...is this still enabling?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by JPG, Jun 24, 2019.

  1. JayPee

    JayPee Sending good vibes...

    I'm still working on detachment and enabling (probably for the rest of my life) but I wanted to get some thoughts on this. My oldest homeless son (living is his car) finally went to a food shelter for some food on Saturday. He said he asked for non-perishable items but they still gave him a few things like eggs and yogurt bread etc.. He asked me to "hold" these items for him. I hesitanatly agreed to do so. And then I opened my mouth and said, what are we going to do with all these eggs? I then offered to make him egg salad sandwiches and for a couple of days now have been bringing them to him with yogurts and watermelon. WTH I am doing? I get so confused. I know this doesn't seem like an earth shattering big issues but I just wanted some input. Am I sending the wrong message again? If I softened the edges of his homelessness by doing this am I still prolonging the inevitable?
  2. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member

    Others may disagree but in my opinion you are showing that you love, care and support him. I dont think it works to push or create someones bottom. Its important to keep your own boundaries so dont do things that make you uncomfortable, but its ok to do things that make you feel good too.
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  3. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    No. For me, this would be getting too involved. My son has tried this a million times. It has never worked for me. But we are all different.
    Do you feel you are roped back in or is this a pattern you wish to reinforce and assist?

    I will tell you my own view. He is homeless and not working. You are not. He is responsible to find a living situation that is sustainable that does not require you to sustain it. That is what I think. There are many cultures where some adult children live with their Mamas until they are 40 or more. I am thinking of Italy and Greece, for example. They go to work. They contribute to the household. They help the Mama out. These are not our kids. If they were we would not be here posting. Our kids need to learn to do for themselves. To make their lives work, in the way they can.

    It is not about making them suffer or to find their bottoms. It is to step up in one's own life, and to begin to take responsibility for themselves and for others, too, which is the essence of life, in my view.

    He needs to solve the issue of no place to store perishables. He can say, no. No perishables. He can give them to somebody else or trade them for non-perishables. He can find somebody's refrigerator. There are even battery operated refrigerators that operate based on a car battery. He can buy a separate battery to use in the car. All of these are solutions he can find. Or not. The problem of perishables is not one you created or have to solve. Of course you can help him out. But is this contributing to the problem or solving it? These are not easy questions, often.

    Bottom line, to me. This is NOT your problem to solve. It's his. You can help him find a solution. But I would not want to be "the solution." That is what I think.

    Of course people cooperate and share burdens. This is a wonderful thing. Except is your son sharing burdens, or shirking them? That is the question. There is no judgment here. But I think it is worth asking.

    The thing about detachment, is that it is a domino effect. Each action we take, generates a new one, to puzzle about and to use our muscle. This is our learning curve.

    He is the one who is living the way he is living. (And my son too.) At one point do they accept that every single thing in life costs. Effort. Money. Responsibility. Deciding. Having a voice.

    We can't teach them these things. But they can learn this. Do we allow these able-bodied men the opportunity to learn? Or not. To me this is a question of respect.

    I am just now reading tl's post. She is right.

    And I agree. But I disagree some too.

    I agree that it is wrong to push/create somebody's bottom. (I personally do not believe you are doing that.)

    But I disagree that permitting self-sufficiency is doing that.

    Tl has been doing this a long time, with her son. She has found a place to live and work from that works for her, and for her son. It's kind of like a place to stand. From what I read of you and your son, that has yet to happen. Finding boundaries that work for both of you. A place to stand where you can love him and love yourself, and feel it is right. You will know when you find this place, I think. I wonder if cooking for him on a regular basis is where you want to be. It's not wrong. It could work. But is it? Only you know.

    The answers are not out there written in the codebook. The answers are in your heart, in you. What you feel is right for your child and for you.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
  4. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    I think that you saw him doing something to help himself. That is when we step in to encourage and maybe help more than we should.

    We all get it.

    Do what you feel you need to do. I don't think you're wrong.
  5. JayPee

    JayPee Sending good vibes...

    Thank you for hearing me out. I will take into consideration all of your advice/thoughts. I think what brought me to post this concern is that "something inside of me" didn't feel it was the right course of action to take. I really like what you said cobacabana....

    "It is not about making them suffer or to find their bottoms. It is to step up in one's own life, and to begin to take responsibility for themselves and for others, too, which is the essence of life."

    This is how I feel. I don't want him to suffer more than he is already and that's why I thought this was a kind gesture. But in the full spectrum of things, I feel that I don't want to get roped in again and undo any progress I feel I have made. By doing this that's what feels like what's happening. I know in my heart that this isn't about me not wanting to help him (Lord knows I've done more than I should have already which has lead us to this pattern) but what happens is I hear my son saying to me as he has before that "he deserves better" and I agree wholeheartedly. BUT, I have to remind myself that he has to want that as much as I do.

    I'd have to re-read the threads posted but someone said the other day "boundaries are like sunscreen and you have to keep re-applying". That has stuck with me and I'm going to keep "re-applying" ...so I don't get burnt.
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  6. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    What we are doing with our sons, is supporting them to locate "doing better" in themselves. Their wanting better and recognizing that the change they seek is located in what they do differently, so that they "work" and that their lives "work." We are trying to allow this spark in them to wake up. Like an ignition that has gone to sleep.

    I have been having trouble with my gas stove. I tried to wash it with too much water and I wrecked everything. The oven will not light anymore. This is what happens with our kids. There is the fuel, the gas, that is available. But the ignition is not communicating/doing it's job. As long as we are the match, we take the place of the igniter, these young men will wait for us to do. They have gotten in that habit, and they have forgotten that they have the capacity to ignite themselves.

    For this to change they have to be left to their own devices. Just as your son decided to go to get that food, he can decide to do all kinds of other things. This is not a bottoming process. It is a learning process. That is what I think.

    You can tell son: OKAY. We have gotten through this week with the egg salad sandwiches, we need to up our game. You ARE in this with him. It's just that you are in this to support competency and responsibility. Not dependency.

    You are doing this!
  7. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Oh. I think he wants it. But he wants YOU to do it. Or somebody else.

    He has to come to the place where he wants it, yes. And wants to do it too. Or at least accepts that he will be the one to do it, if he wants it. This is not a punishment. It is not an abandonment. It is getting out of the way to permit somebody to step up in their life as they can.

    I think there are all kinds of ways that you can support and love him. And at the same time permit him to do for himself, too.

    I respect what he did to go to that food place and to get that food. I don't think it would be enabling, for example, to help him find a battery operated refrigerator for his car.

    I just checked online. I found one at Target for 33 dollars. Personally, I would consider this to be a way to support him and take care of yourself, at the same time. And, if you want to, establish a regular date for the two of you to eat dinner once a week *you can cook together, and watch a movie together. Make it positive and special. For both of you. To me, this is not enabling. It is love.

    Of course, a battery operated refrigerator will solve nothing, really. Because he will still be unable to make, say, BLT sandwiches. He will lack the frying pan and electricity. (What are you going to do, buy him a generator? No. I do not think so.)

    But the thing is, at some point it needs to click in, I am living in a way that is uncomfortable and highly limited. Is it worth it to me, or do I want to change it? And if I want to change it, what do I want and how will I get it?
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    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
  8. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    The thing is this. I understand it is hard to make egg salad sandwiches in a car. But the reality is this. Who has decided to live in a car? Him or you?

    There are consequences in life to our choices. If we decide to live in cars, and decide to not work at a job, there are certain results that accrue. One of them is not being able to make egg salad sandwiches, at least easily.

    My son lives in a shed. He is paying money to live in a shed in a yard. He can't make egg sandwiches either. What can I say?
  9. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    You are not saying you will not help him. You are saying that you won't take responsibility for the decisions he makes in his life. He needs to do that. He is able-bodied and he has a sound mind. We need to operate from that place. He needs to learn to operate from that place, and we as mothers have to learn to permit them to do this. Even if, especially if, it hurts us. Just as we sent them off to school when they were 5, and turned away as they cried, we need to tolerate this. It's for them as much as for us.
  10. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    It's very easy to see a blurred line when it comes to enabling.

    For me, the easiest way to determine is to use the following:
    Enabling - the act of doing something for people that could and should be doing for themselves.
    Helping - the act of doing something for people that are unable to do for themselves.

    In the case of the eggs and yogurt, sure it would be easy to say it's helping since he doesn't have a refrigerator, however, he could have a cooler and buy ice. Also, he did not have to take the perishable items.

    You cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube, you took the food and offered to make him egg salad sandwiches, which is a very kind act. If it were me, I would use this as a learning curve for both of you.
    I would tell him something like; "The next time you go to the food pantry you need to make sure you only take non-perishable items unless you get a cooler to keep them in. It is not my responsibility to keep your food for you"

    The positive to take away from this is, he went to the food pantry! That is a great step for him to have taken.
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  11. elizabrary

    elizabrary Active Member

    I see this as the slippery slope. Our adult children are masters at taking a mile when you give them an inch. It's how they function. I have to be very clear in my boundaries with my daughter or she behaves in this way. She doesn't do it so much anymore. Probably because I set and maintained boundaries and she also became more mature over time. I really struggled to understand boundaries as I had very few and when I was a child there weren't many boundaries for me in my home. When I question myself now I remember this: enabling is doing something for an adult that they are capable of doing for themselves. Is your son capable of taking care of his own nutritional needs? Yes, even though he may not want to. Now, if he was an adult with developmental disabilities this would be a different story. But he is a grown man who could hold a job but chooses not to. Since that is his choice he must deal with the consequences of it.
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  12. BusynMember

    BusynMember Well-Known Member

    He made his own situation. He would eat better in a shelter. in my opinion I enabled too much and don't recommend it if you want peace or your 37 year old child to ever be motivated to grow up. And trust me my daughter did not grow up and is not even loving that we did so much for her. She is rude to us, wont even contact us now. Wont talk at all

    Your son doesnt need your sandwiches delivered to the place he decided to live in (his car). He can eat what he can. I don't t think its that bad to hold things like yogurt in your fridge if you have room. If you want, hard boiled eggs. That is it in my opinion. Then make him come and get food if he wants it. You arent his personal cook or slave. If he is able bodied he can work. Many disabled people work or wish they could.

    My daughter wont work. Her husband has a crappy job, but so far it has paid for a super crappy apartment in a neighborhood where there are gunshots sometimes. She hates us for not paying for a nicer place yet we bought and rented her places for TEN years and now we are left with a very small retirement which we can no longer afford to touch. So she and Lee need a new bank, not us, or they have to live there. And I wouldnt be surprised if if Lee didnt pay even this low rent and that they are evicted. Again.

    Will your food deliveries help your son? Will he even be nicer to you for your effort? My experience treating my daughter like she had to have comfort, because I couldnt bear for her not to, hurt her more than helped her. She does nothing for herself. She even.begs me to make dental appointments for her. Then of course her next request is if we will pay. If I say no the cussing starts.

    Not anymore will we coddle her.

    I am on vacation now and soon to grill lunch with my husband but am dependent on this place so still checking in. Even so, I feel peace in the warm breeze and waves and no phone calls. Very different than at home. I hope you have a nice day and for yourself make nice days for just relaxing. This is awesome.
  13. JayPee

    JayPee Sending good vibes...

    This is why I'm so happy I've found this site. Other people would say, "what is this woman's problem..with egg salad sandwiches..really?" But you all get that this is soooooooo much more than that. It's small pieces in my learning to develop into the person I want to be inspite of my sons issues.

    I think I will refrain from buying any battery operated refrigerator because usually any comfort I try to provide in one shape or another is usually my responsibility when it breaks down and I get sucked up into the vacuum of the insanity again.

    This is a slippery slope and I need to dig my heels in.

    Whenever I read all of your replies, I think to myself...these ladies should get paid for their advice! For me it's worth a million dollars (which don't have LOL) to have good sound advice from experienced people who have been through the trenches of life and offer their time and knowledge for FREE. ahhhhh but what is that saying? "Nothing is for free". You ladies have all paid the price for sure.
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  14. elizabrary

    elizabrary Active Member

    Yes- I so understand this. Other people do NOT understand the situations we are in. They are judgmental and give well-meaning advice that is not appropriate in our situations. I remember a very dear friend of mine once saying, "Why doesn't his dad do something about him?" when Charlie Sheen was acting like a maniac. This was right in the midst of one of my worst times with my daughter. I told her, "Do you not think he has done everything he can think of to try and help his son? His son is an adult. There is only so much he can do." She still didn't fully understand how helpless parents are in these situations. I had to get past worrying what other people thought of me in relation to my daughter. Now I could care less. When people ask me how she is they get the truth, good or bad. It's been wonderful for me to separate my life from hers. I guess we should just be glad our kids aren't famous and putting their crazy out there for the whole world to see!
  15. AppleCori

    AppleCori Well-Known Member


    This has happened to my hubby more than once!

    The bigger problem was, he would accept that responsibility, and feel guilty leaving them with the problem.

    JPG, I would probably not continue to bring him food every day. He is going to get used to this, and then expect this to be the new normal.
  16. Oh my gosh, what perfect timing for your post @JPG as I was literally saying to my coworker that I feel that I should bring my daughter some food after another co-worker saw my daughter lying on a bench at a nearby strip mall. This thread has helped me really step back and think it through - would I be doing this out of fear, obligation or guilt. Yes, I don't want my daughter to stave. BUT, this is her choice to not get a job because her "spirit guides" have told her not to go get a job. I do believe that she does have delusional thoughts at times as well as maybe some schizophrenia. Hard to say since she does not believe that she has anything wrong with her so she will not seek treatment. My heart is broken. I am so grateful that I found this forum yesterday! Thank you all for sharing!
  17. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    Well you did it an it's over and done and I could have put myself there too. As mentioned, maybe a teaching moment for you.

    I read a memoir recently and this quote stood out to me and has helped me many times with my relationship with my son:

    "It's when no one comforts us that we experience growth"
  18. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    I remember one time my son sent me a text saying "because you won't send me some money I'm having to dig through a dumpster to find something to eat"
    While the vision of that in my mind made me feel physically ill, I replied to him "you are smart and resourceful, I'm glad you found some food"
    He replied with some very ugly comments which I ignored.
    Not to mention all the times I told him to go to a shelter for a meal but that was beneath him, digging through a dumpster is so much better.o_O
    Even if I had chosen to give some money to my son, it would have been easier getting something passed in Congress! My son always manages to lose his ID and without an ID it's not easy to wire money. Some places will let you do a secret password but some require an ID.

    Love this quote RN.
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  19. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    I do too. I put it into my phone notes.

    I am a comforter type so I needed this.
  20. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member

    Well thanks for this whole thread. I needed it. I do find the line between enabling and supporting/helping is often then and its hard to know which side to be on. Recently with my son I clearly crossed into clear enabling when I got a late night call and reacted without thinking. Then a couple of days ago my husband did also. So we are having to rethink this a bit and step back before we just react and “help”. This thread helped me do that. Today I finally got a call from my son (I have tried reaching him for a couple of days with no return call..... it totally bugs me that he wont call me back but only calls when he wants something!). So today he called because he is sick (vomiting and diahrea etc.) couldnt go to work and things are not going well. Apparently his job is still good but everything else is not great and he feels lousy....but he hasnt gotten paid and so needs some money!! I said no. I got the but mom poor me scenario and I said I know you are drinking and smoking pot and I want no part of that. You need to learn and manage your money better so no I am not giving you any money. I did call the program he is in to let them know what is up so they can check on him....but at least I said no. I have no idea if he is sick from something he ate (his story) or very possibly he is back into heroin and is withdrawing. But anyway thank you jpg for starting this thread. It came at the right time fo rme.