Thinking about the collateral damage


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Yestarday I was walking home from work and my phone rang, a call from a number I didn't recognize. No brainer, I don't answer those, they are usually from difficult is astounding how many people, including strangers on the street, will let him use their phones to call me. The call goes unanswered, no message (typical difficult child, thereby confirming my impression). In a minute...another call, same number. Also typical difficult child...he calls and calls until I pick up, although that game has been over for a while now. Again I don't pick up, but this time I get a voicemail. I almost didn't listen to it, thinking it would ruin my walk home...but I did..and it was one of my easy child teenage boys, who had lost his phone over the weekend and was at the store trying to get a replacement (why? because easy child's take care of their own problems!!!). He needed me to confirm something...but when I tried to call back I got into some corporate phone chain and couldn't reach him. He came home phoneless and discouraged.

And I thought...the arm of the damage that difficult child has unintentionally inflicted is very very long.

I must remember that.

I mentioned that to easy child daughter, and she told me that to this day she pretends to be asleep and feels guilty and anxious if her roomates are awake and moving around. She relates it to all the school mornings that my ex and I waged endless battle trying to get difficult child out of bed for school. One of my easy child boys hallucinates the sound of yelling in the house whenever he has a fever. easy child daughter cries if she has a drink and difficult child comes up...she says she feels like she should have protected him better (he is her twin). She also rages, because he took books, CDs, money, phones, and ipods from her room over the years. Especially her much loved books.

There was a time when we locked him in the front foyer at night. We couldn't trust him in the house when we wer sleeping, but couldn't put him out (he was 16, or 17). The other kids had to step over him n his sleeping bag to get to school.

No comment.

Thats all. Remember the others...the other kids, the other friends, the DHs or DWs or SOs....all the others wounded in the battle of trying to save difficult child.



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It is a sad truth. They lay waste to all who come in contact with them. My neighbors used to be my friends until difficult child stole from them. I used to work in the high school my son attended. I loved my job. I transferred when I started getting the "look" when people found out I was "his" mother.



Wow. Your post sure brought back memories. I think we all probably have some form of PTSD. I have flashbacks of fighting with my son in the mornings to get out of bed and go to school, just like you mentioned. It was horrible. Not a good way to start the day. Everytime the phone rings, I get panicky wondering what kind of trouble there is now or if he is hurt or worse. Its interesting how similar the behavior of difficult children are. My difficult child has the same pattern. Call, dont leave message, call again, dont leave messgae.......repeat, repeat, repeat.


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Some collateral damage isn't even fair or rational. Jumper and Sonic, when very young, were enrolled in a Catholic School. One of the moms, who is the wife of a dentist who sent her daughter there too, went to high level management to ask that the kids be thrown out because "Their sister is a 'known' criminal and we do not pay our good money for that element to mix with OUR kids." It got back to me. Shortly after I withdrew my kids for totally different reasons, but I was flabbergasted. I guess our difficult children can have coattails that touch our other children too, at least in the minds of some.

This was long after my daughter had quit drugs and she wasn't even in state anymore, but Jumper had told this kid that the police used to come for her sister, and the mother never asked me anything...she just ran with it. In this mother's mind, all of our kids were tainted because obviously the parents were horrible...


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I am fighting this right now. I think I am almost afraid to get too attached to my easy child who lord help me is bound and determined to be the weird kid in school. LOL

I don't ignore her but I have a hard time letting go of my boundaries and really being the mom I want to be. Mainly because every time I show weakness around difficult child something blows up. I want to bond more with easy child but I also realize that she is now 14 and probably doesn't want to bond with me because its just not cool at 14. On the other hand easy child is very clingy. Even husband has to tell her to back off and find something to do that we aren't here to entertain her 24 hours a day. The few times I do let down my guard easy child gets clingy to the point where I am uncomfortable. Seriously she weighs around 180lbs and wants to lay on me and hug on me all the time. I feel trapped and clausterphobic at times.


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dstc, among easy child kids, it is normal to bond and be interactive with your mom. Don't give up on her because of your experience with difficult child. My easy child was EXTREMELY close to me until the middle of her junior year. Even now, though, we are emotionally close and never leave each other with saying "Love you" and we hug. A difficult child is not the example of a "normal" teenager. They are all different. Jumper and I used to have Mom/Daughter dates...Sundays out to eat. We still do girl time sometimes and she is eighteen.
Most of of Jumper's friends are close to their mothers. Some have problems with them, but most are ok with them even though the teens sometimes think we are You do need to set boundaries with your easy child. Like with my other kids, Jumper was not allowed to be disrespectful. She was allowed to speak her mind, about anything, but s he had to do it in a respectful way. An angry tone was ok, but not mean words. Because she was responsible, we gave her far more latitude about w hat she could and couldn't do than we gave our difficult children. Each kid is different. "All" teens are not the same. Take your own easy child's lead and follow her :) If she is needy but nice to you, frankly, I'd give her all the attention she wants. If you have trouble doing that, maybe it is you who need therapy to see why you feel uncomfortable. This suggestion is NOT meant to be an insult...I have been in therapy since age 23, and I think I had some form of attachment disorder early on (along with all my other 100 because, seriously, my parents were not nice to me and I was afraid to bond with most people. Sometimes that even happens with your kid. My mom never bonded with me. (((Hugs)))


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Wow Echo, that is a very sad post. All of these are very sad. I can think back to similar stories and can remember many instances of difficult child complaining that things "weren't fair." Nope, they sure weren't.


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When gfg33 was in high school, husband and i knew he was causing angst with our younger two. It was constant turmoil, and we learned more much later about what he subjected them to.

We advised them things like, Don't rock the boat; do not antagonize him. Our other kids paid a huge price because difficult child was allowed to stay here......because husband and i were so focused on helping him.

We did not end up helping difficult child and the younger kids dealt with a LOT. If we knew then, what we know now....

Makes us sad


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Take your own easy child's lead and follow her If she is needy but nice to you, frankly, I'd give her all the attention she wants. If you have trouble doing that, maybe it is you who need therapy to see why you feel uncomfortable. This suggestion is NOT meant to be an insult...I have been in therapy since age 23

No insult taken. Trust me there are times I wonder why she makes me uncomfortable. I grew up in a huggy family but we didn't lay on one another. I don't like anyone laying on me I get hot and uncomfortable. Plus easy child tends to flop and put her full weight into it. Its a little overwhelming.

I just had to tell her last night (again!) that she doesn't have to tell us she loves us every 5 minutes. I feel so bad doing that but I had just picked her up from her friends and I am pretty sure she had said it 10 times in a 15 minute drive. It gets to the point it has no meaning because she says it soooooo much. Plus I try to reassure her that we love her no matter what she doesn't need to reafirm that every other minute of the day/


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So sad. the truth is that the siblings really take a hit. I know our easy child son lost many toys to difficult child taking them and destroying them and at times had to limit friends that could come over due to odd behavior from his difficult child sister. From age two to about age four or five, she would take the ornaments from the Christmas tree and throw them on the ground and smash them. Our tree looked like hexx. It was traumatic. No one even knows why she did this. It was sort of impulsive.

I know that we didn't travel because of difficult child. We went to the same place several times that was about a 2.5 drive away. This was because difficult child was comfortable there. The same several years, at the same hotel. Many years, we didn't take a vacation at all.

I also know that friends didn't invite our son to events because they felt guilty that they wouldn't invite his sister too....they are relatively close in age.

So, now that he is an adult, I recognize that he missed out on a lot of things that his peers were able to participate in.

She is moving again (she does this very often). She is in between apartments. She has been here for three nights. I am battling a sort of mild depression because seeing her in action is so very sad and peculiar. I might post about it...mostly to get it off my chest. Is this collateral damage too???? Sigh.
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PLEASE don't hate me for saying this...I don't remember the details. But, I recall in graduate school learning that for most teens the people that have the MOST influence over them are their peers. So, although it is ugly and seems unfair that parents don't want their kids around difficult children,GENERALLY SPEAKING, it probably isn't such a bad idea. This is because, depending on where the kid is in his or her development and other factors, his peer(s) could very well have an enormous influence on him, even if the parents and even he extended family are doing everything perfectly...and no family is perfect.

I recall a family I know well, who have a son that was always a wonderful child and a easy child. His older easy child. He had many friends, but got some new friends that included a few difficult children. Next thing we knew, he committed a crime (with the difficult children) It was an earth shattering shock. Such abnormal behavior. Thank goodness this particular child decided this type of behavior wasn't for him and never did anything even remotely like that again. made the mom (and myself) wonder.

My own easy child son. Hmmmm. He was easy child all his life. Then, in high school, he met a difficult child girl. Yikes! I can't begin to tell you the complete turn around this kid did inside of three weeks. I use to joke that it was as if he was captured by Martians and they took ahold of his brain. I think it was a variety of issues that went wrong here....some issues with self esteem, not having experience with girls....etc. etc. etc. Even when they broke up, he turned into a difficult child. I was so shocked an saddened. I had to do tough love in a major way to get him back. Fortunately, he is easy child again today and doing very well. He has NO EXPLANATION for his crazy temporary mega difficult child behavior for that year.

So, true...parents can't helicopter around their kids and protect them from every little thing. Perhaps we should help them explore their interests so that they aren't tempted into inappropriate behaviors.

But, there is no doubt in my mind, and studies show it too, that teens (and surely children too) are extremely influenced by their peers.

So....I can't fully blame a parent for hesitating to want their children around difficult children on a regular basis.

I DO HOWEVER, FAULT parents who teach or encourage their children to be unkind or rude to difficult children EVER. That, in my book, is HORRIBLE.


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I still can't relax fully around Miss KT, even though she's mostly easy child now. I remember having to walk on eggshells during family gatherings because she would always go off about something, and it was embarrassing.

Even now, we went up to see her for her BD last week...14 hours away. She said if anyone sang to her, she was walking out. I don't doubt for a minute she would have.


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Peers ARE the most important people to teens...I've read it too. But "birds of a feather stick together" is also true. Julie was Queen of the drug kids. She was the most popular druggie, hands down. But the nice kids wanted NOTHING to do with her so even if she wanted to change, and at times she tried, she was ostracized.
Jumper will not hang around with, what she calls, losers.
It is also true that if a teen falls in love with a bad influence, suddenly your easy child can become a difficult child, at least for a while. The peer group is different than the 1-1 of falling in love. The opposite can also happen. A love interest is not the same as a peer group.

So many rules, so little time!!!!


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I dont think we had real collateral damage because all the boys had their own issues but Cory who is the worst is also the youngest. That's not to say that when they were growing up they got along. Far from it. I was convinced they would grow up to hate each other. They would fight tooth and nail sometimes and I would open the front door and toss them out telling them not to come in until someone was dead. Just an

Now they are thick as thieves. They bicker sometimes but heaven help the person who tries to hurt one of them. The others will have their back.

Scent of Cedar *

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There is collateral damage, and it's challenged and changed us.

I thought so much about this thread.

Reputation, even and maybe most especially, husband and I lost our reputations with ourselves, with the man or woman we saw in the mirror each day.

We lost our reputations with one another, too. I can remember husband telling a therapist once that the worst thing about what was happening with difficult child daughter was that he could not protect her, or me, or then easy child son.

I felt so guilty. I was the mom at home. I was arrogant, so certain of myself and my role. Overnight it seemed, our lives were a shambles, and I didn't know what I'd done.

Though we had been so proud of ourselves a

Scent of Cedar *

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Darn phone.

I lost the rest of my post, but what I realized as I wrote is that at some level, I am taking today's self Image from the terrible negativity of those years.

Now that I am aware of it, I can address it.

This was a valuable question, Echo.



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Cedar, even with most of your message lost I totally understand. I was the stay-at-home parent too, so when things went south I felt I was clearly the responsible party and that surely everyone else knew it.

That guilt and self-hate has colored the relationships with the people already in my life. So there was the damage difficult child did directly, and there was the damage I caused because I treated them less than lovingly when I was consumed with guilt. And it has also prevented me from "getting out there" to build new relationships with people who would "love me back," so to speak.

Scent of Cedar *

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I was the stay-at-home parent too, so when things went south I felt I was clearly the responsible party and that surely everyone else knew it.

That guilt and self-hate has colored the relationships with the people already in my life.

So there was the damage difficult child did directly, and there was the damage I caused because I treated them less than lovingly when I was consumed with guilt.

And it has also prevented me from "getting out there" to build new relationships with people who would "love me back," so to speak

That is how I felt, too. I was afraid I would damage my son in the same way I must have damaged my daughter.

I can remember being so proud of him, Alby, so pleased with the man I was watching him become.

But I was afraid I would damage him as I must somehow have damaged my daughter. I stopped advising him. I would not even advise him on clothing for school. I stopped laughing or joking with him.

And humor had been such a big part of our family before the...before what happened to all of us.

His father stepped in, of course.

He did the things a strong, loving father can do.

But a father is not a mother.

And I was trapped in this hellish, echoing place where I didn't know what I had done to my daughter but was determined not to do to my bright, funny, beautiful son.

You all know what happened.

To this day, and our son is 38 now, that theme of abandonment, the pain of not being enough, of not being able to help or protect or change anything about what was suddenly happening to all of us as difficult child daughter spiraled into the heart of the nightmare that would come to dominate all of our lives fuels a rage that is destroying whatever shaky recovery process our family has floundered through.


So, here is a miracle.

It happened today, and this post and my response, followed by Alby's and then my own, enabled me to see what the core of the pain is, for my son.

Here is the second part of the miracle whose fruition will be the healing of the underpinnings of the breach between our son and ourselves. husband just had a birthday. Our son called. (This after some six months of no contact. )

He neither asked about nor asked to talk to, me.

So, last night, husband and I went to a party.

I had too much wine.

We were checking the phone to see who'd called, and I saw son's number. Not realizing it was from husband's birthday call, I called my son.

He didn't answer of course.

But he called back today.

He had been so much on my mind because of this thread on collateral damage.

During the course of our conversation, I asked point blank for his address so I could send the kids' birthday cards.


Anger, an "It's too late. These kids are in school, now."

He asked whether I wanted to know why he feels about me the way he does.

Then, he said the strangest thing.

He said he knew how I had been with his sister's children. And in the most bitter voice, he accused me of not having been there in that same way for his.

Then, he sang a little riff of "Why have you forsaken me?", and. ..laughed a sad, self-deprecating laugh.

I became a little defensive.

And then, I just listened.

He feels such rage around the issue of my relationship to his children.

And that fits right in with where his rage at me always comes flaming out.

So, I just listened some more.

Scent of Cedar *

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I said things like I was very sorry, and that he was right, and I had missed establishing the relationship with his children that I had with his sister's.

I agreed, and expressed my honest regret.

We went on to talk a little more, and had a really nice conversation.

Here is the thing: difficult child daughter lived with us, or was so irresponsible that we had to take her children more than once when they were little.

The oldest is 21, now.

And our son lives, and had always lived ad an adult, something like 1,300 miles away.

But I was not looking to fight with him or even, defend myself.

I told husband about it when he got home. He just shook his head and said something about that always being the kind of thing we hear from difficult child.

It wasn't until I came back and reread this thread on collateral damage again that I understood my son was not talking about his kids.

He was talking about himself as a kid, and what he saw, and what he needed and did not get.

THAT is why he kept pounding away at me about it being

Okay guys.

Got a phone call.

On this phone which did use to post to you all.

Then, I had to explain to husband why this p post was so important.

And now my chain of thought is blown and it's Happy Hour here so I need to go.

But man, this is collateral damage.

I am grateful to know what drivers my son's hatred.

Now, it can be healed.