Out of the mouths of babes...

Discussion in 'Substance Abuse' started by CAmom, Mar 23, 2008.

  1. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    We've been undergoing weekly family therapy, and, during our session last week, our son made some comments that took my breath away.

    A bit of background: When we became aware of our son's marijuana use back in his freshman year of high school, all heck broke loose in our previously-happy and peaceful home. We went through the gamut of emotions as I'm sure most parents do... shock, anger, despair, etc.

    As my husband became increasingly frustrated with our son's defiance of our values and house rules, he became more and more verbal about his feelings, telling our son to leave at one point. Finally, during one of our nastier confrontations, he lost control, and things got physical. Although the incident was relatively mild in nature, I was completely shaken as my husband has always been an extremely patient and easy-going man and, in our 30 years of marriage, I had never seen him act out physically in anger. It hurt me terribly to see this directed at our son.

    I, wanting to protect my 'baby' and keep the peace (in other words, enable our son) basically took his side over my husband's. As a result, my husband completely backed off and gradually became more and more emotionally withdrawn and passive in his dealings with our son, allowing me to take over. Basically, over time, I took on my husband's role as the 'head of the household' while my husband watched from the sidelines.

    So, back to the therapy session... in the context of a discussion about our son's feelings of respect for us as his parents, he said that he wanted to tell us something 'honestly.' He went on to say that he thought his dad should 'man-up and give me back my strong father figure.' He went on to say that he wanted his dad to 'show me an angry face when I screw up.' He then turned to me and told me that he wanted me to 'back off and let dad be my dad...you be my mom.'

    I can't tell you how absolutely staggered we both were, hearing this from our 18-year-old! I had no idea that he had even noticed the gradual shift in 'power.' And, instead of being pleased by the fact that his dad had completely backed off in terms of authority and discipline, leaving that to me (which basically meant he could do just about anything he pleased without much in the way of consequences), he was disturbed rather than pleased by it, and, as a result, my husband and I both lost his respect.

    I shared this very painful story in case there are any other moms out here (Mikey's wife comes to mind) who are making the same huge mistake I did. It just serves to reiterate how true it is that children/teens want and need that strong authority figure in their lives to draw those lines in the sand and mean it and that, deep down, they really don't respect a parent who allows themselves to be used as a doormat.

    This was a real eye-opener to me and my husband, and I only hope it's not too late...
  2. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    Obviously not too late for your son or he wouldn't have said he wanted this too happen. I'm hoping your husband has forgiven your taking your son's side. It is a pretty natural thing for a mother to do. If not, maybe therapy for the two of you to work that out. Something tells me you'll probably need to forgive yourself. Just remember that you thought you were doing the right thing at the time.

    The other big question is whether you can step back if (when?) your husband comes down on your son for something. It is hard when you are used to having one role and then have that change for whatever reason.

    I'm glad your son spoke up. I doubt that was easy for him. Just as impressive is your willingness to listen to what he said and see there was some basis for you. Good luck on this stage of your family's journey. I hope it goes well for all of you.
  3. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    Meow, I think my husband totally understands why I reacted as I did. As a matter of fact, when our son was away and in the group home, we were both able to step back and think and talk more objectively about how unhealthy our family dynamic had become as a result of our son's drug use.

    And, truthfully, I never felt comfortable in the role I gave myself and very quickly began referring our son to his dad when he would approach me. However, unfortunately, by that time, my husband had so completely detached that he basically ignored our son who would then bounce back to me.

    Now that the subject has come up, thanks to our son, I think my husband has finally accepted what I've tried to explain over the past year which is that I made a mistake by interfering, even though it was in the interest of keeping the peace, and that I (and our son) REALLY need him to engage himself again. I could see that it really made an impact on him when our son made the comments he did (he actually got tears in his eyes), and I think the ice finally cracked. We were SO lucky that this came out in the presence of a great therapist who guided us through the moment.

    I've found that I'm so much in the habit of taking over that I really have to concentrate on keeping quiet and letting them work things out, but I'm determined to do it for the sake of all of us...
  4. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    Sounds like it "being too late" really is not something you need to fear. Your entire family is really on the same page. It's not going to be easy to change the family dynamics and I'm sure your son will fight them and you'll want to step in, but that all goes with being human.

    I'm glad things are working out so well for all of you. Makes me truly happy when I'm wrong about something like this.

    SONS GONE WILD Moms goin' crazy


    Thanks for sharing this. My husband went through many times when he thought distancing himself was helping, but everything got put on my shoulders. Now, finally, he really seems to be taking a little more active approach, to the point that difficult child will actually call husband when he needs something, and not just call me. Good luck with the group therapy and I hope it continues to help.
  6. Ephchap

    Ephchap Active Member

    CA Mom,

    I think many of us go through that role reversal from time to time - especially when our difficult child's are putting us through he##.

    I know that I have always been the tougher one on my son, and my husband was the good guy. We came to blows over it several times. You can't be your child's best friend; you have to remember you are the parent. I told him that over and over, but when one of the counselors reiterated it to husband, I think it finally sunk in.

    Glad things are back on an even keel at your house, even if you have to sit on your lips, as Coookie used to say, from time to time.

    Good to hear from you. Hope things continue to go well for you and your family.

  7. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    You know what? I'm not sure how easy child/difficult child feels about the "balance of power" in our family. My husband is 75 and not often assertive. I am used to being the one "in charge" of the family. Maybe our easy child/difficult child also feels that way but is afraid to say so because we all try to "protect" husband from the unnecessary stress due to health/age issues.

    Interesting...thanks for sharing. I'm still running it through my head.
  8. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    I think a large part of the reason why this is more of an issue in our family is that our son has always needed strong social cues to get his attention. For instance, even as far back as when he was a toddler, a mildly annoyed face (while he was chasing the kitty around the house) and a moderate "no, no" (that would be me...) wasn't enough to register but an exaggeratedly-concerned face accompanied by a loud voice (that would be my husband) would stop him in his tracks.

    I believe the same is true now that he’s 18, and I think, since my husband has been the disciplinarian our son’s entire life, it really threw him when that suddenly stopped and I took over. I think he felt, in some ways, that his dad didn't really care about him any more.