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DN wants more than I have left to give(51 Posts)
I really hope this doesn't turn in to a flaming. Please believe me, I have worked hard at this, not only to look after him but to be a great mother. We have had DN living with us since he was 12 (the same year I had a baby). Over the past 3 years we have come a very long way. He was refusing school and now he is top set everything. DH (his uncle) does not get very involved because he is working very hard and I have officially given up on that score. THe problem is he just wants me around all the time, he follows me around the kitchen, literally between the sink and the hob and I can tell he is looking for topics of conversation which breaks my heart. In the evening after I've put DS to bed, I eat with him (DH still working at this time) and then I just want to go upstairs and watch something on my laptop but I know he's downstairs wanting company. If I go downstairs and as soon as he hears footsteps on the stairs he comes out of his room. He has no mother or father. He is obsessively attached to this granny (my MIL, seriously, don't ask how that situation works). Previously he painted a very bleak picture of our family life to her in their nightly telephone calls, and to be fair to him we were fairly tough on him at first, we had to be, he was behaving very badly at school, but I worked so hard to connect with him, cooking him lovely food, helping him with his schoolwork, trying to show him he could trust me (hideously undermined by MIL at every step). Now I feel like he needs me to fill the emotional gap. There is no therapy (I have had a couple of sessions but they all just say, you're doing great, it was never going to be easy). I know he's downstairs now but I need some time on my own, DS is 3 and all over me all day plus I work from home. I feel guilty because I know that if he were my 'son' I would probably love to be curled up on the sofa watching a film but the interaction I have with him is difficult sometimes.
Wow OP you really are amazing. Totally utterly amazing. I take my hat off to you for all you have done for DN.
I have teens who like quite a lot of attention so I am thinking about the practicalities of what we do in our house so everyone gets some downtime and some company.
It is early evening here now and we have all chatted over dinner but now they are doing their own things in different rooms in the house so I have peace. If they were with me we might watch tv or chat or might all be plugged into our own laptops. If you have some headphones people can listen to different things yet be together.
Would DN like to work/listen to tv or music centrally in the house in the evening while you are pottering? Would you be comfortable lying on the sofa
on MN while he is on a laptop in the same room?
I must admit I rarely go up to my room in the evening. If I am tired I lie on the sofa on my laptop- if I don't want to talk I'll put headphones on or I'll just ask everyone to leave me in peace for a bit. I perk up after a while
and a glass of wine.
For two or three evenings a week friends will come back to our house to do homework/play on the wii after school, which entertains the troops for a while. Could DN invite friends back at all mid week or on the weekend?
Oh Op, having read your last post, I am just so impressed with what you have taken on here. Especially as he sees Granny as the source of love and care (!)
I think you are amazing. I think you and your dh have really taken on a lot, and I am so impressed.
Please don't feel bad about not being able to give him any more. He does need to understand emotional boundaries as well as physical ones. And I don't want my lovely kids following me round all evening.
Gosh, well done. So complicated.
But he is inc doing so well under your care and firm love.
And yes, it is love even if you don't have rushes of affection. You are putting him often before yourself, hence the need to protect yourself. That disciplined caring when actually you just want to walk away is one of the finest sorts of love there is.
So well done, and pour yourself a nice glass of wine ( on phone so can't do emoticon).
Thanks so much for all your posts, I am thinking hard about the excellent suggestions here. Some of them are quite far out of my comfort zone (the letter, for example) but I'm sure that's a good ting. I'm particularly grateful to those who remember my story from the beginning
It's important to note too, that I'm not certain I'm his primary carer - I think for DN that's still granny. He talks to her every night on the phone (she told me he has literally never failed to call her in the 3 years he has been with us). He used to call her all the time, long and difficult calls where she could not get off the phone while he told her how awful we were. Lots of promises to call him back, etc. etc. Once we took his phone away as a punishment for something he did and he was literally hysterical, it quite frightened me (we gave it back right away, obviously). Now it is just a quick goodnight call before he goes to sleep. Her role in all this is huge. FOr example, he would never stay with us for Christmas, and told me so, because we're not his real family. Obviously that hurt, but I try to keep my own feelings out of it and just be up-beat and fun with him. He also refused to come to the register office when we got married last week. It was a big party and all his family were there (inc granny, sister, grandfather, etc.) - I told him I was hurt he didn't come (i didn't realise he hadn't come until we were already there. I expect it was granny's doing (she is more a 'don't if you don't want to' kind of person than a 'come on, it'll be fine). Generally though he has a brilliant sense of humour and is a great kid with lots of interests (film, architecture, painting). I encourage and fund all his interests.
We had one session with CAHMS (just me and granny went). It is such a complicated situation. They focused on the fact that he was eliciting rejection responses from me and I had to say that he has managed this at times. But I do have to have boundaries for this situation. I have made it clear that really bad behaviour (such as teaching DS to say shit, swearing at me, slamming the door in my face or calling me stupid, etc.) will not be tolerated. I thought it was better to be clear about that, out of self-protection. I basically said that if he couldn't manage to work towards that, albeit that we all fall down sometimes, then he couldn't live here. CAHMS saw this as quite bad. But really, it is true. If he had noone I wouldn't have said it, but he has a home with granny whenever he needs it.
He has really good friends, for the first time in his life, they are a very good influence too, all nice, hard-working kids.
DH has just offered to take him skiing with his brother (I have other threads about getting DH's DB through rehab - oh yes, I have taken on the whole family ) so that could be good. It will be term time but worth it I think.
This post is getting quite long. I haven't posted about this situation for a long time, but it does really help and is my only form of support. Thanks guys.
Flow4 I am digesting your post and will formulate some thoughts. thanks so much.
Not just single parents need time off from teens..
Funnily enough I was going to suggest a dog too but thought with a small child and busy DH it might be too much. You'd need an older one that had already been fostered and housetrained etc.
But having a dog has given Ds so much unconditional love and confidence it is extraordinary.
I also support individual and family counselling..
pussollini, I think you are being hard on yourself; and I also think that the few posters who are being hard on you cannot have had much experience of a demanding teenager.
I love both my boys very much. I quite often do not like DS1, who has behaved very, very badly over the past couple of years, and can still be a pain. I delight in the company of DS2 most of the time, who is clever and articulate and funny. And yet... Every single evening after we have sat down and eaten a meal together, I need half an hour or sometimes more by myself - I really need it - or I get grumpy and shouty and cannot cope with them at all.
Luckily for me, they go off of their own accord (almost always) and amuse themselves. If they hung around me, demanding more of my attention than I could give, I
think know I would not cope.
I get a bit stir-crazy if they are ill, too. The more clingy they become, the more I want to pull away. I know it comes from the fact that I am a single parent, and there isn't anyone around to share the care and attention, and sometimes I just reach 'overload'. I do feel a bit guilty, but I also accept that I'm only human: if you are giving and giving most of the time, there does come a point (in each day) when you are just emotionally tired, and you need to re-charge your batteries.
I agree with those people who are saying he is probably insecure and overly-demanding because he's afraid you're going to leave him too. Poor boy. And poor you, too. If he was secure, he wouldn't be hanging around you all the time. It isn't normal. But then, you always knew this wasn't going to be a normal situation.
All the ideas about telling him you'll stick with him no matter what are good ones. He probably needs to hear that. But also, I wonder whether he needs more practice at you going away and coming back to him... I wonder whether you are the person who so far, is always there - are you at home most of the time - the person who he comes back to, but who rarely goes out/away? He probably doesn't experience you 'going away' very often, and given his background, he is understandably afraid that if you do, you may not come back...
I actually think that it is probably very good for him that you go into your room each evening for a while by yourself. It will be hard for him, and it will make him anxious - but each time you do it, and then come back, it will become a little bit easier, because he is 'practising' losing you temporarily, and he is facing his separation anxiety.
I am on very tenuous ground here - not offering advice, but speculating based on my intuitions and experience... But I would suspect that because you feel guilty about leaving him alone, you may be giving him subtle signals that feed his anxiety. Unconsciously he will be wondering why you might be acting guilty... Could it be because you are not coming back? Or because you are planning to leave him soon?
I would suggest that if you can leave him more deliberately and cheerfully, saying something upbeat each time like "Right, I need a bit of time to myself now! See you in half an hour!" he may well begin to find it easier quite quickly, because you will be signalling to him that it's perfectly normal and fine for you to withdraw for a while, and that you're coming back.
I may be wrong... As I say, this is just my intuition... But it might be worth a try
myself, dh and ds1 (not ds1's dad) had a few family therapy sessions last year which were incredibly helpful, which may be something to consider?
also ds1's df (my exh) died when he was 5. he had 2 sessions with cruise at the time, and then when he was 12 ish he went back and had weekly sessions for about 6 months. the therapist told me that as children grow older and their emotional range expands they grieve over again. also I found out that ds1's greatest fear was something happening to me (which is hardly surprising).
the therapist also referred ds1 to a programme run by student volunteers for children in similar circumstances, which basically did outdoors 'stuff' with them is abseiling, canoeing or arty stuff which really helped with self confidence.
it sounds to me as though your dn is afraid that something is going to happen to you, and that his response is to cling to you.
so I would suggest:
you investigate whether cruise offer child therapy. your dn probably needs to express his fears and emotions, and help to address these with a qualified councillor.
you need to talk to your dh about just doing something for yourself ie local book group, going swimming etc.
maybe get dn to help out more with your ds - he could be feeling a bit of an 'outsider' and needs to be given more responsibility within the family.
think about family therapy for sometime in the future. it's a lot easier to express yourself when there is an independent person there who questions why you are making the choices etc in neutral territory.
you dn could also be worried about his future, in terms of what he wants to do, where he wants to go, whether he'll always have a home with you etc.
No flaming from me, I remember your earlier threads, and I just want to say how much I admire you - this wasn't what you initially signed up for and you have given so much of yourself in very difficult circumstances.
DS is 14yo and can be quite needy - he has ASD and very specific (and boring to me) interests, but he often follows me round the house trying to engage me in a conversation that I am neither interested in, nor understand. I feel really sorry for him because I can't join in the conversation the way he wants me to, and if I'm knackered I really can't be arsed to try so often tell him to find someone / something to occupy himself for a half an hour. So it does happen even with a bio child who is the centre of my world
Oh, yes a letter is a great idea.
Especially if it can be linked to an anniversary (of his arrival, or of his new school, or your new house, any special day that is coming up soon).
A sort of defining letter, that he can keep (buried in the mess of his room) but know that it is permanent, even though he will probably never really be able to relax and stop worrying.
sorry thread had moved on as regards telling him you love him. But actually he does need to hear that you care about him, that he is special, that you are not just a house, but that this is his home, and that you are committed to being around for him for a long time.
I wonder if you could write some of that down in a letter. A Short and sweet 'just realised you have been with us for 3 years. It hasn't always been easy but I just want you to know...'
(don't put the personal space stuff in the letter) Written word is very powerful, and I bet he keeps it somewhere safe and hangs on to it.
OP, he is not your son. And with all the best will in the world, you can't manufacture that, and you should not feel guilty about it.
Poor lad has had a tough time. You have given him so much. But I suspect as someone else said, he is afraid you are going to leave too, and he clings tighter because of it. I think it would help him to have some of this spelled out. It might even help him to hear that maybe he is afraid of you leaving and maybe he gets clingy because of it??
I would sit down and tell him.
You love him
You have given him a home which will always be his home
You and dh are absolutely committed to him for life.
You enjoy spending time with him. Eating together is important to you so you can hear about his day, touch base with him etc
BUT - you are human and get tired, and you like sometimes to switch off, and to have child/teen free time. Time to potter. And time with dh too.
This is normal. All families with teens feel this way at times, it is a normal part of growing up. It doesn't mean you are tired of him, but just you are tired.
It is also normal for people to have time to do their own thing.
He is also a teenager, which isn't the most empathetic age.
Maybe you can initiate a family time slot at the weekend. Early evening movie and pizza in front of tv/ family walk in the woods/ ten pin bowling/ board games (taking turns to choose)
whatever - but the whole family does a 'family' activity. Includes dh and you ds. That 'family time' together is very symbolic of you being a family and him being part of it.
This is sad, for you and for him. I think more structured time with him is a good idea, and he does need reassurance. You don't have to actually say "I love you" but do you say things that (hopefully) you can say sincerely, like "we are glad you're here with us now, and this is your home for as long as you want"? Sincerely, with eye contact etc? It sounds like he needs to hear that. Also the odd hug wouldn't hurt, or at least a pat on the shoulder! Even hulking teenagers need cuddles.
A rat is a great indoor pet! Very loyal. My ds was best mates with his.
I think I agree with you that just saying 'Hey, DN I love you' would be slightly weird for both of you and it wouldn't make any difference anyway.
But perhaps understanding the potential underlying reasons for DN's over-clingy behaviour (whether it be attachment disorder or anything else) might make it a bit more manageable for you. There may also be some useful tips for dealing with it.
You know, he probably has some degree of RAD (reactive attachment disorder), which might be worth reading up about - I will find a link for you later.
The trouble is, the needier he is the more you will back off. I had a bit of this when dd was very small, she was very needy when she first came to us, and the more demanding she was the more resentful I felt of her. It was only about six months after she arrived and we nearly lost her that I began to feel any strong love for her at all - up until then I had been doing my best, but struggling.
For you, it is much more difficult - he was older when he came, and you had a new baby, but the feelings are the same. The clingier he is, the more freaked out and wanting to run away you will become.
I think you should have a routine, written down, with your mealtimes (with him), your time with your son, your times with him and your times for yourself.
If you knew that from 8 to 9 every evening you could go somewhere, by yourself, and have a break, you would probably cope better with him being there a lot.
I also think you need time to yourself, away from all of them - an exercise class, an evening course, a night a week out with friends (or sitting in a cafe with a book).
Counselling would help you too, because you need a safe space to vent. Somewhere that you can say that you don't think you love him (though I bet you do, you wouldn't care about him being needy if you didn't love him), somewhere that you can state that you are grieving the life you might have had, just you and dh and your son, but that you lost when your dn came. You want to be able to safely express those feelings that are too scary to say out loud in real life.
Counselling helped me - being able to sit in front of a complete stranger and tell her that sometimes I wished my son was dead, because then I wouldn't have to worry any more about him was such a massive relief. She listened, she didn't judge, and after a bit I began to feel sooooo much better.
The reason I mentioned a dog is that a dog (or a cat) could sit on his knee, or his bed, or lie under his desk in a way guinea pigs can't, iyswim?
I think you are feeling a lot of guilt about not feeling the same as you do about your own child. I think that's fine and he's not aware if it as much as you are. Just telling him you are there will help.
My dh has brought my dd up since she was 5 I'm sure he doesn't feel exactly the same as if she was his but he gives her support and they have fun. That's what you are doing and it is enough.
Have that conversation with him and see how it goes.
Do it with humour not too gravely "I'm a bit grumpy after a day with ds and want to chill out fart and pick my nose" tell him you like being with him but sometimes need a bit of space.
He is very lucky to have you.
Thanks Ledkr, I will maybe post on the stepparents board. It is a similar situation, except that neither DH or I are the natural primary carer. In some ways that might make things easier.
born I'm sorry, but it's just not like that. Reassure him that I love him? We have never discussed things like that. I don't even know how I would say that and I would worry it would come out wrong because I'm not sure I do. It's not mechanical, get given child = love child. They have been 3 hard years to get where we are now. We have a sort of jovial, jokey relationship. I do say sincere things, like we will support him whatever he does, etc.
That's why the step parents would help you as they are parenting non related children.
I work a lot with attachment disorder and there are things you can do to help him but I really think you are doing well and he sounds as if he's having a nice life with you.
Just be honest and blame it on ds. I happily tell mine it's time to chip off so I can watch tv or whatever it's normal to want time alone.
Could you do one or two special evenings?
Can you involve him with the bed time routine of your ds? reading stories a couple of nights week - sometimes responsibility is good for needy children
Ledkr I was thinking similar but not necessarily an attachment disorder, more just issues with attachment. A disruption in carer at that age can impact a child's development significantly. Your dn sounds insecure, possibly lonely, and in nes of reassurance that someone cares enough. The fact that he was sent to you 3 years ago after experiencing loss as a baby could really be affecting him.
Children who have issues with attachment need to know that they are worthy, they need to feel that someone cares enough to spend meaningful time with them. He needs to know that if things go wrong again he won't be moved again
You could think about contacting children's charities such as Action for Children or Barnardos.
They have, or did have mentoring schemes in some counties, which may be of some use to you.
DH does have some stuff in the pipeline to do with him, but it has been a very demanding time for us too. The baby the same year, his business, just got married, moving house 3 times and 2 schools to work the situation out in the best possible way for him (his arrival was very sudden).
It really does sound as though your DN is afraid that you'll leave him in some way and wants to cling to you for dear life perhaps to keep you safe or to make sure you're 'there'.
I agree with another poster that it would probably help both of you if you have a talk and establish some me time and some together time. This will need to be done carefully so he doesn't think he is being a nuisance
You probably already do this but just in case you dont I'd reassure him daily that you love him and will be there for him that you won't just up and leave him or give him away to someone else. That he's important to you and you will always be in his life no matter how old he is or where his life takes him.
Don't worry about not wanting to spend all your time with him. I've got teenagers and a toddler and sometimes I just don't want to be with any of them. That is quite normal, it's not because he's your DN.
Talk, talk, talk to him and explain and reassure him, that is the best advice I can give you.
You are doing a great job and so is he for getting his life turned around.
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