How do you handle clueless questions about your difficult child?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by dashcat, Aug 17, 2010.

  1. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    I am fortunate to have a wide support system. My close friends and my family know the story of my difficult child.

    Since she wasn't always a difficult child AND since she is a supreme actress and maniuplator, most people in real life have no clue what we're going through.

    I cannot seem to go anywhere without running into somebody who will ask "How's difficult child?" If I say "fine" (which is a lie at the present time) invariably the next question is "Is she getting ready to go back to school"? I do not reply: No, she walked away from school in the middle of the last semester to live with a guy, who she met on the internet, in another state. I usually try "no, that didn't work out" at which time I am treated to a bunch of platitudes about "Oh, she'll figure it out, my son did that and now he's an astrophysicist"

    It's further compilcated by the fact that I just moved back to my home following a terrible fire that took place in October,. Thank God she wasn't here (she was at college), the other question I'm asked constantly (this is a smallish community) is "Does she like being back home?" I do not say "Well, no. She moved into a motel with another internet dude and then back with her dad and she is currently pretending I don't exist." Instead I try "well, she's with her dad" where I am again treated to either more questions "how could she leave that beautiful house? you mean you're there all alone? (well not by choice, dufus) or - my favorite "she'll be back."

    How do you handle this? I'm not ashamed of my difficult child and I miss her more than I can say , yet I am not about to launch into the story in a social setting. I want to be truthful and I don't want advice.

  2. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I know exactly what you mean. How do I handle it? I do the nod and smile pretty often. I gloss over the truth: "no, she's not in school, she's working." or "she had some health issues that kept her from attending college, but she wants to go back at some point." "she's living downtown with roommates." In your case, I might say, "oh she's spending some time with her dad for awhile, trying to "find herself" .. haha you know how these young kids are!" I joke about/make light of my kids' choices a lot, in fact. If they heard me they'd probably be hurt, but, it's how I cope sometimes.
  3. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Im with CVa. I cant tell you how many times I see people who have known me and the boys from when they were younger. We also live in a small town. People ask about them all the time. Half the time I have Cory's dtr with me. I always get the questions about where are the boys? What are they doing? Blah blah blah. I basically just say that well Jamie is doing well, got out of the Marines and took a job up in VA with the sheriff's dept and now has two kids...Im so thrilled! This is Cory's heart! Cory's still here, being know how that goes..haha ha! Oh and Billy? Well he is still single and really enjoys his role as an uncle!
  4. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Dash, one of the things I've realized recently is that most of the time acquaintances like this are simply making conversation and they're not truly listening to what you're saying. As long as you keep it light and say something that resembles conversation -- even if it's pretty vague or even nonsensical, it fills that spot in the conversation and allows it to flow. Only if you fumble for something to say do you get that horrible awkward pause, because it breaks the rhythm.

    I've been experimenting with this lately, and have been having quite a bit of fun seeing how much nonsense I can introduce into an idle conversation with an acquaintance without interrupting the flow. Here's an example:

    difficult child: "Hey Mom, where's Dad?"
    Trinity: "He went out."
    difficult child: "Oh. Where'd he go?"
    Trinity: "He went out." (Said in the same tone of voice I would use to say, "He went to the store." Or "He went to work.")
    difficult child: "Oh. Okay Mom. Thanks. Tell him I'll call him later."

    You don't owe anyone an in-depth explanation about your difficult child. All you have to do is come up with a few phrases like the ones CinVA and Janet suggest. It's really the body language and tone of voice people are looking for, not the actual content. As long as those parts are right, you can say pretty-much anything you want. Just keep it light.

  5. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    Great advice, guys. I think my biggest problem is my people-pleasing tendancies. When people persist and ask more questions, I feel this strange obligation to answer honestly - and I shouldn't. I'm going to an event on Friday where I am likely to run into dozens of people I haven't seen in awhile. I'm going to work on being light.

    ps. Trinity, I mastered the light-nonsense response right after DEX left me. DEX and I were both very active in our community and it was not uncommon for us to be at events separately or, often, together but mingling separately. We were the couple nobody ever thought would divorce (including me, actually). I would be at an event and, since most people didn't know he'd left, I would be asked "Where's G?" to which I would respond, lightly, "He's not here" and leave it at that. Nobody ONCE asked a followup question I think the key was my tone. Thanks for reminding me of that.
  6. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    When M was that age I edited everything. I never told anyone about anything that was going on. I know it seems like platitudes, but while our kids may not be astrophysicists one day, they may turn into mature adults. I hope. I don't know. After the middle aged mood swing temper tantrum I had last night I don't know if we ever get over it sometimes. I have less hope these days, though, and edit a lot less. "He's going to school. He wants to work in IT." It could be worse. He could be L.... :(
  7. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    I usually respond with clueless answers...or lie, whichever seems right at the time and depending upon who I'm speaking with.

    I usually just say she's doing well and seems happy with herself. If they pry further for specifics, I pull out a well worn line, "Oh, you know, she's still young and has some things to figure out, but she's doing well" and then change the subject.

    I stopped caring what people felt they had a right to know about my kids, easy child or difficult child - seems everyone's a freakin' expert when it comes to someone else's kids, doesn't it?

    Unlike you, there were plenty of times I was embarrassed and yes, ashamed, of my difficult child, but I tried not to let that show. Why bare all? I remember Ann Landers advising that when people ask a nosy question, it's completely appropriate to respond with, "Oh, why would you ask that?" or "Why do you need to know?" - If people are rude enough to pry when they know perfectly well they are just prying, then I think we can be rude back to them. And when they start giving me unsolicited advice? I respond with, "Gee, thanks for the tip; I'll have to jot that down" and walk away.

    I think I may be a bit sensitive about this particular question because I just spent a week with H's family who basically feel that if you don't go to college for some sort of academic or humanitarian careeer, you must be a loser. Ugh.

    Dash, just respond with any way you feel is appropriate and if you don't want to respond, figure out a generic response that suits you and stick with that!
  8. This past Christmas my hubby and I went "back home" 1,000 miles away from the smallish community where we live and have raised our family.

    Your same question plagued me before our visit.

    I didn't want to say...

    "Our adopted daughter had my husband arrested because he (palm of his hand) slapped her face ONCE after she was hysterically cursing us out because we dared to ask her about the drug paraphernalia she was (not hiding) displaying in our home. The arresting officer apologized saying that Domestic Violence laws had recently been changed and if our difficult child-daughter had been under 18, the slap would have been viewed as "parental discipline" but new stricter laws required the officer to take my husband in. I turned down the "kind" officer's offer to have that same daughter arrested that night under the same law for closed-fist-punching her underage sibling. I asked people we mistakenly thought were "friends" to look after our then 2-mos from 18 year old adopted-son because I couldn't trust that son in our home after hearing his perspective about the situation. He sided with his sister believing we had no right to question anything they do. (WHAT?!!!) The adopteds had been joining forces "triangulating" against us as their parents since difficult child-daughter dropped out of college a year and a half prior. I couldn't close my eyes to sleep one minute in my own home knowing my son was under my roof. The adopteds have since been running around our town claiming to have lived a lifetime of abuse at our hands. The adopteds remain estranged by their choice from us. (but our bio-kid remains loving and attached and was raised in the same house by the same parents... hmmm) The adopteds are local celebrities for 'all their sorrows.' Our 'church friends' are praying for us ...prayers of 'tsk tsk Lord, ain't it a shame! You always hear about these stories of hidden abuse... and here it was right under our own noses... and we never suspected a thing!'
    Thanks so much for asking... and Merry Christmas to you!"

    At that point, NO ONE BACK-HOME HAD HEARD ANYTHING regarding what was going on... unless I told them. I had only told my parents and one brother and some dear friends. I'm from a big family... I've got a ton of siblings... aunts uncles cousins... nieces nephews... So many of the neighbors who attended our wedding still live in my parent's neighborhood! This would have been our first trip up since the adoption without our adopteds.

    The details of our heartbreak isn't exactly something a Proud Grandmother wants to shout from the rooftops! I didn't want to send news of it ahead in a thanksgiving season Christmas card.

    When people asked about our upcoming visit... Mom had been telling family & friends she "didn't know if the adopted grand-kids would be traveling with us... their jobs may prevent them from coming." I wanted my husband and I to enjoy the holidays as much as possible.

    As I prayed for an honest brief response that wouldn't require us to dwell on the topic for any length of time.

    I felt led to give this answer to anyone who asked...
    "Every professional we have spoken to tells us our children are going through something very common to adopted children. It breaks our heart."
    Every bit of it is true. It was a perfect response! EVERY SINGLE PERSON we gave that answer to said... "Oh, I know families with similar heartaches! They have only ever poured love into their children's lives.
    I'm so sorry!"

    I have since found out how EPIC attachment issues can be in Adopted individuals even if they have not been diagnosed Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) . I am ashamed of our adopteds' behavior and choices... I recognize it is mental illness. I'm praying for their health and well being.

    I'm not ashamed of how we have parented them!

    I learned in hindsight our adopted's behaviors were almost as if they had been checking off the Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) list of symptoms as their personal "to do" list. I'm trying to educate as many people as I can about this variety of mental illness so other people who have opened their hearts and homes to love and raise adopted children can get the community support they need and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) adoptees can be encouraged by the community surrounding adopted families to take steps that would encourage Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) individuals to walk in mental health.
  9. In our situation it wasn't nosy-pryers trying to find dirt on us... we were about to come face-to-face with loving friends and family that knew nothing about our ordeal.
  10. Bean

    Bean Member

    Sometimes I just want to answer with the truth. "Mmm.. not good. Daugther's been in tx, jail, tx, half-way houses, counseling, self-medicating. Still hasn't finished that GED. Or gotten a job and held it for more than a month. Yeah, she's basically doing NOTHING but sitting around our house being abusive and self-centered and I'm close to jumping in front of the next metro."

    And how are you?


    But I don't. Usually. There's some people that I know, who know. It's hard to keep secrets. They don't know the gritty details, but kids talk, and a lot of them knew my daugther was in jail and gangs, and probably knew things that I didn't know. So depending on who is asking, I am a bit more detailed. If it's just someone asking in passing, I say, No, no job yet -- still contemplating school. And then the cliche remarks about teenagers and their indecisiveness can ensue, yadda yadda. If it is a parent whose kid went to the same school I might be a bit more detailed. If it is a close(r) friend, I might be even more detailed. But, bottom line, nobody but God knows the true depths of my pain and struggles.
  11. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Fortunately you had loving family and friends who were eager to be supportive (I hope!). In my case, explaining to family (mostly exh's) and some friends was like climbing uphill, dragging a million pound anvil. They were judgmental and asked stupid questions such as, "Do you think this has to do with your divorcing exh?" or "Maybe you shouldn't have remarried" and many other things along those lines...somehow, they refused to believe it was chemical/biological and wanted to believe I did something that made difficult child behave the way she did. I eventually stopped telling them every little thing (in the hopes they would be supportive or helpful) and instead chose to share as little as possible. Even recently, one exsil told me that she thought I overreacted and exxagerated difficult child's behavior back then..."Look at her now, she's so beautiful and gets along great with everyone..." They just don't get it. I have TWO people, besides those here, who GET IT. Who truly understand that there were times in difficult child's childhood when I felt like I was parenting a different species altogether! And neighbors, teaches and coaches...forget it. Waste of my time.
  12. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    This is always one of my "favorite" scenarios......SO! How are the kids doing?husband is a talker (should've been a car salesman, people would buy just to shut him up), so his response would be to complain to the person about (AHEM, this bothers me) how BM's games and allegations led to Onyxx's abuse and now she is in the juvenile system yadda yadda yadda (he STILL blames BM for much of this, and while it may be somewhat or even mostly true (on top of MI), people's eyes glaze over very quickly and they edge away and avoid him (which may be why he does it... The blame game annoys me no end though).Mine:Well, ya know, Onyxx IS a teenager, and she drives me bonkers! Jett's working his way to being one, too. They're good otherwise, though. How are YOURS?People DO NOT like having the question turned around on them and usually I'll get the same type of fluff answer and a subject change.
  13. 7jewels

    7jewels Guest

    TheyAreLegallyAdultsNow gave me a PERFECT pat response to all the well-meaning, small community "friends" who I will be encountering in the coming weeks as my younger PCs begin school and sports and everyone will be asking how difficult child is doing! Thanks. This forum is a lifeline!
  14. Welcome 7 Jewels! This is an awesome site filled with warrior parents who love their children! I'm glad you're here... and I hope you find the pat phrase that has worked for us to be successful for you too.

    HeartsandRoses It's funny/strange, not funny/"ha ha" how in-laws are perceived as out-laws and ex-in-laws are perceived to be the devil incarnate! We live in a culture where parental "wisdom" is ridiculed and youth supposedly know it all. Mothers get blamed for everything... If you look at Disney... almost every cartoon movie they make the starring child has no mother... or an evil step mother. Be grateful you have two who really try to understand and be supportive.

    I find most people WANT to be supportive... they just don't know HOW to be supportive.

    Especially pertaining to Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), what is successful for MOST "NORMAL" children... is poison on steroids for Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).

    Most of our support is of the "I don't want to get involved... but I love you" variety... I'll take it over the back stabbing techniques we've been encountering any day. What I'd LOVE is for people to reach out and WRAP our family in HELPFUL support like this awesome booklet I found on line today recommends.
    The booklet is a FREE DOWNLOAD PDF on the above link... or it can be ordered for $1 per booklet on the following site I'm thinking of investing a couple of dollars and sending it to people I know. People that I don't believe are evil... but people who are ignorant, hurtful and in desperate need of an education.

    My husband confronted his sister last night about going behind our backs and hiding the way she's playing kissy-face with our adopteds. She's trying to be the "cool" aunt who "understands." She doesn't understand how her hidden behavior feeds into the kids Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). She doesn't realize she's being triangulated. She doesn't understand that by listening to their lies and not confronting their Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) behavior she is feeding the beast.

    I don't know about your difficult child's diagnosis-s I talk about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) because that is what I know first hand by parenting a sibling group adopted out of foster care. It doesn't make sense to me at all... but I am so grateful for those who have gone before and shared their story and let me know I'm not imagining it. I'm a huge fan of education.

    Perhaps it would do well to educate your family members INCLUDING the difficult children about their mental health diagnoses educate about what promotes health... and what enables illness.

    I'm praying for all the amazing warrior parents here, and I'm so grateful to have met you all along this rocky path we share!!!
  15. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I got asked to do when talking about making friends about something similar to this topic. I said that I didnt have any in real life, living breathing people who lived in my town that I could consider a BFF. I have acquaintances. I have people I run into and say Hi, I have people that have met me through something like work or something but I dont have that close bond with anyone other than a few people here and my therapist. (and she gets paid to be my

    I was asked why I think its important for people to understand all the parts of my life to be a true friend. I was taken aback by the question. I dont see how I could feel comfortable talking freely to someone who doesnt understand what I have gone through and had similar situations. I dont think a person who raised pretty well perfect kids who never gave them an ounce of trouble except maybe getting a B on a test can imagine living through seeing your kid in shackles. I dont think anyone who is rail thin and healthy as a horse can imagine what it feels like to know your body is falling apart and you cant fix it. I dont know what its like to have sisters or brothers so I cant imagine the pain of losing one of them. I look at my boys and think they would be devestated.

    I see people who seem to have fairly normal lives with maybe a bump or two but they think life is upsetting if their cabinets are not arranged by size and type. Their kids all got full ride scholarships to major universities. And I just need to buck up and think brighter thoughts and things will be better. ohhhh Kayyyy!

    It doesnt do me much good to let it all hang out because in real life it scares people. I tried it once and people were horrified that I could feel so awful about my own son. I found it odd that people dont feel very angry at their kids from time to time. I didnt threaten to kill him...I dont think. I might have. I cant remember its been a long time ago. I was really angry, he really ticked me off over something. It wasnt hard back then. You guys understand just how badly our kids can push us. Cory had pushed me and I went off. I thought I was in a safe place. Obviously I wasnt. They thought I had completely lost my marbles.

    I still have yet to find someone I feel safe enough to be that open with locally. I doubt I ever do.