We enjoyed another family dinner, this one with ten guests, the other day. Difficult Stepson, his girlfriend, younger stepson and HIS new girlfriend all joined us. As is the new custom Difficult Stepson drove their contingent - no more picking them up in our car. Both boys were terrific company during dinner, in particular younger stepson. I very much enjoyed getting to know the young lady he's spending time with. I hope for the best for the two of them. Difficult Stepson was trying to break it off with his girlfriend just a few weeks ago so I'm not sure what the situation is there. As I have written, she has her own struggles and Difficult Stepson cannot even handle his own affairs, let alone hers. She seems very dependent and needy, and that is a concern. But Difficult Stepson will figure it out, hopefully without a repeat episode of domestic violence as we have experienced in our family (he's never acted out with her, that we know about). My wife spent some quality time alone with Difficult Stepson having a heartfelt conversation. She told me that it went very well and that she assured him of her love and support whether he chose college or another path. She said he was very touched and appreciative. Difficult Stepson now says that he wants to be a cop. Given our history with him, the thought of him having access to deadly weapons is terrifying to us, but he's not yet out of high school and at least for now, seems to be going in a much more positive direction. We are hoping for the best for both boys, but particularly Difficult Stepson who has always had such a hard time accepting the realities of life - doing one's work, having responsibilities, managing one's temper. Younger stepson is much more able to go with the flow and do what needs to be done. He is equally loved but we don't need to worry about him as much. Selfishly, after a year apart from us, he is much less focused on my wife as the source of his troubles, so even if he should go off the rails again one day, I'm much more confident that my wife and I would be spared his rage and revenge. Unfortunately, another person - probably a female - won't be as lucky and that would be a tragedy. I pray such a day never comes. When I first discovered this wonderful message board Difficult Stepson had just assaulted my wife, and I was badly traumatized by the episode. I found so much support, understanding and good advice here, and it was so very helpful. Anyone who has followed our story knows much has happened in the intervening months and years. Several months have elapsed since Difficult Stepson resumed contact with us. It's still too soon to tell but I am getting a sense that the season of his life which brought me here, has ended. He no longer puts himself in a position where my wife tells him what to do, and that dynamic was what caused his outbursts when with us. He is mobile, he brings his girlfriend everywhere he goes, and it's a given that he's not spending the night here anymore (a fact which distresses my wife, but it's honestly for the best - this is a boundary that both adult and child seem to need). Now, a new season is beginning to take shape. I may very well be posting in the Failure To Thrive section moving forward as he enters adulthood. But for now I will continue to post relevant updates and most importantly to me, give back to other suffering families the things I received during the worst of our situation. In retrospect as difficult as the year-long estangement was for my wife, it was in the end, for the best. The parental relationship was re-set. Difficult Stepson is now a young adult. While we don't agree with his decisions in many ways, he is trying to do what he feels is best for himself, to chart a course of his own in life. We have accepted what we cannot change with respect to the dysfunction in our family, the past cannot be undone and its damage has been catastrophic but we are moving forward. We are happy to have him in our lives, and happy that for now at least, he seems more or less content. Unlike the pre-estrangement time period, he's now with us because he wants to be, not because he's forced to spend every other weekend with us. He is building a much more genuine, loving relationship with his mother - and she is with him as well. They are both working on it. I am so proud of both of them for that. There are no guarantees in life and we must appreciate each good day, hold on and hope for a better tomorrow. As long as there is tomorrow, there is hope.