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.