Hard To Know What To Think


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it's been very calm lately. Wife talks to Difficult Stepson (DS) and Younger Stepson (YS) a couple of times per week, and DS seemed to have turned a corner, but we had what I will call a setback today.

Earlier this week DS suggested to wife that we see a film with him and YS. The date was set for today. Wife texted both boys beginning last night and continuing into this morning with reminders. YS responded, DS did not.

When we got there, YS came out to meet us, alone, and claimed DS had been picked up by a friend earlier and was no longer coming with to the movie. DS did not respond to any of the texts my wife sent him before we arrived, and he hasn't responded to any of the numerous texts she sent afterwards.

It isn't the cancellation of plans but DS' failure to reach out and let us know that he wouldn't join us after all, that is troubling me.

YS is an accomplished and frequent liar, and based on his body language and general discomfort I suspect that he was covering up for his brother.

We took YS to the movie as planned and had a good time. As of now we have not heard from DS. His birthday is approaching soon, we bought him a sizable gift, and my wife is concerned that he is shutting her/us out yet again.

My guess is that he was sleeping off an intoxicated evening from the night before and couldn't, or wouldn't, wake up. A close family member of mine is a relapsing drug addict, and he pulls similar stunts when using.

It is a shame that YS gets caught up in the drama and that DS couldn't simply text us with a BS excuse, which we would not have bothered to verify anyway. Even that small gesture would have been somewhat responsible. Instead YS is left to make excuses for DS.

Using my Al Anon resources and posting here helps.

I will provide any updates as I have them.


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A brief update. Wife and DS chatted last night. DS was pleasant but admitted he had blown us off for the movie. He didn't seem to understand that a simple phone call to cancel would have been more appropriate, or at least, he didn't acknowledge it when wife brought it up.

Wife asked him what online class he was working on now and he said, "I don't know." She pressed the issue a little and he said, "I know what I have to do, and I'll do it." He has been saying these exact words for years, and in the past, it meant he wasn't doing his assignments. We know that he was frustrated a while back because he claimed "the program" wasn't allowing him to submit a paper. When he encounters setbacks, his usual response is to quit. So the pattern continues, the lying, the justifying and the enabling, on his dad's part, allowing him to do exactly as he pleases with no consequences whatsoever.

He turns 17 in a matter of days. In our state you can legally drop out, without parental consent, at that age. Wife asked my advice and I told her to leave him alone. We've seen the drama and near tragedy that unfold when DS is backed into a corner, and frankly, I don't want to deal with it again, especially as it will do no good. DS won't be coerced, convinced, guilt-tripped or shamed into doing anything he does not want to do. In a worst case scenario, people may get hurt when DS' temper is triggered.

So at this point I am accepting that DS has not changed and likely will never change. With that in mind, I feel we need to enjoy the times when he's doing better, and allow him to work his own way out of the bad times. I, at least, have learned my lesson. I need him at a distance for my own sanity and safety. DS is someone who sadly, at this point in his life, cannot be reached. I am going to do my best to butt out and let my wife do whatever it is she feels is appropriate.

pigless in VA

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Is your wife okay with allowing him to drop out? Is DS still working?

I know a man who was not motivated in school and dropped out of high school. He was working at a McDonald's and is a good worker. He ended up becoming a manager of that restaurant. When he was a little older, he went back to school to get a GED. He now has a good job and a family. Not all paths to success are the same.


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My wife is definitely not okay with him dropping out. However, she holds no sway with him, and he lives with his father who allows him to do whatever he wants. And legally, neither parent can stop him as soon as he turns 17....next week.

As far as we know he is still working. He is trying to get a second part time job, I suspect so he can drop out of school entirely and work full time. He is on the "drop out" track right now, for sure. He definitely values working for wages more than schooling.

You are correct, some paths wind more than others, and DS's path is certainly non-traditional. He is the one who has to make the choice and then experience the results. The concern I have is that he is very thin-skinned and brittle, and runs from challenging situations. It would be different if we had the confidence he could make a plan and achieve his goals, even if we disagreed. DS is very immature and irresponsible, as evidenced by him not sending my wife a text regarding the movie this weekend. Most of DS's decisions are motivated by avoidance.

Though we have no proof, I also suspect drug and/or alcohol use is involved.

But you are right, and many figure it out when they are older. I'm actually a prime example of that, although I was higher functioning than DS at his age, we actually share many of the same issues.


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

He is very young and believe it or not that accounts for SO MUCH. It's not an excuse for his behavior of course but it's hard to get them to do what you want them to do or what they should do at that age if they fall into the Difficult Child category. Been there/done that.

Good luck to you and have your wife keep firm but loving boundaries. That's about all you can do right now!


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Thanks for the feedback!

Saw on DS's girlfriend's Instagram that they recently celebrated a six month anniversary. For teenagers, especially difficult ones (she's difficult too), that's no small accomplishment. We know DS was questioning whether or not to continue this relationship, but at least for now, he has either clammed up or they worked something out.

I am so happy that somebody outside the family cares about him. What a powerful experience for an insecure adolescent. I hope it is "sinking in" that he is worth being loved.

She will be at his birthday celebration coming up at our house in a few days. It will be very small, immediate family only. YS and his girlfriend are also attending. I'll post an update after it's over!