Help me sort out my feelings...

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by CAmom, Apr 21, 2008.

  1. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    I need some feedback from ya'll in order to get a grip on what's bothering me here and how to best try to explain it to my son.

    He's always been very independent in terms of feeling comfortable out and about in the world, i.e., quite happy to go from one friend's home to the next, bascially coming home to roost. We've been okay with that for the most part, but there have been times when we've felt that he needed to be reined back in and reminded that he's part of a family unit.

    Even though he's 18 now and is actively participating in a job-placement program, he still lives at home, and we provide his cell phone and an allowance (until he gets a job), and so expect him to complete the chores we've laid out in return and also some amount of participation in family matters.

    As he did as child and young teen, he sleeps over at a friend's house or has a friend here once a week or so. We're okay with that. We're even okay when he does so on a Friday and then a Saturday night.

    This weekend, however, he spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights at different friends' homes, basically only showing up at home for a shower, a change of clothes, and a meal (which he makes himself).

    I'm not sure exactly why, but I'm NOT okay with that and feel as though some line has been crossed into the "taking advantage" department. I've told him that we need to sit down and have a chat, but I'm not sure exactly how to explain what I'm feeling.

    Any suggestions?
  2. Big Bad Kitty

    Big Bad Kitty lolcat

    Wow, why is he not working? He is completely taking advantage of the situation. It sounds like you have allowed him to become very comfortable doing as he pleases. And an allowance on top of it? No way that would fly in my house.
    At age 18, the kid works or there is the door. If there are extenuating circumstances, there is still no allowance for do chores for the priviledge of staying in my house rent free! I'd take that cell phone away yesterday, too. A kid over 18 would have to earn minutes on the cell phone in my house.

    Of course you feel taken advantage of. I would suggest that you tell him it is time to find a job and start paying rent and for his own phone. He seems to feel like it is his right to go friend hopping as he wishes. 18 or not, that is your home and your rules. He needs to earn the right to do such things.
  3. Irene_J

    Irene_J Member

    I understand how you feel. My difficult child is now 20, lives at home and attends community college. I don't ask for rent, but she works part time and takes care of her own expenses.

    My gentle advice would be to let this go. If he is complying in other ways (doing is chores, looking for work, etc.) don't make a fuss.

    If our difficult children were "normal" you would probably be happy that your child had reached adulthood and you could center your life on other things. But since our difficult children have taken so much from us, we feel as though we were robbed of all of the stages of parenthood. And now that they are adults (and presumably having improved their gfgness) we feel cheated out of all of the joys of parenthood that we do not get to have. Now you understandably want some focus on family, but your difficult child would prefer to be with friends.

    Most young adults would prefer to be with their friends than home with family, so part of this is just typical behavior. I understand your feelings though. Although I am satisfied with my difficult child's progress, there's a part of me that resents what it took to bring her to this point, and I want her to show some gratitude.

    If there are some house rules that he is not complying with, by all means, make your requirements for living at home clear to him. I don't know the job situation, but of course he should be actively looking. But it doesn't sound as though he's being defiant, just neglectful of family and/or family time. Sounds just like a regular young person.
  4. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    BBK, actually, I haven't been feeling taken advantage of until this last weekend.

    As I mentioned, he's actively involved in a job-placement program which is similar to the support he received in school via an IEP in that it provides support with all the aspects of applying and interviewing for a job and then ongoing on-the-job support. We made it clear that his participation in this program was mandatory, and he's been compliant. That's why he continues to get the phone and allowance.
  5. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    Irene, YES! I think you hit the nail on the head! Thanks.

    Although he doesn't yet have a job, he will have one soon. And, if he handles an actual job as well as he's handled the job-seeking process so far, and, trust me, he would rather NOT be doing this, we'll be satisfied! He certainly isn't a easy child by any definitiion, but, given who he is with the issues he has, we're trying to be realistic in our expectations. And, so far, he's basically doing what we've asked of him.

    I do remember being 18 and understand that life certainly doesn't revolve around parents, family, and home at that age. Then again, I didn't require the parenting my son has, and, yeah, I guess I do feel a bit resentful. That feeling lies dormant, usually, but after the third night in a row of him using home as a pit stop, it reared its head.

    I think your advice to let it go is probably my best course of action since there is really no point in sharing all the above with him.
  6. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I think you need to start by just reiterating what it is you expect of him. If it becomes a battle, then you can step it up.
  7. Star*

    Star* call 911

    I love your little Thumper avatar - so sweet.

    You know - I guess I get how you feel with him coming and going and feeling taken advantage of. For me - that would almost seem historically indicative of "Watch this - first I'll just stay out on Friday and Saturday - and then I'll work /weazle my way up to - No sweat Mom - you never said I could not stay out on school nights or all weekend or for 2 weeks."

    I call that being used to being used - to the point where everything they do to us puts us on guard so that we do NOT get used more than we used to. Make sense?

    Give them an inch and they'll tell you "I NEED the mile, the ruler, the road, the sky, your breath oh oh and while I'm at it - I need the car keys and the gas card, and my clothes washed and the cell phone - and some sandwhiches packed and that fruit cup I like -NO NO NOT the one with cherries - the other one - and some new socks, and underwear while your at it - could you iron my jeans and sew a button on my shirt -?"

    They leave us with no choice but to be overly suspicious.

    I think if you sit down with him to talk - DO NOT tell him that you felt any which way about him staying out. THAT only adds fuel for a later bon fire. Simply tell him that Since he IS living in your house - and he's doing a really good job with jobcorp and chores - the mature thing to do about being gone all weekend is to clear that with you as it is NOW part of the rules.

    If it wasn't part of the "rules" before - how does he know he did anything wrong? See?

    Add it to the list of we can work on - you can earn.

    In my house - 17 = 13 in thinking and maturity. So I'm not so willing to let things like this go, but ONLY because In MY situation - when I let things go - I don't get the appreciation - I get the graduation - to bigger and better freedom without payment.

  8. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    CaMom, I guess I would tell him that you want one evening a week to just be family evening. Dinner, movie, doing something together anything. I would hate to feel like I'm just the boarding house but I understand young adults wanting to move on.

    He is working hard at doing the right thing but he probably doesn't realize that you would like some connection to the family. One dinner or evening a week isn't too much to ask.
  9. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    Star, you said that so well, and I agree.. My son ALWAYS, when given an inch, will take a mile, and I've learned to keep my guard up.

    I guess it's not so much the three nights he was gone (because he did text me every night by 11:00 pm to let us know he was staying out... this is one of our house rules), but the fact that I'm always a bit on edge to protect myself from being taken advantage of, just in case.

    So, when he came in a little while ago and asked me what he did wrong, I couldn't really say much more than that it bothers me when the only sign I see of him in three days is a spotty shower door, greasy fingerprints on the microwave, and smelly socks in the hamper. And, I left it at that.

    And, it's the same in my house as yours... my son is operating at more of a 16 or 17-year-old level, maturity-wise, than his true age of 18 1/2.
  10. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    Fran, your reply makes perfect sense. The problem is that, when I do ask for his time, i.e., a family dinner, as long as he knows in advance, he is perfectly agreable. That is, until something else better comes up, which it usually does, and at the last minute. When that happens, I've found that it's easier to let him go do his thing rather than deal with his always very-obvious annoyance that he made the agreement to start with.

    I can see that this is my own fault. Yet, as Irene pointed out, we've missed out on some special times over the past few years because of our son's choices, and there's a certain degree of my wanting to "make up" for some of them, and it simply may be too late at
    18 1/2.
  11. janebrain

    janebrain New Member

    Hi CAMom,
    I think I get how you are feeling too and I think you are right about wanting to make up the time you missed. I think your son is actually acting quite normal--my easy child son did not want to spend time with the family when he was 18. Then he went off to college and seemed perfectly happy there without me and only coming home for the major breaks. Somehow, though, he grew up and though I hardly see him because he owns a business and is never home when I am, I feel like he appreciates me now.

    The same is true for my difficult child 1 (19, almost 20). Before we kicked her out I felt like she just used our home as a place to shower and sleep (unless she was sleeping out) when she even was around at all. It wasn't til she'd been gone awhile that she could appreciate me and now she is so nice to me.

    I think you will get those times you missed, you are just going to have to wait a few years. And, really, even with a easy child you don't really get a lot of quality time when they are teens anyway. I wish we could just basically skip the years between 13 and 18, I have not found them to be enjoyable with any of my kids!

  12. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    My kids were the same way with one exception. They were in college or working and paid most of their own bills even while in school. I don't think it's abnormal, but I do think he's getting too much for doing too little. If you give him such low expectations (just go to Job Services, which *I* participated in myself), he's going to learn it's easy at home and he can do what he wants and not even treat you like you're his parents. I don't know how long it takes to go through Job Services where you're at, but I had to be tested and tried out on jobs and it kept me plenty busy. So what is he doing at Job Services?
    If it were me, I'd expect more from him so that he doesn't have extremely low expectations of himself. I have an autistic son who is fourteen. I expect him to go to a two year teach school when he's eighteen, and I know he will. He's a hard worker. After that, we'll see if he needs services to help him out in life, but I feel it's very important to feel he's productive and busy or, in the end, he will feel useless and depressed. I think we sometimes lower our expectations of our kids to the point where they don't even try. I know you mean well, but this is just how I see it :)
  13. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    I just thought of something else that rang a bell. Irene also mentioned that, if our difficult child's were "normal," now that they've reached adulthood, we'd be happy to get back to focusing on ourselves and our other relationshps.

    But, the fact is, at least with my son, he's NOT operating as an adult in many ways, despite the numbers. Here's an example, I know that he's perfectly capable, maturity-wise, of staying home by himself for a few days in terms of not burning the house down, taking care of the animals, etc. On the other hand, I know for a fact that, although he wouldn't plan a party, one would happen because he wouldn't be able to bring himself to turn his friends away when they came knocking. So here we are, ready to get away once in awhile, now that our son is an "adult," but we can't take the risk because we know that underaged drinking would inevitably happen while we were gone.

    It seems as though, just as he seems to be stuck somewhere between childhood and adulthood, I'm bouncing back and forth between being "mommy," the manager and "mom," the consultant the books say we should be when our children reach this age.
  14. uncheerleader

    uncheerleader Pollyanna

    I don't really have too much advise but I can relate:

    "On the other hand, I know for a fact that, although he wouldn't plan a party, one would happen because he wouldn't be able to bring himself to turn his friends away when they came knocking. So here we are, ready to get away once in awhile, now that our son is an "adult," but we can't take the risk because we know that underaged drinking would inevitably happen while we were gone."

    My husband and I have the same concerns about our difficult child.

    I have said to myself and anyone listening to me, that with these kinds of kids it is so hard to figure out when helping turns into enabling.

    Good luck!!
  15. Irene_J

    Irene_J Member

    I had to add another post when you said that even though you should be able to leave your difficult child at home for a couple of days, that you wouldn't. I just turned down attending a business conference in another state because I was afraid to leave difficult child at home alone, and she's 20. Even though I basically feel okay with her there, I don't think she would have the strength and/or smarts to turn her friends away who would surely turn up if they knew I was gone. One of my house rules is no company when I am not at home. Neither male or female friends.

    So I think now I understand your feelings even more. Although your difficult child is 18, you still have to do the things you had to do when he was 13 or 14. And if you have to care for him as a 14 year old, then you should be able to expect his presence at the dinner table and other family functions.

    You are right though, that even if you "force" him to be home more, his obvious displeasure at being there may not be worth the trouble. It's almost a lose-lose situation.

    Make it a win, by spending that "family" time on something just for you and/or partner. If he was a easy child, he'd be gone anyway, if not living in a dorm maybe in an apartment.
  16. Suz

    Suz (the future) MRS. GERE

    I stopped reading the thread at this point because my heart stopped and I wanted to talk NOW.

    This is your old tape playing CAmom. Please don't let it start up again. YIKES, I felt like I was reading one of your posts from a year ago. You are waaaaaaaaaaaaay past it by now, aren't you?

    Guilt played a huge role in your behavior with and towards your difficult child in the old days; pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease don't let guilt play a role now.

    You can't make up for lost time.

    The best you can hope for is a positive future.

    But all of you have to participate....note, I said ALL of you....not just you and husband.

    You are not doing him-----or YOU----any favors by "letting him go do his thing rather than deal with his always very-obvious annoyance that he made the agreement to start with."

    By letting him off the hook you are teaching him that his word is not important. Is that the message you want to give him? Do you really want him to disrespect you like that?

    Of course you don't.....but that's exactly what you are doing.

    You are chickening out in order to keep peace but a momentary peace isn't worth the life lesson you are teaching him----that he can "guilt" people into getting his own way.

    So I will repeat...

    You can't make up for lost time.

    The best you can hope for is a positive future.

    Holy Moses, the kid has been out of placement for 8 months and he STILL isn't working? You have long since made up for any "guilt" by allowing that to take place.

    I have confidence that you know what to say. And you know that I'm tough but I also understand...

    You gave good, STRONG advice to Standswithcourage the other day. Now give yourself good, STRONG advice, too.

  17. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    Suz, it was when I was typing my post that I saw for myself (and agree with you now) that I had contributed to my very own stated problem by not taking a firmer stand and being wishy-washy as I've done in the past. I'm only blaming myself to that extent.

    You're so right that he should be made to keep his word. I guess I sometimes feel that, if I pretend a blase attitude about certain things, he'll step up and do the right thing without being forced. And he does, sometimes.

    But, I know that, by allowing him to break his word rather than deal with his complaining, I'm only helping him perpetuate his Peter-Pan syndrome.

    Thanks for the wake-up call...i.e., I can't make up for the lost time but rather can only hope for a positive future. I need to get myself back into the here and now.
  18. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    Good to see you back on track. I think it was a missed opportunity when he asked you why you were mad and you skirted the issue. I hope you will find a way to re-open the conversation and remind him of what is expected of him.
  19. Suz

    Suz (the future) MRS. GERE

    You got it, CAmom.


    Now follow through. I know you can.

  20. Abbey

    Abbey Spork Queen

    Excellent advice for difficult child or easy child.