How have your experiences with difficult child kids changed you?

Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
So, between difficult child son and difficult child daughter, husband and I have been at this for a really, really long time. I was responding to a thread on homeless adult kids this morning. In responding, I revisited where husband and I were, last summer.

And the summer before that.

And the one before that too, stretching back into time.

This summer, we are in a better place...and it has nothing at all to do with where the kids are in their lives. Part of this is that I don't think there is anything we haven't already tried and failed at. (Maybe it wasn't a failure ~ who knows what this would all look like had we done nothing.)

Anyway, because we won't go back and redo things that have been failing all along, that desperate sense of needing to do something has ~ it feels like anything desperate hits a brick wall.

Nothing worked.

Might as well let go.

Just...let it go.

The worst thing happened. Every single time, the worst thing happened, and it came roaring in on our blind side.

We are in a strange place, right now. That keening, living, excoriating sense of loss has softened around the edges. It is what it is. There is some sadness at that, still. Looking back this morning at difficult child daughter's spectacular dive into homelessness, into mental illness and drug addiction, I truly do see that we really did do everything we knew to do.

Well, except the one thing that might have changed everything. There is a real cost to the decisions we make regarding our families.

Same with difficult child son...with a bullet.

I did not take my grandchild, who had already run away from two relatives.

I might have done that.

I might still do that.

But that is the only thing I didn't do.

Well okay. There is one more grandchild, but she is 21 and on her own, already.

It has been very hard to learn to say "no". I don't feel like a very nice person, most days.

I'm letting that go, too.

Sometimes, I feel like crying for the me that was lost. I believed...I don't know. Believed I could make a difference, believed I could change things, not just for my children, but for everyone ~ maybe just a smile, maybe something special for someone in the day we were both in together. Especially after the beating, I am really starting to get it that people do not change.

They do what they want to.

I can be really nice if I want to, or really nasty if that is what I want...but the only thing that changes is me and whoever I am rude to or mean to, when I might have been kind, instead. I will probably continue to choose kind, but I wonder now whether it matters, whereas before, I believed that it did matter.

Sometimes now, it seems to me that my decision to choose kind, to believe for the best, laid me open to be taken advantage of and that is exactly what happened.

I am not talking just the kids here, I am talking about what is real, about what really happens, and what is just a dream.

I think I understand that once I am through this phase, I will begin reclaiming my life, will begin putting myself first and hardly thinking about the kids at all. I would say I will be a wiser woman than I would have been, had these things never happened.

How have your experiences with your difficult child adult kids changed you?



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That keening, living, excoriating sense of loss has softened around the edges. It is what it is. There is some sadness at that, still.

Yes. I am there as well, often.

I would have to say that that depends upon the day!

First off, it has been humbling, and made me much less likely to judge other parents or other families. That is number one, and that is big, and I think a general good in the world.

It has made me a resource for the parents of really problem kids, who are shamed and feel comforted that they can talk to some one as normal as I am with problem kids (I say kids because easy child daughter, difficult child twin, was a difficult child for a good 5 years, including getting expelled from middle school, being accused of inappropirate sexual aggression with another middle schooler, lots of drugs and drinking, hanging out with 20 plus year olds, all the usual, exacerbated by opportunity since we live in a city)
This is a good thing, since as we know it is not hard to offer solace or even actual help to a parent at the very very beginning of this journey.

It has made me agonizingly miserable in ways I would never have imagined possible.

It has made me contemplate suicide as an escape.

It has made me feel like a total, awful, creepy, criminally bad parent and person.

It has made me actually pull my kids' hair and scream at them, behaviors I would not have imagined to be possible.

Detaching, meditating, centering have all arisen at least in part from having a difficult child, and those have made me better and healthier in all my relationships, including with ex difficult child SO, and ex husband. It has helped me allow my easy child kids to be who they are, which has been so good for our relationship...same with the two difficult children, actually...our relationships are better, fragile as they are. I think I am even saner in my work relationships.

That is for starters

Probably more to follow.

This is an interesting thread, Cedar. I'll look forward to what others have to say.



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Staff member
Oh Cedar and Echo (((hugs))) Having a difficult child changed me and the trajectory of my life.

I know for me personally, I was already having some difficulties due to having health problems. But, I believe I would have been able to rally and go forward, but having the stress of a difficult child, put me in a horrible place. I think autoimmune problems and great stress do not mix. Therefore, I ended up with worsening health problems and insurmountable problems career wise. All my plans went up in smoke. We had no help from of course, that wasn't good. I was always an ultra conscientious student and employee with many goals and great hopes. It just wasn't meant to be. And these days, I am concerned for my later years. This is partially why I have chosen to detach and set boundaries, big time and to the extreme with difficult child. I limit the amount of time I think about the past and also greatly limit the amount of time I will entertain difficult child drama/trauma today.

Fortunately, other than health problems and difficult child issues with our daughter, and one difficult child year with our son and a few other family related things (these things alone are plenty) we haven't had too many other very difficult things going on. But, right now we are hurting in other areas too and I might post on WC about it. My husband was in a car accident about 4 weeks ago (he's ok, but it was traumatic...a texting teen rammed into him), our house was badly burglarized the following week, my health has been hideous and we sort of got a slap in the face from our best friends of nearly 30 years.

I felt drained and went to see my previous therapist and she said, among other things, to let this very difficult time serve as a learning and growth experience.

The more I think about this, I think it is an accurate statement/possibility.

And back to having a difficult child...I suppose it is/was a growing experience. It is hard to say. It certainly opened my eyes, in a way. It is NOT an experience I would chose, no matter how much growth I got or get out of it. Like Echo, the difficulties have made me closer to my husband. It made me grow up in certain ways very very quickly.

by the way, maybe part of that growth for you is still in progress, Cedar....yes, I do think many people take advantage of those who are very kind!!!! I think about that when I recall my mother and father. Good that you realize this. I think my mom finally did on her death bed. Do I have to tell you to NOT wait until then????? ((((hugs)))) Oh my...just got choked up.


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Of course I'm still going through this and it still seems so new - although I guess it's been going on three years now...but,

I'm guilt-ridden.

I keep thinking of everything I did wrong. I should have been stricter. I should have made him join clubs. I should have encouraged sports. I should have played with him more. I should have concentrated on his homework instead of just taking his word it was done. We should have gone to church. We should have taught him religion. I should have put him in therapy. My husband and I have always been so much in love with each other that I feel sometimes that we excluded our son. We said we’d take him to Disney World and didn’t ever go. We said we’d take him digging for diamonds in Arkansas. We didn’t. We didn’t take family vacations. (Really, we seldom took any vacations, but when he was 10 we went to Vegas for a week. Four years ago we went to Italy for 3 weeks.) We used to take him camping and fishing but he didn’t like it so we quit. We tried getting him into golf, but he stopped liking it so we quit. We tried getting him into medieval reenactment with us, but he stopped liking it so we left him home. We shouldn’t have put a computer in his room. We shouldn’t have let him have his own TV. We should have made him eat at the table with us. We should have turned off the TV and played scrabble more. I should have had another child so he wasn’t always alone. (That was my doing. My husband wanted lots of kids, but I was in my mid-30’s when we married and then had health problems and then we were about done with daycare and able to do things without the kid and I just didn’t want more. I will never know why my husband loves me so much.)

My God is there anything I don’t think I did wrong? I know, I really do know, that my son didn’t learn this behavior from me or my husband. But as you can see…that’s what I keep dwelling on.

I'm sadder, disillusioned and kind of lost.

I’ve always tried to have hope that things will work out. When I married my ex, I knew he had problems and it became immediately apparent that he was not going to quit drinking and get a job. But every day – every single day – I came home from work hoping he’d say he’d gotten a job, or just that we’d have a nice night. But instead he’d greet me at my car-pool drop off with a beer in his hand (not his first of the day) and would pretty much dump me off at home and leave again. While I was pregnant and working and exhausted, he did manage to cook dinner – otherwise I would have starved, baby to think of or not – I was just so tired. When it was finally over, I swore that I’d never be disappointed that way, over and over, again.

But I am. I feel that same pain every time my son disappoints me.

And I’m so disappointed. When I had a son, I knew we wouldn’t have the kind of relationship I had with my mom, but I had dreams of him growing up and I looked forward to watching him get a job and date and go to prom and walk at graduation and go to college and move on, get married, give me grandbabies, and always, always, love me and want to spend time with me; to come for Christmas and Mother’s day and … I get none of it. Granted he’s only 19, but already I didn’t get prom or graduation (he wouldn’t walk) and college was just to get $...he didn’t attend classes.

And every time he does something that lets me down, it feels exactly, exactly, the same way it did before he was born.

And then I feel guilty because that so ME! ME! ME! He’s not me. He doesn’t have to conform to what I think he should be. But no matter how many times I tell myself that, I can’t help thinking, “Where’s my payoff?” So, yeah, guilt again.

I’m envious.

I have a couple cousins and a brother-in-law with kids the age of mine. In college, winning awards, or just hanging out with their parents and going to ballgames and stuff together, I’m jealous. I want just a little of what they have.

I’m less judgmental.

The one and only good thing to come of this so far. I deal with parents in my work, sometimes with kids that are less than stellar individuals. I no longer think, “Wow…did they screw up.” I truly understand what it’s like to have a child going down the wrong path.

I have a very long way to go.


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Staff member
Lil, I was envious for a long time. I still have brief moments of it, but not often. And I had guilt as well. I was able to get rid of that relatively soon though, as I know in my heart I did my best....not much more you can do than that!

I try hard to concentrate on any and all good in my life.

I had to see a therapist for a long time. One day, I didn't talk about difficult child!!!!!! It was a breakthrough moment. :)



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First off, it has been humbling, and made me much less likely to judge other parents or other families.
Yes, that has been true for me too. It has also stopped me making assumptions about other people, I never look at a family group and think they look like a 'perfect family'. I always wonder what truths lie below the surface and what troubles they have had or have yet to come.

I'm far more realistic and cynical about life in general, I often feel like I've had enough of life really and wouldn't be too sorry if it came to an end. Sometimes it just feels like a tough survival course that would be easy to drop out of and not finish because it's not worth the effort.

I say "whatever" a lot more than I used to, as a response to things that used to generate a lot more emotion than "whatever".

I take a lot more interest in homeless people and buskers and such and buy them coffees and don't judge them. I also wonder where their mothers are.

I've become an expert in all the possible cures for insomnia.


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I dont know if I can say that my ADULT kids have changed me because my kids have been so very difficult their entire lives so I have been doing this since I was just a kid myself.

Of course having the kids did cause me to grow up in one heck of a major way. Even though I am a difficult child, I became a responsible difficult child mother who did my level best even if that wasnt always so wonderful. I had to laugh about pulling hair and screaming at your kids. Boy have I been there and worse! My middle son likes to torture me by telling everyone that I used to tie him and his younger brother up with socks when he was little. It happened once! For one minute!

Of course that same middle son is a success story so maybe tying up was a good thing!

I have no clue what my life would have been like if I hadnt had kids or if I had had kids with normal problems. Maybe life would have been boring?


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Well, I was never that parent who thought my family or kids were going to be perfect because I saw a terrible family example. But I never expected a child like 36, who was on the mean side and who started that way as a toddler. I would say having him and the experience of living with a drug using child who I felt may die made me more selfish. But in a good way. I learned how to stick up for myself and that I absolutely could not give it all up for the troubled kids while my other kids and husband needed me every bit as much. I learned not to take abuse from anyone, not just my kids.

Unlike many people, I did not have a "what did I do wrong" type of guilt. Mine was more "Why did I, with my genetic disaster, have a child." And guilt was not a big part of my angst. I did not believe that putting my son in baseball or any clubs would have changed him. He was who he was and he is who he is. I believe in nature far over nurture. I don't think I was a bad mother, but a bit too lax and too loose with givin without him having to work for them. I do regret that.

However, how many horrible mothers, who never even pay attention to their kids, have nice kids? I know quite a few. It seems to debunk the theory of "your kids are what you make of them." I think they are born with their personalities and that some are just lacking empathy due to faulty brain wiring.

I am in a good place most of the time now. I have slip ups, like when Jumper and her boyfriend broke up (how stupid is it to worry about THAT?) But I get over stuff fast and I no longer let anyone treat me like a piece of crapola, which I did a lot when I was younger. If you can't be nice, you can't be in my life. Period. No negotiation.

This is a huge change for me, but I like it. I used to drift toward drama and wonder why I was so stressed out. Now I avoid it and it feels really good. And now that all of my children are out of the nest I refuse to be a "mommy" ever again. I will be happily their adult mother to their adult child, their friend, their confidante, their emotional support, and anything else that is consistent with peace and a normal relationship. I will not be the bank, the one who listens to being called names, the one who solves your adult problems, and your place to come back to if you decide to be irresponsible and go homeless.

I think I've come a long way.


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That is a wonderful place to be Pam. I am still Mommy to my

I have cut myself off from Billy and Cory as much as I possibly can given the situation we are in. I do expect they may get royally tired of paying all the bills over there and fixing things that break because they refused to take care of them properly. Im not going to get involved until they are ready to leave. If at that point I have to sue the pants off of them, well watch for us on People's

I know that they still want me to fix things. Cory called me tonight to tell me their power bill was 500 bucks and they didnt know how they were going to pay it. I couldnt even fathom how they could end up with a bill that high. There are only 3 people in the house. I think they need to look into their power consumption. Our power bills for 2 extra people in that same house sometimes hit 300 during the hottest summer months but never that high. Oh then I find out that is the combined bill...not just the amount due to be paid this week. See they wanted me to go down and try to get it paid by DSS. Nope. They need to figure these things out or they will never be able to do this for themselves.


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Staff member
I've gone through more emotions and experiences and dramas then I thought it possible to do.
I've cried rivers of tears, been weighted down and almost drowned in guilt and sorrow.
I had rages that I thought might in fact kill me.
I hit stress levels I didn't even know existed and had more sleepless nights then I can count.
My disappointments, frustrations, embarrassments, resentments, incredulousness and just plain despair were off the charts.
I often could not distinguish between love and hate, caring and indifference, taking care of and enabling.
I felt isolated, desperate, shocked, scared and in states of fear I thought I would not recover from.

And, I lived through all of it.

Getting through all of that freed me from the chains of misery caused by believing I can in any way change another human being. That I have any control over anything another does, thinks, believes, experiences, chooses or feels.

I've learned to allow, to let go, to receive, to be open, to judge less, to have compassion, to be willing and mostly, to accept.

I made different choices I didn't know I could make, with help from professionals, and it changed my life.
I learned to make boundaries another person had no right to move beyond and protected them with a ferocity that empowered me.
The boundaries defined a new presence in every part of my life which changed all my dynamics and brought out a strength and conviction I had not had before.
I became clear about what I was willing to do with my daughter and what I was not willing to do, which also translated to the rest of my life.
I learned to communicate with conviction and certainty leaving no loopholes or lack of clarity.
I stopped feeling guilty.
I focused on my own needs as a priority, not as a last resort.
I learned how to speak very directly, very honestly and with certainty about what I wanted, what made me unhappy and what I was NOT willing to tolerate..........with everyone.
I looked my difficult child in the eyes and told her what her life has done to my life, which, in my opinion, is what allowed me to let go and perhaps, allowed her to emerge out of where she was.
i learned a language which seems to support others on similar journeys.
I learned compassion for my difficult child without it meaning i had to DO anything about it.
I learned to respect and honor what I want.
I learned courage.
I learned how to love and let go.

My life has changed in miraculous ways.

I am the most REAL I have ever been, the most authentic me, the me without defenses........ vulnerable, messy, soft around the edges, open hearted and not only available for, but ready and open for change.

It's been a helluva ride.

I'm extremely grateful that even though it may never be entirely ceases to harm me, it's become neutralized in almost every way. I think neutralized because of the truth being seen, expressed and heard.

And, at least for today, I am free.
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Janet...I enable my dogs But, seriously, I used to want to fix the entire world, not just my family. I'd stuff $20 into a beggar's hands not realizing it would probably be used for drugs, I want to save every child on earth and therefor, being naive, we adopted a boy who was really too old and too damaged to live in a family and he hurt my youngest two children in the worst way possible. THAT I still feel guilty about. I should have done more research on adopting older kids. I should have read more about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). Anyway, I didn't and it happened. I would have adopted over and over again if that hadn't happened to make me see that you can not save everyone, sometimes you can't even save a was a horrible time for all of us. I also liked to invite strangers to stay in our house if they had a sad story, but luckily both of my husbands put their feet down on that one. I judged any mother who was not 100% about her children. I lived my life through my children. I had no identity. I was 36's mom, Scott's mom, Julie's mom. When they hurt, I think I took it harder. My mood disorder and anxiety didn't help any. I made my own life a living hell and I never fixed a single person that I tried to fix. I did get burned several times. I also felt that my mother HAD to love me or else I was nothing, therefore I ran after a probably borderline mother, who couldn't stand me, and tried to win her over until I hit my 40's and finally pulled back. But it still killed me when she disinherited me because I felt it meant she didn't love me (she didn't) and God help me if this crazy woman didn't love me, nobody could. That really was a first turning point for me.

How I got to THIS point is nothing short of amazing. I can't believe I'm actually here, at a place where I can comfortably let others find their own paths. When I see homeless people now, with their signs, I hand them one of the cards I care around that gives the address and phone number for Community Care w here they can at least find out how to get services, food, help, if they want it. When my adult children struggle, I still feel angst, but I come here and read and can very quickly remember how they have to walk their own paths and I can go on rather than be paralyzed with horror over their latest setback. When I set boundaries down for 36, I knew I'd made it. And he is so much nicer to me now. Maybe it's just a phase, but I can at least talk to him without being called every name in the book and without him screaming at me. Most of the time, I am not thinking about my adult children. I have a busy life of my own, which is another miracle. I actually have an identity aside from my adult children and even my precious grandbaby. They are a part of the people in my life, they are not me. They used to be me.

This feeling of serenity is so wonderful and it isn't because I love people or my own children any less. It is because I gave up trying to fix them and I gave up feeling their emotions.

My need to fix and help has moved onto animals and THAT is far more gratifying because you CAN help an animal and you can make an animal happy and fix their lives. I am involved in dog rescue. You can fix a dog's life and make it good, but not so with a person.
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Oh Pam...we are so much alike in many Can you believe I have invited many people to live with us? In fact, I dont know if you remember it but it used to be a joke on here that I was running a group home and my motto should be like Motel 6, I would always leave the light

Even back when I first met Tony I was bringing strays home. Not dogs but people. We had to move out of an apartment and leave one lady behind because she simply would not leave! I am a sucker for giving hand outs too. I have learned my lesson about those people who stand at the end of an off ramp with the signs but it never fails someone will hit me up in a parking lot. I think I shocked the last one and they may have passed the word to leave me alone because when the guy told me he was hungry, hadnt eaten and needed money for food I went into the grocery store and bought him about ten bucks in nice cans of food with pull tab lids. LOL. I also kept the receipt so he couldnt return them! If he was really hungry I gave him some great food. I gave him a loaf of bread, cans of those Vienna sausages, potted meat, canned fruit and several bottles of fruit juice and water.

OMG...Cory just called to tell me where I could and couldnt take Monkey to swim and how I could do it. I live right next to a big park which has a lake in it which is open for swimming with lifeguards. Monkey loves it. She IS a bit too young to go alone according to their posted age limits but the lifeguards know her and she knows to stay where she can touch bottom (they have it roped off) and I do live about 100 yards from the lake. They have said she can come alone. Cory is He wants me to come get him anytime she wants to go swimming and we can sneak into one of the motels. Ummm, not. Monkey loves the lake. She swims better there than in a pool anyway.