Category: Family


An Open Offer

Dear Rowdy,

Happy 18th birthday!

I wish you every success for this next year and for every year after.

To help you with your success, I would like to offer you a gift – a gift that will keep on giving to you, long after you read this letter.

I would like to pay for you to take the GED test.  It does not matter the cost, the day you say, “this is the testing date I am attending”, I will pay the cost of that test for you.

I know you can pass the test RIGHT NOW.  I am so confident in your ability, that if you say the testing date is tomorrow, I will pay for you to take it, no questions asked.

You may have doubts about your own abilities.  I do not.

You may ask – what if I fail?

So what if you do?  What is the worst thing that will happen?

The worst thing that will happen is you still do not have a certificate that employers’ want that shows you are capable.  You are no worse off than you are right now.  However, you will be slightly ahead!  You will then know what subjects you need to focus on to pass the test the next time you take it.  You will have a better understanding of what to expect.  You will be prepared and the next time, you will succeed!

…..I don’t believe you will need a “next time”.

All you need is the faith in yourself, the same faith I have in you, to take the plunge and take the test.

Despite everything that we have gone through, I believe in you.  I care about your future.  I want you to succeed.  I want you to be happy.  I want you to be able to follow all of your dreams.

I care about you and I love you.

Subject Matters

Buddy is one of those young adults that you aren’t quite sure what he’s going to “grow up” to be.

At almost 19 years old, he both amazes and frustrates me at the same time.  I see him compared to other kids his age and can honestly say, “Yes, this child is different than the others”.  That’s not a bad thing, just an observation.

He doesn’t act like the others.  He doesn’t care about fitting in.  He doesn’t worry about social conventions.  He wants to be him and only him.  Don’t ask him to act like someone else because that’s not who he is.  He is the poster boy for “live and let live”.  He doesn’t care what you do, as long as you don’t care what he’s doing.

Sometimes this is frustrating when trying to get him to follow “social conventions”.  Because he doesn’t care about fitting in, showers and basic hygiene can be spotty at best.  Because he doesn’t care about social conventions, he thinks nothing about blurting out what he’s thinking, even if it is completely inappropriate.

Trying to figure out how his mind works has been a life-long task of mine.  Not because I want to change him, but because I want him to be able to understand the world around him better.  I want to also understand him better.  His mind works completely different than others.

Years ago, I taught him that it was completely acceptable to answer “I don’t know the answer to that” to questions he didn’t know how to answer.  That was, and is, okay when dealing with fact based questions.  Now that he’s older, answering the question of “why?” with “I don’t know” isn’t always acceptable when the questions are abstract rather than fact based.  At almost 19, think I finally figured out how to help him with this and we’re still working through the new learning curve.  I’ll report back if it is successful.

But there are times when Buddy doesn’t act like the others that it is absolutely amazing!

His mind is a deep chasm, waiting to be filled with all sorts of knowledge.  He doesn’t care what your opinion of the subject is, if you don’t know the answers to his questions or not, he just wants to know what you know about the subject matter at hand.

And those subject matters at hand can be very deep, philosophical and abstract in ways I would never have imagined when he was first born.  Whenever he says, “Mom, I have a question…..” there is no telling where the next part of the sentence will land.

The best time for us to talk is when I’m driving and it is just the two of us in the vehicle.  He’ll ask questions with others in the car, but he’s learned that they don’t always like his subjects of interests; which is fine by him, because he could usually care less about their areas of interest as well.

Case in point – whenever I drove him down to the driving test, an hour away, the subject matters for that particular car ride were:

Interest-bearing accounts, mathematical engineering and space travel.

Ummmm…..I don’t even know where to begin answering these questions, let alone have what I feel like is a rational conversation about these subjects!  But he accepts my fumbling answers with a grace and humility that I can only hope to emulate someday.

Just this past weekend, the subject matter in question was, “What was my opinion on the aftermath of nuclear war?”

When it is just the two of us, it is guaranteed to never be a dull ride!

Asking him to clarify his question led nowhere as his mind is so different from mine, he doesn’t know how to explain what he’s asking.  He just knows he’s interested in my opinion on this subject.

So…..I answered his question with an abbreviated science and history lesson instead, starting with evolution and the Stone Age.  At first, he began to stop me, but quickly realized that my way of explaining things for him to understand shows how intricately the past and history helps us to understand the present and future.

Then and only then, after explaining the past and history, did I explain to him what my answer/opinion of his question was.

He knows that I won’t laugh at his questions.  He knows that I won’t make fun of his mind.  He knows that I will do my best to help him and his quirky ways.  And he knows I will answer as honestly as I can.

I hope he knows he can always come to me with any question and I will always try my best to help him.

Will There Be Food?

LaLa gets excited over the smallest things.

Sunday morning, I happened to pass her in the hallway.  This is eventful because she now works nights and we only see her occasionally.  Like ships passing in the night, I’m gone for work before she gets home and she’s asleep when I get home.  I’m usually in bed asleep, or falling asleep, when she walks out for the night.

So, when I do see her, I try to catch up in small ways:

Me:  Do you have to work tonight?

LaLa:  No

Me:  Do you have any plans for today?

LaLa:  No

Me:  Well, we’re going to Amy’s for……

LaLa:  SUPER BOWL???  (getting very excited)

Me:  Yes, you’re welcome to come if you want.

LaLa:  Will there be FOOD?  (we know where her priorities lie)

Me:  (Laughing)  Yes, there will be food.  Dad and I are bringing hot wings…..

LaLa:  OOooooo…… (eyes big)

Me:  And Amy is making fajitas…..

LaLa:  OOOhhhh…..  (starting to drool now)  I’m SO HUNGRY!!!

Me:  You do know we’re not leaving for about 10 hours right?

LaLa:  Yes – but I’ll still be hungry then!!!

Me:  (Still laughing)  Okay, we’ll let you know when we’re getting ready to leave.

I love that she takes such great pleasure in the little things!

Crisis Averted

Tentative knock on my bedroom door.

Buddy (in a quiet, worried voice):  Mom…..can I talk to you?

Me:  (thoughts flashing rapidly through my mind…oh dear….what’s going on now?  He sounds worried.  He sounds like he’s in trouble, he did something wrong.  Did he wreck the car?  He didn’t say anything when I walked in the house, that can’t be it.  School work troubles?  No – he never worries about those.  Issues trying to find a job?  Maybe…but we already had that conversation.  What is it?  What Is It??  WHAT IS IT!?!):  Come in

Buddy (something’s definitely wrong!):  Mom….uh….mom….I need to talk to you….uh…

Me:  What’s the matter?

Buddy (face matches his speech, worried, concerned, waiting for bad news):  Uh…well….I don’t know how this happened….

Me:  ….

Buddy:  You see….uh….it’s my….phone….

Me:  (whew!  Oh thank goodness!  I can handle phone issues today) Okay – what’s wrong with your phone?

Buddy:  Well…you see…my “Clash of Clans” keeps logging me out any time I try to open it. Let me show you.  (starts opening up the app)

Me (Really?!?  This is the BIG emergency?  I guess it is an emergency in his mind….): Do you know what the main purpose of a cell phone is?

Buddy (confused look on his face):  Uh….it’s a…..tool?

Me:  Yes, but it has a main purpose….what is it?

Buddy:  Uh……

Me:  It’s main purpose is to make calls.  It’s a tool to communicate between people.

Buddy:  Okay…..

Me:  Is anything else not working on the phone?

Buddy:  No

Me:  Okay, if the only thing not working on your phone is “Clash of Clans”, it’s not a big deal.  You don’t have to play that game on your phone.

Buddy (true panic on his face):  Okay…..

App finally comes up and sure enough, it’s sluggish and almost non-responsive.

Me (checked and saw he closes all apps, so it isn’t an issue with having too many apps opened at once): When was the last time you turned your phone off?

Buddy:  What?

Me:  Turned your phone off.  This is nothing more than a very small computer.  You have to give it time to reboot occasionally for it to work properly and reset its operating system.  Do you know how to turn the phone off?

Buddy:  Yes, but I haven’t done that in a long time.

Me:  Try that and see if that works.  If not, there’s something else we can try.

Buddy:  Okay – thanks Mom!! (as he’s running out of the room)

Me:  Hey!  I expect a hug if this works! (I yell after him)

 

There are days I wish all of our family problems boiled down to something as simple as a reboot.

 

About 15 minutes later, I was tackled in the kitchen with a bear hug and a “THANKS MOM!!!  THAT WORKED!!!”

Whew!  Crisis averted!

Beyond Livid

I haven’t blogged in a while.  I’ve been trying to decide if I want to continue or not.  I’m not sure if this is still my season.  After all – there is a time for everything….

From a mental stand point, I’ve had a horrible last couple of days.  My mind will not turn off when something is bothering it.  It keeps me awake and doesn’t allow me any mental peace.  I tend to lash out at Hun when I’m like this.  It isn’t his fault.  I’m so sorry Hun.

From the outside, the weekend was spectacular – I spent Saturday with LaLa, friends and girls from my family having lunch and painting; and Sunday lazing around the house doing not much of anything.  Outwardly, I had a lot of fun!

I’ve tried to put my mind to sleep.  It won’t listen.  From past experience, it will only rest when I’ve gotten what’s rattling around inside, out.  So I’m going to release what is torturing my mind out into the universe.  Maybe I can get some sleep tonight – I do have to work tomorrow after all.

Once again, we discovered Monkey actively going against our rules.  I had known for several weeks that something was up – I didn’t confront her until I had proof.

One of the first “signs” of proof I had was my Mom asking what had happened this time with Monkey as she had posted a very unflattering comment on Facebook about her father, Hun.  Something along the lines of Hun being, “a sperm donor” was posted several days before Mom brought it up to me.  Neither Hun nor I had seen the post, so I knew immediately that she had blocked us again (one of our rules was that we were not to be blocked).

I brought this information to Hun’s attention (not in a good way – again…I am very sorry Hun!  You didn’t deserve my outburst).  He, in turn, brought it to Jetsam’s attention on Saturday while I was away painting.

Jetsam’s response was agreement with Monkey!

I am beyond livid at this.  How dare she?  I am ashamed of her as a mother.  I am ashamed that she calls herself a mother.  She should be ashamed of herself, but alas, I suspect she is not.

Why in the world would they refer to Hun as this?  Confronting Monkey gave me no answer.  She had no reason she could explain to me why she would say or believe this.

I want to just shake Jetsam and scream at her.  I want to remind her that Hun has ALWAYS been there for his children – both physically, monetarily, and emotionally – where she hasn’t always been there for them.

I want to remind her that SHE is the one that was pregnant by another man, before her and Hun’s divorce was finalized.  And that the guy who got her pregnant has never once paid a dime in support and has been in his child’s life less than 6 months total.

I want to remind her that SHE is the one who insists we don’t love the children, just because we don’t give in to their every whim.  That just because we have rules and structure and accountability and parent differently than she does, doesn’t make us horrible parents.

I want to remind her that SHE is the one that insisted they not show any affection towards me.  That she insisted they couldn’t trust me, couldn’t count on me and couldn’t believe anything I said.  When this subject comes up, the kids can never remember anything where I lied to them, didn’t support them, or wasn’t there for them.  It is ALL a mental game to appease their mom, protect themselves from her anger towards me and not appear to be choosing me over her.

I want to remind her that being divorced parents does not mean that whichever parent the child hates, the other parent has won.  How horrible for the child!

I want to confront her, shake her silly and insist she listen.

She will not.

She will not be ashamed.

She will sit there in a self-righteous manner and believe that she has won.

I am angry at her for doing this to her children.

I wonder if the children will ever truly understand what she has done to them.

I wonder if there will ever come the day when the kids understand what we tried to do for them.

I wonder if we, all of us, any of us, will survive these years or if one day we will look back in regret and say, “I wish we hadn’t done what we did.”

Parental Alienation

For those people who have never been exposed to PA (Parental Alienation) or PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome), it is difficult to comprehend exactly what life is like for families exposed to this.

First, a brief history/explanation:

Who discovered Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)?
In association with this growing child-custody litigation, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner first identified Parental Alienation Syndrome in the 1980’s. He noticed a dramatic increase in the frequency of a disorder rarely observed before, that of programming or brainwashing of a child by one parent to denigrate the other parent. 

However, the disorder wasn’t just brainwashing or programming by a parent. It was confounded by what Dr. Gardner calls self-created contributions by the child in support of the alienating parent’s campaign of denigration against the targeted parent. He called this disorder Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), a new term that includes the contribution to the problem made by both the parent and the child.


What is PAS?
Gardner’s definition of PAS is:

1. The Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes.

  1. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. 
  2. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) of a parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the targeted parent.Excerpted from: Gardner, R.A. (1998). The Parental Alienation Syndrome, Second Edition, Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.


What is the child’s part in PAS?
Gardner notes that the PAS is more than brainwashing or programming, because the child has to actually participate in the denigrating of the alienated parent. This is done in primarily the following eight ways:

  1. The child denigrates the alienated parent with foul language and severe oppositional behavior.
  2. The child offers weak, absurd, or frivolous reasons for his or her anger.
  3. The child is sure of himself or herself and doesn’t demonstrate ambivalence, i.e. love and hate for the alienated parent, only hate.
  4. The child exhorts that he or she alone came up with ideas of denigration. The “independent-thinker” phenomenon is where the child asserts that no one told him to do this.
  5. The child supports and feels a need to protect the alienating parent.
  6. The child does not demonstrate guilt over cruelty towards the alienated parent.
  7. The child uses borrowed scenarios, or vividly describes situations that he or she could not have experienced.
  8. Animosity is spread to the friends and/or extended family of the alienated parent.

In severe cases of parent alienation, the child is utterly brain- washed against the alienated parent. The alienator can truthfully say that the child doesn’t want to spend any time with this parent, even though he or she has told him that he has to, it is a court order, etc. The alienator typically responds, “There isn’t anything that I can do about it. I’m not telling him that he can’t see you.”

PAS is an escalation of Parental Alienation (PA)
Dr. Douglas Darnall in his book Divorce Casualties: Protecting Your Children from Parental Alienation, describes three categories of PA:

The mild category he calls the naïve alienators. They are ignorant of what they are doing and are willing to be educated and change. 

The moderate category is the active alienators. When they are triggered, they lose control of appropriate boundaries. They go ballistic. When they calm down, they don’t want to admit that they were out of control. 

In the severe category are the obsessed alienators or those who are involved in PAS. They operate from a delusional system where every cell of their body is committed to destroying the other parent’s relationship with the child. 

In the latter case, he notes that we don’t have an effective protocol for treating an obsessed alienator other than removing the child from their influence.

An important point is that in PAS there is no true parental abuse and/or neglect on the part of the alienated parent. If this were the case, the child’s animosity would be justified. Also, it is not PAS if the child still has a positive relationship with the parent, even though one parent is attempting to alienate the child from him or her.

Source: http://www.breakthroughparenting.com/PAS.htm

Now that a definition and explanation has been made, back to my own personal life and post.

This subject came up, once again in my family, because of a brief comment my mom made on Thanksgiving.  The comment stayed with me for the remainder of the day and turned itself over and over in my head.

The scene of the comment:  Monkey was with Hun, Buddy and I at my parents’ house for our Thanksgiving celebration with my extended family.  LaLa has taken a 3rd shift job and was sleeping.  The plan was for LaLa to sleep until about 2pm, go to Jetsam’s house and pick up Flounder (as Jetsam was working), swing by our location to pick up Monkey and then head to Jetsam’s extended family celebration.

As planned, LaLa arrived with Flounder and greetings and well-wishes were exchanged all around.  After about 5 minutes, the three left.

My mom commented to me, “What happened with that?  Flounder was pleasant, polite and cheerful with us.  He acts nothing like Rowdy or Monkey (who was being very grouchy about having to come with us and couldn’t leave fast enough).”

At the time, I just shrugged….. but the comment stayed with me and fermented in my mind.

It dawned on me.  Flounder has no bias against us because Jetsam has not spent the last 14 years of his life implying that we are horrible people.  Sure, he may have overheard her saying things to the other kids, but as his loyalty was never “tested” or “required”, none of the negatives stuck with him because he didn’t experience having to choose between parents.  LaLa, Rowdy and Monkey have spent the last 13+ years having to carefully choose their emotions, lest they make their mom upset over any minor thing.

Talking with Hun about the incident, we theorized that the same Parental Alienation that has happened with LaLa, Rowdy and Monkey, probably has also happened with Flounder.  The only difference is, his father isn’t in the picture and so, there is no one to lash out at.  While Hun and I are VERY present and easy targets, so we get to experience the abuse in all of its horrifying glory.

This makes me terribly sad for my kids.  They have been brainwashed into believing that Hun and I are abusive, horrible people who are hated justifiably in their young minds.  Besides continuing to do what we already are doing, there isn’t anything left for us to do.  Either the kids will mature and realize that their impressions are/were wrong or they won’t.

For my own piece of mind, I will continue to believe that they will eventually realize that we do love them, always have and always will.  No matter what.  I love you guys!

Department of Motor Vehicles

I have now taught two separate teenagers to drive.

And I’m still alive to tell the tale!

Buddy finally passed his driving test – YAY!!

I spent more time at the DMV than any human, other than the soulless creatures that work there, should have to endure!

The first trip to the DMV was after a six week wait.  No longer can parents just walk in with their kiddo and just expect to take a driving test.  No, you have to sign up.  Online.  Before the child even signs up for driving lessons.

Dharma, Greg – start looking for a slot for your little one!  You might be able to get an appointment for her 16th birthday in 14 years if you sign-up now.

Show up early for the appointment…..get called back an hour after the appointment slot.  I think they’re taking lessons from doctor’s offices now.

All of the proper instruction/lesson paperwork is in place.  Check.

Get in line to take the driving test.  Check.

Vehicle inspection…..

Failed

Dammit!!!  Same thing happened at my driving test 25+ years ago.  My parent’s vehicle failed because it didn’t have a front license plate.  Buddy borrowed Grandpa’s truck (my Dad) and the third brake light was out.

I’m sensing a pattern here…..

Beg the bored DMV worker that if I can get it fixed ASAP, can we come back?  Sure…if you can be back in 15 minutes.

Zoom to the nearest Wal-mart; all the while begging Buddy not to drive like I was driving during his test.

Get back in line…another inspection….a different DMV tester….”Uh…ma’am?  Did you know the insurance card is expired?”

WHAT….THE….F….!?!  The first tester couldn’t have told me that?  Really?!  REALLY?!?

Livid.  I was LIVID. We spent almost 3 hours at the DMV only to walk away without even taking the driving test.

Check online again for a new appointment.  Six to eight weeks before another can be scheduled, depending on which of the two offices closest to us we chose to select.

Decide on a different tactic.  The next week, Buddy and I drove to a different DMV facility in another county, about an hour’s drive away.  This facility doesn’t do online appointments.

Walk into the facility, only to be greeted with large sign that stated, “No walk-in driving tests today.”

Crap.

Talk to the bored DMV worker at the desk – when CAN we show up for a driving test?  She pulls out a tattered spiral scheduling book and flips it open (I swear I saw dust puff out when she plopped it on the desk).

Two weeks from today – SIGN US UP!

Patiently waited the two weeks and drove the hour drive back to the Podunk DMV office with Buddy.

Buddy gets in line.  Finally, it’s his turn to test.

Something’s not right.  He looked confused and they haven’t even gotten out of the parking lot yet.  He finished the test about 20 minutes later.  Buddy walks up to me, grim look on his face.

Failed

Turned into on-coming traffic.  I told Buddy that you can’t pass if you scare the crap out of the instructor.

We can laugh about it now, but we were both really disappointed that morning.  Go back into the building.  Talk to the same bored DMV worker, same dusty schedule book, reschedule for another two weeks out.

Spent the next fourteen days making sure Buddy understood everything expected of him from the point of view of the tester.

Morning of the third test finally came.  Drive back to the hick-county DMV.  Get back in line.  Speak encouraging words to Buddy, trying to calm my own nerves.  Tester comes up, I get out of vehicle and walk away instead of watching.

About 20 minutes later, Buddy pulls into the parking lot.  I watch him walk from the truck to where I’m standing in front of the building.

I’m enveloped in a huge bear-hug.

He PASSED!!!  WOOHOO!!  YIPEE!!  HIP-HIP-HOORAY!!

We went back to the house for him to drive my Suburban to school for the remaining school day.  That was an emotional sight for me…..

Driving away into adulthood.

Driving away into adulthood.

Rowdy

Hun moved Rowdy out of our house over the Memorial Day weekend of 2015.

It was a Memorial Day weekend that I will not soon forget.

I don’t think any of us will forget that weekend.

The weekend wasn’t planned to be Rowdy’s last with us….it just worked out that way.

The weeks leading up to Memorial Day were tense, stressful and everyone was walking on eggshells….waiting on the other shoe to drop.

Rowdy failed almost every credit his Junior year in high school.  Not because he couldn’t do the work, but because he refused to do the work.  Everything Hun and I offered to him was met with resistance.  Bringing Jetsam into the conversations didn’t seem to help.  We offered many ways for him to redeem himself.  Things that were his idea, we agreed to try.  Things that were Jetsam’s ideas, we agreed to try.

Every time we turned around, it seemed like he was sabotaging himself and all of our efforts.

Lies and disrespect became his mantra, especially towards me.

These actions rubbed off on Monkey and she seemed to be taking lessons from her older brother.

Jetsam said she supported us, but her actions proved otherwise.  Several instances of her actively undermining us lead to another visit to our house by the police.

Rowdy called them.  He claimed we were abusing Monkey.

Four officers showed up at our house that day.  Every one of them asked me if I wanted to press charges against Monkey.  If the “assault” had been perpetrated by Rowdy, the answer would have been yes, but as the issue was with Monkey, I told them no.  I did ask them to thoroughly explain to both Rowdy and Monkey why what had happened wasn’t abuse, how they both were in the wrong and to please stick around because Jetsam would probably show up any minute.

The cops’ conversation with Rowdy lead to him screaming and cursing at them, including the captain of the force.  Surprisingly, he didn’t end up arrested due to his actions.  It also lead to the cops having a conversation with Jetsam (yes she did show up) and them telling her that she was interfering in our family life and rules.  She apologized to Hun.  I have yet to receive an apology.

Hun was at a loss for what to do about his son.

I told him that I had been warning him for years that he needed to figure out a way to get through to his son and now it may be too late.  That the attitude we were seeing from him now, at age 17, was formed years ago when respect towards adults was not insisted on at age 7.  Now it was his problem to deal with as I was “just” the step-mom and thus had no say in the issue.

I told him I supported his decisions regarding Rowdy.  I told him that I would never force him to choose, as one’s own child(ren) is/are more important than a second spouse.

Hun started to make a choice, but then hesitated because it was a very hard decision.

I reminded him that I also have choices.

I let him know that stalling, hesitating or refusing to make a choice would force me to make a choice.  Those that know me well know that once I make up my mind, I will follow through unless new information is presented to me.  Hun knew that I wouldn’t make the choice that would make him happiest, but rather would make me happy.

Hun chose to move Rowdy out of our house.  He made this decision 100% on his own.  I did not help him pack any of Rowdy’s things.  I did agree to look at the room to make sure Hun hadn’t missed anything, and pointed out several things that were missed.  I did not help load anything into the truck.  I refused to go with Hun to drop the items off.  This had to be Hun’s decision through and through.

I held Hun when he got back and let him grieve.

The report Hun brought back with him was that Rowdy and Jetsam were very upset went Hun arrived.  A comment from Jetsam of, “So you’re kicking your son out?” was met with, “I’m tired of him disrespecting us.”

Rowdy being gone has allowed our household to become somewhat normal.

We’re still doing the same things we’ve always done.  Work, sleep, eat and support our kids in their activities.  The only difference is we aren’t fighting to get one kid to go with the flow.

It makes me wonder if we did something wrong with Rowdy.  It makes me wonder if we should have tried harder.  I wonder if Rowdy will thrive with Jetsam.  I wonder if he will eventually try the same things with her that he did with us.  I worry about how his life will turn out. I worry that he will fall into some of Jetsam’s habits and tendencies.  I worry that we’ll not have a relationship with him going forward.

I miss him.  I miss his humor.  I miss his willingness to learn cooking.  I miss the sweet side of his nature.

Maybe someday he will miss us as well.

Tough Love Or Something Else?

Before we made the agreement with Rowdy and Jetsam, Hun and I were attempting to figure out a plan.  After all, what’s the point of calling a meeting of the minds if there are no new ideas to present for a problem?

One of the ideas Hun and I discussed and dismissed was allowing Rowdy to move back in with his mom.  We dismissed the idea because of several reasons.  The biggest reason is there is no room for Rowdy at Jetsam’s current residence full time.  She told us this herself.  The conversation we had with Jetsam where I suspect her Boyfriend told her it wasn’t going to happen anyway led to us believing this theory was correct.  Another reason is because we feel like Jetsam doesn’t actually influence Rowdy like she believes she does.  He plays her like a fiddle and it is very obvious if you pay attention.  She gives in to his pleading, but doesn’t hold him accountable to his actions.  Not a good combination in Hun and I’s opinions.

In attempting to come up with new ideas, I talked to several people, mostly guys, to get their perspectives on the situation.  I got some useful and not so useful feedback.

I’ve been thinking about the suggestions ever since.

One of the suggestions I received (from multiple people) was to just give up and allow him to move back in with his mom.  That Rowdy was not my child and if he wanted to ruin his life, then let him.  He has two parents and if they weren’t putting in the effort to get him on the right track for life, that wasn’t my problem.  It was pointed out that I have been stressed for a while and part of my stress stems from the issues we have with Rowdy and it was time to just cut the cord and let him go.  It was touted as “tough love”.

I cannot wrap my mind around this thought process.

To me, Tough Love is different than just “giving up” on a child.

Tough Love is allowing a child to reap the consequences of their actions, no matter how painful that consequence may be for the parent to watch their child suffer.

Like – refusing to rescue them and allowing them to go hungry if they forget their lunch money or refuse to pack a lunch for school.

Or allowing them to get a failing grade on an assignment if they forget to do their homework – or failing the grade all together (for reasons other than learning disabilities) and having to repeat and graduate later than their peers.

These are “Tough Love” situations in my mind.  Parents have faced far harder choices with their kids.

Now I was being asked to just give up on him and it was being rationalized as tough love.

This is part of the problem with being a step-parent.

As a step-parent, I’m told by society that I need to love the child as my own, treat them equally as I would my own child, and in all ways be a parent to the child.

But on the other hand, I’m told that I’m not the parent, that I can’t BE the parent, that I’m to be involved only to a certain point and then it’s hand’s off lest I upset the child or bio-parent.

Think about it – how would you feel as a bio-parent, after helping to raise a child from toddler age, then the going gets tough, you’re told to just give up, the child isn’t worth the effort or the stress?

How is the child supposed to feel about this?  A parent that says they love them and then just gives up?

Why am I supposed to feel differently about the child just because I am a step-parent?

In my mind, Rowdy is every bit my child (as well as LaLa and Monkey).  I have been in their lives for most of their lives.  I have been with their dad for as long as they can remember.  I may not have given birth to any of them, but I am involved in their lives, I celebrate their successes and mourn their struggles.  I want them to succeed with all of my heart.

I am more than willing to deal out some actual “Tough Love” to all of my kids.  I am not willing to give up on any of them.  That’s the coward’s way out.

I love Rowdy even though he claims he doesn’t care if I’m in his life or not.  And if I love him, but give up on him because he’s trying to figure out life in his own way, how is he going to feel if I give up on him?  Someone who claims to love him one minute, but tosses him aside when the going gets tough?

Giving up is not an option.  It never was.  It never will be.

Into The Tunnel

We’re having issues with Rowdy.  This is an ongoing struggle – or battle of wills you might say.  At 16, almost 17, he is head-strong, stubborn and suffers from the same affliction that most teenagers do – “my parents are stupid and have no clue what they’re talking about” mentality.

Combine these traits and you end up with Rowdy.  A kid who thinks he knows how to handle life, will not listen to the voice of reason/experience, and is bound and determined to do things his way, consequences be damned.

A family member once said, “All teenagers enter into this tunnel around the age of 15.  You have to wait for them to come out the other side – usually around the age of 30.”

I never understood that comment until now.  LaLa and Buddy both seem to have missed the exit that takes kids to this tunnel.  Rowdy has entered into the tunnel head first, going full blast and insists that he likes the darkness just fine.  Monkey is not yet 15……she can’t decide if she wants to take the exit or not…..

Back to Rowdy.  He’s a good kid for the most part.  He’s not done anything too outrageous (yet).  What he is doing is failing school (everything….he didn’t pass any classes the first semester), and skipping class.  He was caught skipping school and that’s when Hun and I said – NO MORE!

I called a meeting of the parents – Hun and I, along with Jetsam and her boyfriend/fiancé – to attempt to figure out what we, as the adults/parents in Rowdy’s life, can do to help him.

Until this point, Rowdy had told Hun and I that we were too strict.  We were being too controlling and not allowing him to make his own mistakes.  Fine.  We backed off.  It resulted in him failing the first semester.

Talking to Jetsam (her boyfriend didn’t show up – that’s a story for another post), she agreed that something needed to be done.  She had no ideas on what that “something” should be.  I had one idea – if Rowdy would at least try and finish the school year as a senior, we’d allow him to take the GED test early so he could be done with school.  There were other conditions in there as well, but we also added bonuses – like allowing him to get his driver’s license.  We’d also allow him to fail and not graduate with his friends if he chose to continue acting the way he’s acting.

Miraculously, Jetsam agreed that this was a good idea.

I wrote out a contract and we met the next day with Rowdy to discuss the terms and make modifications as necessary.

Neither Jetsam or Rowdy wanted to make any changes to what Hun and I expected and were offering.  All agreed, all signed, all received a copy of the contract to review as needed.

It has been about 3 weeks since that meeting.  Some of Rowdy’s grades have come up.  Some of them have not.

I’m no longer worried about him graduating or not like I was before.  Rowdy knows exactly what we expect of him and he knows that we are here to help him if he wants the help.  But he has to want it and ask for it.

Hun and I also know that Rowdy has a mind of his own.  What he tells us is one thing and what he’s thinking is another.  I will not be surprised if he has another plan in mind all together.