Hard Stuff

sam­bear wrote about the lit­tle sur­prise R dropped on us last night. He’s been plan­ning since this past sum­mer to go live with his mother—he just was­n’t going to tell Sam yet. I guess that explains why there have been increas­ing dis­ci­pline prob­lems with him, as noth­ing here real­ly mat­ters to him anymore.

When Sam asked that ques­tion about “rad­i­cal hon­esty” yes­ter­day, it led to a con­ver­sa­tion that was­n’t easy or nice or com­fort­able in any way, and I’m still not real­ly feel­ing “okay” about it. I’ve nev­er hid­den the fact that I have seri­ous con­cerns about R, and I had told him that I had a dream in which I awoke to find R stand­ing over the bed, hold­ing a knife. I had­n’t told him that it was a recur­ring dream and that I’d had it repeat­ed­ly for sev­er­al years. He had com­plete­ly for­got­ten that I had told him, after an inci­dent in which R hit G with an impro­vised whip, leav­ing a pret­ty bad welt, that if it had been Katie he’d hit I would have called the police and had the boy arrest­ed for assault. I had­n’t blunt­ly told him that I believe R is a very neg­a­tive influ­ence on both of our girls and our fam­i­ly in gen­er­al, and that I despise myself for not hav­ing the strength to walk away from him because of R.

G has prob­lems, too. G has major prob­lems. She gen­er­al­ly acts out in ways that are more harm­ful (or pos­si­bly harm­ful) to her­self than to oth­ers, so she does­n’t scare me so much except for her own safe­ty. And she does show actu­al feel­ings at times, gen­uine sweet­ness and car­ing. R does­n’t. He recent­ly said that oth­er peo­ple aren’t tru­ly “real” to him except when he is inter­act­ing with them direct­ly. I saw him wor­ried about G yes­ter­day, but that was rare and she seems to be the only per­son for whom he ever feels any kind of empa­thy or con­cern. She is also, how­ev­er, his favorite vic­tim for phys­i­cal, ver­bal, and emo­tion­al bullying.

R does­n’t try most of his phys­i­cal bul­ly­ing with Katie, because she demon­strat­ed very ear­ly on that she will kick his ass. Peri­od. Yes, he’s old­er and big­ger, but she’s not a vic­tim. Ver­bal and emo­tion­al stuff is more dif­fi­cult, and he’s very good at it—but she’s still got a lot more nat­ur­al resis­tance to it than G does. That does­n’t make it okay, of course. I try to great­ly lim­it the amount of time Katie and R are togeth­er with­out supervision.

On Tues­day I’d spo­ken with our fam­i­ly ther­a­pist about the fact that I feel very torn. I know that going to live with his moth­er would­n’t be the best thing for R. The best “par­ent­ing” she’s ever going to man­age is benign neglect, and when she’s rag­ing or oth­er­wise in one of her wacko phas­es, she won’t man­age that. Either she’s liv­ing off some male or she’s con­stant­ly on the verge of evic­tion, with util­i­ties shut off or about to be shut off, no gro­ceries in the house, and var­i­ous par­ties to whom she’s writ­ten bad checks look­ing for her. She has­n’t worked in some time and does­n’t even get out of bed until well after noon most of the time (that’s a long­stand­ing pattern).

If R were a nor­mal or mature 14-year-old, he might do okay with benign neglect—not great, but okay. But he has no impulse con­trol or self-dis­ci­pline. He does­n’t bathe or brush his teeth or wash his clothes unless we insist that he do so (and then mon­i­tor him like a 4‑year-old). He won’t get out of bed with­out adult help. He eats junk or does­n’t eat at all. While grades are extreme­ly impor­tant to him, he pro­cras­ti­nates until he has a cri­sis asso­ci­at­ed with every major assign­ment. He has extreme­ly poor social skills. He can­not or will not con­trol his mouth, so he ends up in phys­i­cal fights where he can’t even begin to hold his own. The boy needs a lev­el of super­vi­sion I asso­ciate with a far, far younger child, and his moth­er did­n’t pro­vide any real inter­ac­tion or super­vi­sion when he was an infant—she cer­tain­ly isn’t going to change that now.

But I don’t think that R being here is the best thing for any­one else in the fam­i­ly. I think G would have a bet­ter chance of deal­ing with some of her issues with­out him around. I know that we’d have more ener­gy to give to G and Katie with­out R. I know that we’d have few­er argu­ments and less stress between the adults in the fam­i­ly. I, per­son­al­ly, would feel less con­stant­ly stressed, because right now I’m always won­der­ing if today is the day when R will snap and hurt someone.

There’s no way I’d ask any par­ent to make a “your child or me” choice. That’s absolute­ly wrong. I love Sam too much to do that to him, and he would­n’t be the man I love any­way if he’d put up with that kind of crap. If you get involved with some­one with kids, it’s a pack­age deal. You don’t get to pick and choose—it’s all or nothing.

I final­ly told Sam most of this stuff yes­ter­day, because he insist­ed that he want­ed to hear it all—no fil­ters, no pro­tect­ing his feel­ings, no soft­en­ing any­thing. And I did. I cer­tain­ly had no idea that he’d be hit with R’s news a few hours lat­er. I feel guilty. I know I told him the truth and I cer­tain­ly don’t want to be dis­hon­est with him in any way, but I also know that I would­n’t be involved with any­one who had neg­a­tive feel­ings about Katie. I also can’t imag­ine any­one feel­ing that way about Katie, because she’s such a dif­fer­ent person—but I’ve walked away from a rela­tion­ship in the past in which some­one said “me or the kid.” 

I know that I had noth­ing to do with R’s news last night, with how or when it was pre­sent­ed. I can’t help feel­ing guilty anyway—if I was­n’t around, would he have done this? If the changes that have come into his life in the last four years, since Sam and I got togeth­er, had­n’t hap­pened, would he have a bet­ter rela­tion­ship with Sam right now? I know, ratio­nal­ly, that those changes have been good ones. My mind and my heart aren’t real­ly speak­ing to each oth­er much at the moment, though.

R has been diag­nosed with oppo­si­tion­al defi­ant dis­or­der (ODD) in addi­tion to ADHD. He’s being treat­ed for some depres­sion and “stuck” think­ing pat­terns (OCD) now, too. He and G meet all the cri­te­ria I’ve seen for attach­ment dis­or­der, as well, although no pro­fes­sion­al has diag­nosed them with it (that seems to be some­thing they usu­al­ly look for in adopt­ed or fos­ter chil­dren). That isn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly sur­pris­ing, con­sid­er­ing the neglect and abuse they received from their moth­er, espe­cial­ly in the first few years of their lives. It isn’t encour­ag­ing at all, either.

What was laugh­able was that appar­ent­ly R and his moth­er thought G was mov­ing to the west coast with them. Nope—he’s 14, and since there is joint cus­tody, Geor­gia law says he can choose which par­ent he lives with now. But G isn’t quite 11 yet, and she does­n’t get that choice, nor is Sam will­ing to send her off to her moth­er. Hon­est­ly, I think she was plan­ning to get a real child sup­port judg­ment (instead of the token amount she occa­sion­al­ly pays Sam) and live off of it instead of even try­ing to find anoth­er job.

Cur­rent Mood: :-(wor­ried
Cyn is Katie's mom, Esther's Mémé, and a Support Engineer. She lives in the Atlanta area with her life partner, Rick, and their critters. She knits, does counted-thread needlework, reads, makes music, plays TTRPGs, and spends too much time online.
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