when our grown kids disappoint us

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by recoveringenabler, Feb 20, 2012.

  1. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I am reading the book, When our grown kids disappoint us, and it's been very helpful. There is one part of the book which made me think of all of you wise warriors on this site and the stages we all go through with our adult difficult children. Sociologists did a study of women who faced what they called "unexpected, untraditional and unacceptable behavior" in their adult children--including mental illness, crime, cult involvement, eating disorders, drugs and suicide threats. They identified 6 stages in the coping process: shock, attention, action,detachment, autonomy and connection.

    I'm wondering what your reactions are to those 6 stages, how you have gotten through each stage or are getting through. I am seeing a definite trajectory though this maze of feelings with my own difficult child and it always helps to hear your views and stories.

    I have had so many feelings towards my difficult child that are negative, I've been somewhat surprised to note that I am starting to have moments of seeing her as she is and accepting that and being okay with it. So many boundaries must be set around her, and I've done that; I have had to let go of judgments and I'm learning to forgive and accept and let go of my expectations. It's a long and difficult path. And you all understand it. I appreciate anything you would like to share.
  2. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member

    I think you've said it best, and the stages you mentioned seem accurate. The hope is you don't get stuck in a middle stage and not move on. It's so hard, because as a loving mom, you always try to find a solution - you're a problem solver "to the rescue." It's difficult, to say the least, when all the love and determination we may have seems like an illusion when our child is unable or unwilling to move forward. We are left with confusion and anger after what seems like a betrayal of our devotion. But anger turns to bitterness and resentment, and that is not healthy for us, either. So we must go thru detachment and autonomy, which leads to acceptance (connection). It's not unlike the stages of grief.
  3. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I can definitely see that there are stages. I am definitely getting better with each of my kids. I am pretty much there with number 2. I mean I love him, I think I worry about him in an appropriate manner.

    I am very attached to Cory. The baby. I feel a whole lot of guilt with him. We are a lot alike or I like to think we are and sometimes I want to believe that I feel the same things he is feeling and then I find out that he is so not even on the same page as me and it almost feels like a betrayal to me. I have to remind myself quite often that we are not the same person with the same worldly experiences.

    I have become much better at putting up boundaries with him and setting limits. I do worry though. I think I worry more because of his physical issues more than his psychiatric stuff now though. He has become much easier to have a relationship with him now that he doesnt live with us.
  4. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Thanks. My difficult child has been staying with us for the last 4 weeks, with an end date of March 1st. I was reading that book last night and realized, as the book points out, that my wanting her to be what I wanted her to be kept me stuck in disappointment and anger. In letting that go, I can find peace in the fact that it simply is what it is and she is who she is. I can judge that until the cows come home and get LOTS of agreement about it out there in the real world, but it is the truth, and that has been the hardest thing for me to let in. The book also mentioned that as long as we blame ourselves for not being a good parent, thinking if we just do this or that, we can "fix' them, what happens is that we stay stuck rescuing them, enabling them. I was stuck in all of that for a long, long time. My difficult child is nothing like me or anyone I've ever met, with mental illness' or not, she has turned out to be her own unique self.

    She came in last night while I was reading and stood before me telling me how she got this cool new jacket and hat at some store where you can go in and get free clothes. (Just as an aside, in my entire life that idea would never have entered my mind, since I've always worked and made sure my life was not only free of drama, the police, homelessness and a free ride with social services, but I've essentially lived within the lines of our culture for the most part.) But there she stood, so proud of her new jacket and hat, looking accomplished and happy. I thought, 'she knows how to negotiate this territory she resides in, she's actually good at it.' Without my relentless judgments of her, I was able to see how she has in essence, mastered this level. It made me feel differently towards her, accepting and also connected (as the book mentioned)

    I don't know how it is to maintain that feeling. Perhaps those of you better at this then I, know that. But, it felt good to not be angry at her, to just see her as she is. I guess when all hope is gone that they will change, there is nothing left to do but for me to change. Maybe that's exactly what needed to happen all along, (but all those darn feelings got in the way!!!!!)

    I hope this feeling stays. It seems that after setting very strict and stringent boundaries around my difficult child, that tiny bridge left standing between us is where she and I can meet and have some kind of a connection. In order for me to be okay, she has to live in her world and I have to live in mine and that tiny bridge is really it for us. I could be sad about that, and believe me, I have been, but now it feels like that little bridge is better then no bridge at all.

    I hear from all of you how you negotiated this territory and for each of you, how you've come to some place where you are finding or have found peace in your decisions with your difficult child's, and I am always in awe of you and inspired by you. It's one helluva journey that's for sure. I think my difficult child came home now for us all to reconcile what is, the truth of this situation. My granddaughter can see her Mom with a clear picture of who her Mom is and not let her Mom infiltrate her world in a negative way. I can do that now too.
  5. Tiredof33

    Tiredof33 Active Member

    I like that book and I recommend it to everyone I see and I reread it to reassure myself. The fact that she is a psychotherapist and STILL had such problems and the money to afford treatments and she can't save her son from himself is powerful!

    When my difficult child was in his teens I was stuck in 'action' and I did not realize at the time that I was enabling in ways, such as my guilt for the way his life was going. I was constantly pulling on the rope and trying to change him to my expectations. I was also trying to bribe him into what I (and society) considers an appropriate life style. I was embarrassed by things that he did and I didn't date much because I knew that no man was going to put up with the lies and antics of my difficult child. I would not if the table was turned!!

    I think we all struggle with the putting them out if they don't follow our house rules. After all we love them and still see them as our babies. I thought I had moved on and accepted my adult son and minded my own business UNTIL he met the girlie from h*** 2 years ago. The first year went well and then they came for a visit and I had to *loan* them money to get home. First time I had met or talked to her and when they pulled up in her car with stickers all over it (she is 37 he is 33) and I listened to her - mama bought me the car - grandmama bought me the gps - I saw red flags everywhere.

    Shortly after that she started emailing me for money - she wasn't working and he had been layed off. They got into a fight and she called me screaming at me. Last month I finally called the police to stop the harassment. He was conning me into giving him money and I fell for it.

    I was p*ssed at myself for being sucked in one more time when they were partying a lot and expected to be supported. He called me and said he had no money for food and I just told him he would have if they had not partied so much with the money I sent him.

    The relapse caught me off guard, I thought he was passed that so I fell back into action for a while. I am now working on detachment again, I don't know when I can get to acceptance. But her book does help to letting go (and he is fighting it tooth and nail he wants to stay the dependent) so he can find his own path. My son may actually be homless this time but he left a job to go to school full time. At first my heart was bleeding, but day by day, His Choice His Life. I am hopeful that one day he will realize action causes reaction and actually think of the outcome BEFORE he acts.

    I am still trying to see what lesson bringing this person into my life, to cause such hell for me for such a long time, what exactly is the lesson I am to learn?? I bounce back and forward, but my husband of 12 years is a good man and not emotionally attached so I have his support at home. Many of my family members would be critical of me letting my son live on the streets. I may not hear from my son for a long time, but the selfish difficult child that doesn't even know my birthday will let me know where he is so I can send his birthday money. This time for the first time ever I will just say hope you have a Happy Birthday, and that will be all. Also, that action would make many of my family upset too lol!!!!
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2012
  6. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    I've read so many books in the last several years, I"m unsure if I read that book, but think I might have. I'm glad that you are starting to accept your difficult child as she is and have set boundaries!!!!
    Regarding the stages, acceptance and letting go...I think that is where I am at as well. The journey has been long, painful...but enlightening.
    As for the stages, they sound about right:
    shock: Yep, I would say shock, some disbelief (mostly on DHs part), concern and worry. It is a LOSS. But one most be strong.
    attention: Yep, had to pay attention to the problem...in fact it took most of my time for years.
    action,detachment, autonomy ....Yep, at some point, particularly after she turned 18, I HAD to detach. It was contributing to health problems. I had to "let go and let God" so to speak.
    connection: Not really sure what this means. I did learn to accept her as she is. I have learned to set boundaries and limits. This was a POWERFUL, IMPORTANT and VALUABLE lesson.
  7. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    The message definitely sounds on target. I has taken too many years for me to reach the final stages with GFGmom. Having to interact with her because of her sons prevented full detachment and later stages. I am not sure what "connection" means so I'm not sure if I'm there. Absolutely, however, I have accepted that her life is based on values different than ours. I have accepted that I not only can't control her...I can't even really influence her to "think twice" when she starts driving toward another cliff. on the other hand I no longer allow myself to be concerned about her lifestyle. It is what it is. We have an amiable relationship on a very superficial level but she doesn't recognize that it is superficial. Not sure if that is sad or not. It's a long journey. Sigh. DDD
  8. mrsammler

    mrsammler Guest

    Thank you for posting about this book. My sister is going through a very hard time with her adult child (25, impulsively married and had a child with a real loser last year, still involved with him and spiraling downward as a consequence) and I think reading this might really help her. I could stand to read it myself, although my difficult child experience is largely over and recovered-from. There's a good excerpt here: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=125112&page=1#.T0X9JnmcyuI
  9. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Well, I'm not so sure about the "shock" part of the stages. I'm not saying it's necessarily wrong, but if I felt it, it was rather brief. So maybe that stage just depends on the person.

    I'm well into connection with Nichole and Travis. Nichole is so easy child like these days........and while Travis will always be a difficult child, his is just who he is. Katie though, I'm stuck in detachment mode with acceptance.

    Actually I think perhaps someone finally actually figuring out there are stages and putting them to paper was a good idea. While in the midst of this gfgdom, you get to the point of it being overwhelming and losing hope. Just as in grief, if you're not careful, you can lose yourself in the process, which of course is not good. For many being able to identify "where they're at" helps them to cope with it better, it reminds them other people have been where they are and made it to the other side.

    Mr.sammler ((hugs)) it's good to see you. :)
  10. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I still haven't read this book, need to add it to my shopping cart on Amazon. But I thought the same thing about the "shock" stage mentioned above. I don't remember any shock. I suspect it's because both my difficult children were difficult children from childhood, so watching them make horrendous mistakes in their adult lives wasn't exactly a shock. It was more of a disappointment that things weren't getting any better.

    I've often though it's similar to a grief process. That's how my therapist has taught me to look at it, anyway. I have to grieve for the childhood they didn't have, the adult life they won't have, and now, for the lives my grandchildren won't have. None of it was, or is, exactly the "American Dream."
  11. Tiredof33

    Tiredof33 Active Member

  12. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Wow, thanks, that isn't the same book I read, but it looks interesting. There are a lot of others like us out there, and some of them are writing books!
  13. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I understand what you are saying. I did go through the shock part. My difficult child was a pretty good kid, honor student, never in any real trouble, trustworthy, fun to be around, we were very close, and then at about 17-19 she began her series of incredibly bad choices each leading to the next horrible choice until she finds herself, here, homeless, penniless, friendless, jobless and out of ideas at 39 years old. My negative path with her has been for the last 20 years and it's also involved the suicide of her husband, the loss of her 2 step daughters and her bio-daughter, her career, her home, her money and all her friends. Some of that was her doing, some not. As I've mentioned before since Mental illness runs in my family, it's a good bet she started with symptoms at early adulthood when many mental problems present. So, yes, shock was a big part of it for me in the beginning. I'm over that now, and for the last 10 years or so I've been stepping back, sometimes big steps, sometimes small ones, but for my own sanity, I've had to remove myself largely from my difficult child's behavior.

    We're talking now, in a way we haven't for those 20 years, so something is changing. How much? I don't know yet. I'm having to communicate all the resentments I feel towards her. I've listened to hers for years. I've come to understand that all of my resentments keep the wall between us from my side, so I am telling her how I feel and have felt, and to some degree, she is listening. There's a part of me that sees a different person in front of me sometimes, someone who is at least trying, and that gives me hope. But, the history is so damaged between us that I am very, very cautious. Being in a therapy group where I have reality checks all the time is remarkably helpful to keep me in line and not go into the "trance" my therapist speaks of..........when you just go in automatic enabling mode without any thought, just asleep at the wheel doing what we've always done. I am not doing that anymore, thanks to a lot of support, and so it gives me possibilities for changing my own behavior.

    I imagine a common theme among us parents on this site, is that we always pray our difficult child's will come out of the darkness and resume a life, any life, which affords them joy and connection and a sense of meaning. That is my greatest wish. And, I also have to let it go, almost every day.
  14. Tiredof33

    Tiredof33 Active Member

    I work daily on the letting go also. I can tell you, as other on this forum have stated, it is much easier if they are not in your home.
    That is also in the book you are reading (I thought it was the same as I was reading lol), it states "that we are the first generation (baby boomers) that paid a lot more attention to their inner psychological needs (our childs) than was paid to ours". Somehow wanting the best for our children has made some feel a strong sense of entitlement. I see it so much, the kids have cable, cell phones, no rent, all paid for by the parents and the kids money goes for entertainment. This generation is not willing (not all of them) to start at the bottom and work their way up, they are not willing to move out and not have the comfortable home environment. When my son was laid off a few years ago one of the guys said they were moving back in with the parents his quote was "they had me, they can support me" including his wife and 2 kids, one special needs.
  15. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Thank you. Yes, I read a similar statement about the entitlement and how we as parents contributed to that. And now the major marketers market to teens, they have the money!! When I was a kid I had no money and no buying power, it sure has changed.

    I have to admit I did over give to my difficult child, she is entitled. My SO calls her an entitled homeless person. Yikes. Someone here asked the question what is the lesson we are supposed to learn from having these difficult child's. I've been thinking about that. I also believe life is about lessons to be learned, and I believe, for me, it's been all about letting go and caring for myself as much as I care about others. They're linked together for me.

    I have had to balance all that I do for others with how I care for myself and let go of the enabling/rescuing/codependency parts of my personality that in fact hurt me. I've learned a lot about these issues for the last 40 years, since I began therapy and started on a healing program for myself. In retrospect, I can see the journey has been so long and filled with so many pot holes, each one a wake up call for me to observe or not, but to learn to love myself, to accept myself and to honor myself. I think I took on the giver role as self protection as a kid, the way my family would accept me, to take care of everyone's feelings, to be the caregiver. I made a career out of that! Little by little I've learned how much that whittles away at your self esteem, your self trust and your ability to create success and prosperity. As I have learned to balance my giving with my receiving, my life has improved on every level. And, it's been hard. Codependency recovery is very challenging. But, in my opinion, worth it.

    Yesterday after an emotional phone conversation with my difficult child, where she felt invisible at our home given all the boundaries we set around her, I felt bad. I could understand how she felt, of course, she cannot equate her behavior, past and present, with how she is treated now, but even so, it feels bad to feel invisible. So, when I woke up I wrote her a very, very long email where I told her how I needed to let her know what my resentments over the years have been, before I could be in a position to really be present for her now. It was an interesting process. I went back 20 years, to where the first choices she made began negatively impacting my life. She has always had all the 'air time' with the drama, intensity, constant blame and negativity, I have remained in the background, quietly suffering. I told her all of it. How all her choices impacted me, on all levels, emotionally, financially, in my relationships, how it impacts my life to be raising her daughter in my retirement years, all of it. It felt so good to empty myself of all of that.

    I have no idea how she will react or respond. I said if she wanted to meet on Sunday to discuss the email and perhaps give her a forum to state her resentments (that could be a long day!!!) we could do that, I am willing. She actually left on Sunday and is staying elsewhere now. She was upset that I said if she wasn't out by March 1st SO and I would wrap up her stuff and drag it to the end of the driveway. I can't blame her for being upset. It's not the usual conversation you would have with your daughter. However, I know her and she doesn't just leave on her own, so that comment made it clear we would not put up with any other deadlines.

    I feel as if I did a good job with the boundaries. I feel bad that she is feeling bad, but that is her problem now. I don't know if she has a job, or a place to stay or how she is getting to her probation, I haven't asked any questions at all. I feel done with this chapter. I hope she and I can find some connection, but I don't know if we can. Yes, every day I let go.
  16. Tiredof33

    Tiredof33 Active Member

    I appreciate your posts, I think there are only a few of us dealing with the 30s difficult children. I was the one that questioned what I was to learn from having this nightmare of a life with my difficult child.

    The online author says that she learned not to try to control everything in her life and that she was now at more peace and would not change anything that she went through with her difficult child. Clearly I am not at that point lol!!!

    I applaud your strength on setting boundaires and sticking to them. I agree they need to find their own path in life and if I had not forced my difficult child out at 19 he would still be bouncing back home in between relationships. But he would actually prefer I pay for the place for him to live lol!!

    I also grew up paying my own way and as the oldest of 6 and then a single mother for 20 years I know that I made it easy for my difficult child to feel entitled, I felt tremendous guilt. Now he tries (and has in the past) to use that to get me to help him out of his messes. Now I'm over it!

    When I tried to keep tabs on him in his teens he would tell me to get a life. I did lol!!! I also don't know what kind of connection we will have in the future but I am certainly not going to have the same as in the past. I'm so tired of his lies and I don't trust him after the recent conn so it is up to him.

    I don't know where he is either, but that is also his choice!

    GREAT JOB YOU SOUND SO STRONG!!! "I feel as if I did a good job with the boundaries. I feel bad that she is feeling bad, but that is her problem now. I don't know if she has a job, or a place to stay or how she is getting to her probation, I haven't asked any questions at all. I feel done with this chapter. I hope she and I can find some connection, but I don't know if we can. Yes, every day I let go."
  17. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Thanks Tired, I appreciate your kind words. I identify with what you are saying. I'm not sure I am ready to say that I wouldn't change anything I've gone through with my difficult child, I would have much loved to have a 'normal' regular, every day relationship with my difficult child. Sigh. But that was not to be.

    I was the oldest of 5 and a single mom from the time my difficult child was 18 months old. And, yes, I suffered from enormous guilt too and as a result my daughter has a sense of entitlement. Like you, I am now in a relationship with a kind, loving, gentle man who is not the father of my difficult child and therefore can help me be detached and see reality. You and I have a lot in common.

    You've been at this a long time Tired, my heart goes out to you. We are weary mom's, all of us here, and Dad's too, unlike those who have the perfect children.

    I haven't heard from my difficult child since I wrote my email so I don't know her reaction. She still has her tent and car and cats and stuff here, so we don't know what is going on other then our deadline of March 1st. It would be nice to hear from her and find out what is going on, but I learned long ago to let go of that expectation. Fortunately, I have a CoDa meeting tomorrow and I can have some fun over the weekend. We're having my granddaughter's boyfriend over for dinner Saturday night, that is always an enjoyable time. She is still innocent and sweet, and at the same time wise beyond her years because of her Mom's shenanigans, but she is (almost) always a joy.

    I know I say this a lot, and I hope it's not gotten old, but I am so inspired by your strength, everyone's strength, wisdom, courage, amazing tenacity and willingness to go through what we go through because no matter what they do, we still love them, they're still our children. Even when we distance ourselves from them, detach from their drama and hurts, don't see them for months or years, there is always that place in our hearts where they will always reside. God Bless............
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2012