This follows on from my previous post, Thinking About the First Born.
So where does all that leave me?
When I got over the shock of 1son leaving for his father’s my reaction was one of relief. Not having him at home made my life substantially easier. I could focus on small children at primary school and started to think about work, without having to focus on him and secondary school as well.
I consciously made the decision, and said to his father, that I would leave much of the parenting to him, as the parent on the spot. That was fine. We talked regularly and once in a while the three of us would get together to talk about strategies to show 1son that he couldn’t play his parents one off the other.
I feel though, that I let him go. While we can have a really enjoyable conversation about the meaning of life, films and music, things he’s read on the internet, his friends and their lives, I think we stopped talking about him, somewhere down the road. Once college was out of the window, the majority of his time was spent at his dad’s. He would flit to me for a bite to eat and some sleep before going out with his friends.
He doesn’t spend that much time with me awake and I suppose I was reluctant to disturb the relationship that we had. When I did probe, he got quite aggressive and defensive which I found very difficult to deal with. he would also turn the conversation around, blaming me for something. Often these comments were true, which of course made them hurt more. He pointed out that I waited until I was really mad about something before I discussed it with him and why didn’t I do it earlier? A valid point which I tried to take on board. Some of this was before I’d started, or done much counselling and I did find it quite scary trying to stand up to him; it’s not something I’d had a lot of practice in. I’m better now and hold my ground but I didn’t have the emotional strength for quite some time.
I left difficult conversations to his dad. A practical solution, but it meant that I didn’t really talk to 1son about a lot of things I should have done. I had encouraged him, and circumstances had necessitated him being fairly independent quite early on. I never felt the need to check up on him much and I didn’t know exactly where he was of an evening or with whom. Independence is good and needed but it also pushed us further away from each other.
He started smoking, and then he started smoking weed and he didn’t try to hide it. We talked about it. We talked about his friends who tried out harder drugs and he wasn’t interested. I didn’t try getting tough with him on this as I didn’t think it would be productive. I did get as far as taking him to a teenage support place to talk about drug use but he refused to go back after one session saying that the person just peddled all the same lies that us adults do about drugs. He wasn’t interested in hearing the facts.
I also tried to encourage him to go to counselling, which his father was a lot less positive about. He did eventually go to see a counsellor at ex1’s GP surgery, but he didn’t like the person and never got round to going back and asking for someone else.
He did occasionally comment on what a good relationship we had, and I would always point out that this was mainly because I left a lot of the nagging to his father and when he started driving me mad at home, he would go back to his father’s rather than us have to sort things out, so a lot of the small stuff got ignored as well as the bigger issues.
His father and I mostly agree on what the issues are. What I find difficult is that I see him as being weaker and less able to draw a line and refuse to let 1son cross it. This makes it harder for the two of us to agree to not let 1son borrow any money, say, as I stick to it and 1son just sweet-talks his father instead. This makes me more reluctant to come down hard on 1son as it will just send him to his father’s instead.
We have 2 possible tools at our disposal: we can stop giving him any money and we can take back house keys so he has to come home at a reasonable time. He is always wheedling money out of us, whether it’s a few pounds for fares, £3 for tobacco or haircuts that never quite happen.
We have of course been encouraging him to find work, of any sort, just so he can earn his own money and so that he can appreciate what the real world is all about. He does have a CV and has distributed it round shops and the odd pub, but he completely lacks motivation.
I’m not quite sure where I’m going with all this. It’s certainly time that I tried talking more to 1son about what’s going on with his life when he is around. I need to talk more to his father about what we’re doing as a plan of attack. I need to take a bit more responsibility.
On the other hand, writing this has reminded me that I have tried getting him outside help on more than one occasion and he’s refused to participate. There is only so much I can do, but I have at least tried to show him that support is available when he’s ready.