You Can’t Want it More Than He Does

My eldest son has chosen to come home from his college. While it wasn’t my first choice, I knew I needed to support his decision. I did everything I could to help him exit one school and apply to another. Let me tell you, it was a bitch in such a short time and he was generally useless but it’s done now.

Some things happened with his grades and classes that I am actually angry about. Not angry at him for choosing or doing poorly – angry that he takes the “Of course this always happens to me” stance. I want to throttle him when he pulls that. Take responsibility and own what you’ve done. Realize your errors or challenges and figure out how you can do better next time.

I’ve spoken to him about this and haven’t demonstrated anger, just support. But I hit a boiling point when he “gives up”.

Luckily, my closest friend and the therapist have been helping me with this. The most impactful statement so far has been “You can’t want this more than he does.”

And I think that hit the nail on the head. I wanted him to get it right, get it done, move forward and be successful. I knew what mistakes he was making but I also knew he wasn’t listening to any advice I was giving him. So I stopped. I just listened to him and asked what his next steps are. This ain’t easy for me – I want to tell him what I think he should be doing, but he’s 19. He needs to want his own future.

It was a powerful moment for me.

Because on the back of that, I then acknowledged that even if I did help him (and he potentially fails) it wouldn’t change the outcome. He will learn much faster when he sees his goal and tries to reach for it instead of me handing him trophies along the way for every small effort. It’s still a bitter parenting pill – I know I can guide him. But this is something he has to do on his own.

I kept thinking if I helped him, he would get to his goal on time (meaning graduate college in 4 years with his peers). And it’s possible he doesn’t really see that future as his responsibility, yet. But he won’t succeed until he does. He needs to want to graduate in 4 years from a great college with good grades. I wanted that for him and I know he said he wanted it for himself, but I’m looking in the rear view mirror knowing the trials behind me and ahead of him, he can’t see over the hill in front of him. He needs to get there on his own.

Ambition and aggression have always been a part of my nature. They came built in. No one really knows how or why that happens, but some people are just more like that than others. In relationship, I generally don’t do well with others who are not similar (mind you my best friend is polar opposite but more in that another day). I lean towards like-minded people. We all know this was one major reason for my divorce: I was moving forward fast and he wanted to stand still. When I see the “woe is me” attitude with my kids it makes me bonkers. However, if these are my kids, I can nudge, encourage and advise but I cannot DO for them what they need to do for themselves.

It’s a heartbreaking lesson to watch your kid suffer and struggle, partially of his own accord.

Here’s to hoping he finds himself and grows stronger in the coming semester. And here’s to hoping he doesn’t disrupt the house so much that all the peace of the last 4 months disappears.

When You See Your Reflection

My son is home from college and is deeply depressed. I knew there was only one thing I could say to him “No matter what you chose, I will support you.”

I knew he needed to hear that from me in order to release his tension and anxiety. He doesn’t want to go back to the college he chose.

I understand, he made a dumb decision. There was a lot of bad reasons he made that dumb decision and I wasn’t happy about it but he’s 19 and has to start making some of his own decisions. For better or for worse. At least this dumb decision created the opportunity for me to say to him “will you please listen to my advice this time and consider it more seriously?” He realizes now I know him better than he gave me credit for. He also realized his father is useless when it comes to serious decision-making.

What he hasn’t realized is that he is accountable for his actions.  Sometimes, he just gives up before he starts.  Re-enrolling him in college has been painful, and I mean like stepping on a Lego painful.  Some of his statements have been “I’ve done it already” “I knew this would happen to me” “Whats the point?”   Ok, registering late sucks because everything is accelerated, but it’s not the end of the world and I’m helping you every step of the way – but I cannot DO it for you.  I’ve been to college, this is your responsibility.

I don’t even have the energy to blog about all the things he’s said and the conclusions he’s come to. I would prefer he go back (to his original college) and make a try of it. In my opinion, he’s giving up and it smacks of lazy. I hate lazy. But, in my current state of apathy, it’s really hard to engage him when I understand so well what he feels. I just didn’t feel it at 19.

This week we had to move fast to exit him from one school and get him into another, temporarily. My belief, ultimately, is he’s young enough to start all over again and I’m not opposed to that. What I do fear is his ability to get under my skin and cause massive disruption in this house and family. I notice his twin is angry (at me) because his brother is home and being disruptive. The eldest is one entitled kid and while he knows I’m helping him and he understands, he doesn’t change.

He admitted to me some of his characteristics which bother him and it’s hard to keep my mouth shut when he’s such a reflection of both my x and myself.  He lies like crazy which is probably one of my biggest pet peeves with his Dad. I hate lying. My parents and brother were masters at it, then my x husband and now my twins. It’s a craft that makes me want to kill someone. I don’t even understand the need to lie – I can see some reasons – like they don’t want their “appearance” to be affected. They want to maintain a certain face to the world. Lying catches up to you. The truth almost always finds a way to the surface. Just writing about lying makes me angry.

I brought the boys to therapy last week so they each had an opportunity to discuss with my therapist. I was due for a follow-up Monday but had a stomach bug and couldn’t go. I don’t know what they said. They wouldn’t discuss it any more with me but said it’s mostly stuff I already know. As much as I believe I need to try to listen to my children to be able to help them, there’s a large part of me that just wants them to act like small adults and grow a pair of respect balls. I was probably no different as a teen – maybe meaner, even. But I held up my end of the parent/child relationship: good grades, a full-time job, responsibility for myself (doctors, laundry, car, school etc) and activity in general. My boys barely do a damn thing for themselves other than school – and I’m not that impressed with their grades. Sleep, eat and video games. That’s it. Is it too much as a parent to ask for more? Good grades and get a job are top of mind for my 19 year olds.

I see so much of myself in my eldest twin. I suffered in my first year of college and made irrevocable poor decisions. I want him to avoid the same fate. But he needs to listen and be open to accepting that he screwed up and can actually take a step backwards in order to leap forwards. I wish I understood that. I wish I knew there was time and opportunity if I was just patient and smart about my choices, but I didn’t have that kind of guidance. I did have support – my father didn’t understand how to support, but my mom did.  My eldest has both support and guidance.  Honestly, at 19, he’s got it great and still takes advantage of me.

I’m also angry as his father doesn’t seem to be invested. Maybe they have their own conversations but it infuriates me that his father has zero communication with me regarding our children. We didn’t parent together in marriage so I see nothing has changed with him but I don’t understand how a parent can be so far removed from their children. The boys barely see him and he doesn’t seem to care. He believes if they want him they will find him. There’s a large part of me that’s so angry with him that I hope they end up not giving a shit about him the same way he’s treating them. It’s amazing to me how little involvement he needs and they still love him. I hate parenting on my own (here’s where I say I miss Tony). I hate having to figure out these life choices alone. I hate not knowing what he is saying to them. Kids need parental consistency and I feel angry that we don’t give it to him because he refuses to have a co-parenting relationship.

My friend says I have to just ignore him entirely. What he says and does doesn’t matter and I have to focus on what I can do alone.

This just makes me feel more pressure because I don’t want to do it and certainly not alone. The only comfort I have is knowing this would be much worse if I was still married to him. I try and calm my anger by reminding myself that I’m glad he’s gone. Some days I can’t even believe it’s 4.5 years we’ve been apart – I’m so thankful to not be married to that man. I suppose I need to remember how grateful I am that I got out of it. Ever since the surgery I’ve been more angry at him than ever. He allows all the weight of parenting to fall in my shoulders and doesn’t share any burden. It is making me crazy because I am so weak at the moment.

I don’t know anymore if I am capable of holding the weight of my world on my shoulders anymore.  I’m not working (or doing anything else) and I can just about manage these kids.