  12. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    I agree with waiting until he asks you.

    You haven't been asked, so until you have been asked, there is truly no decision to make.

    Let's say he does ask.

    I likely would give him part or all of the $150 and pay it direction to the school (not cash or a check to him), if all indications are still positive. You could allow him to work it off at your house, doing chores, yard work, washing windows, whatever. Then, he has earned it. Difficult Child spent part of Saturday and Sunday digging two stumps out of our yard and earned $85. This builds his pride and self-esteem in himself, I believe.

    No strings attached, no conditions attached. Let go of the outcome once he has the money.

    If he doesn't handle this well, then that tells you he isn't ready for the next step. That doesn't negate all of the progress, just a misstep on the journey.

    Alb, I am just glad that he is showing progress. Not perfection, but progress. There is a lot of catching up to do for our DCs, and we need to let them catch up with all of the learning on their own as much as we possibly can.

    It's hard to stand back when we see progress and there is a struggle. We forget the struggle is the whole purpose of it.

    So glad, Alb.
  13. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    Thanks much, ladies. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

    I see what you all mean about helping him and we DO want to reward him somehow for stepping up. He definitely knows how proud we are of him, but anything beyond praise has generally resulted in him scraping it (and us) off.

    SWOT, what a wonderful tribute to your daughter. What struck me the most was how very, very proud she must have felt to have done that on her own. To take even a drop of that away from her would have dimmed her sense of accomplishment. You were so wise, I think, to step back and let her struggle and shine.

    I don't think that is what he was doing, honestly. In the past he's been really adept at talking around it and I've been really quick at filling it. This time I don't pick up any of that; he just seems genuinely proud for solving the thieving roommate issue.

    The money is not due until the 2nd week of August, so he has a little time yet.

    Cedar, I think this is a key point here. Outcomes are better for Difficult Child (and frankly for us too) with our minimal involvement.

    Coming up with $150 in a few weeks is doable for him, if he chooses. That part of the problem is really pretty easy compared to the back rent issue they resolved.

    And he didn't ASK for our help, he simply told us that it would be a challenge. That is a huge distinction.

    Susiestar, that is it exactly. That is exactly how Difficult Child would take it.

    And worse, I fear it would be seen as us glomming on, insisting on being a part of the process when things are going well.

    And sadly, I just realized as I was typing this that he might be quite justified in feeling that way. Being part of something GOOD in Difficult Child's life is very seductive. We are all a little starved for that, I think.

    But that's really not fair, is it?

    If husband and I have been willing to let him handle it when things are going poorly, surely we should be all the more willing to let him handle it when things are going well.

    Very true, Echo. Wouldn't an honest adult conversation like that be wonderful?

    And since he hasn't asked yet, I see how much I am getting ahead of myself. I think it is a mixture of hope and all those years of parenting a Difficult Child, honing those skills of anticipating possible outcomes. And I am ashamed to admit, maybe a little bit of husband's and my parental egos.

    This reminds me of when they were toddlers saying, "NO, I can DO it!" And how we would wince sometimes when we let them.

    Sister of Difficult Child had some financial difficulties and asked for $100 as a birthday gift a month before her birthday. Difficult Child's birthday is about 6 weeks after his tuition due date. IF he asks, an early birthday gift of paying part of his tuition might be a fair way to handle it. If he doesn't ask, we won't offer.

    Either way, your posts gave me clarity about separating his needs from our needs, which I just realized was at the heart of the dilemma.

    Thanks again guys! I love this place!
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    Last edited: Jul 14, 2015
  14. tryagain

    tryagain Active Member

    Hey Albatross, I am so glad to read of your son's progress! Yay!!! When one of our DCs does well, it gives us all a glimmer of hope that our individual situations can also improve.
    I'm putting in my $0.02 for the idea of him paying it off by doing work for you. When we were saddled with several months of paying for the apartment with Loser #1 once my Difficult Child daughter moved out and away from him, she worked for me on an hourly basis and I kept a ledger. The nature of my job is that I am delighted to have her come in and assist me, and she earned an imaginary $10/hour in "apartment hours" to mark off from her debt. She was a valuable help to me. I think it was important to stipulate that this was working off a debt and not just a handout.
  15. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    This is nice imagery, Albatross. It goes with the way they would dress and think they looked great, or the way they wanted to help sweep the floor and felt proud of their accomplishments. Or the way it felt when they were learning to use a spoon or drink from a cup or went through that stage where they just have to throw everything on the floor.

    Somehow, we all got through that.


  16. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    Oy vey, how things turn on a dime in the Difficult Child world! Without going into long details, Difficult Child left out some crucial information, both to us and to the prospective college -- and somehow it is OUR fault, as usual, and Difficult Child is furious.

    I was pretty bummed and defensive about it when it all exploded this afternoon, but I curled up with the cat for a few minutes (best therapy ever) and took the dogs for a walk, and tonight I feel...kinda like I've watched a movie with one explosive scene after another to the point where I'm numb, it's just...meh, whatever.

    It will work out or it won't, or maybe it will work out later rather than now.
  17. SeekingStrength

    SeekingStrength Well-Known Member

    Albatross, Thank you, God, for our pets.

    And, truly, no kidding...does it not so very often turn on a dime??

    I am reading along and thinking good thoughts for you and your son. You already know I hurt for you. We all do.

    Hoping it works out the best way possible -and betting it does.
  18. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    Yes it is !!!

    I do hope things will calm down.

    Hang in there and keep hugging your cat :smile: