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desperate, sad and heart broken

(16 Posts)
BJS1958 Tue 06-Apr-10 21:02:00

Things seem to have come to a head. I have a son, now age 20, who we (both parents) have always found difficult. He could appear charming and great with other people but not with us. He was aggressive and confrontational and bullied his younger brother. While still at primary school he underwent psychotherapy at a renowned institution, which didn?t seem to help. At the age of 13, at his request, he went to boarding school, where he seemed relatively happy and settled and made friends. Coming home after term time etc things would slip back into the normal pattern after 24 hours or so. Holidays were particularly bad as it meant the family spending enforced long periods of time together. Over the years, many people have said that they could not understand why he was like that. His father and I are both quite gentle people, we do not row and have always tried to bring up the children with a sense of respect and fairness and fun. When our son started to have girlfriends (he is fortunate in being tall, good looking and athletic), we noticed a pattern developing. He would become completely obsessed and very controlling. Despite his claims at independence (which I have encouraged) he still asks for my help all the time but when I give it, unless everything goes perfectly, he turns on me and blames me for everything. Now he is at university, still expecting huge amounts of support at the same time as telling me how useless I am. He headed off over Easter to see his latest girlfriend, who lives abroad but it is not going well (she has emailed me). He left us in a terrible mood and was atrociously behaved to me and his father, mainly because I wouldn?t give him a lift to the airport (this after partly paying for his ticket as part of Christmas and birthday, picking him up from uni, sorting out his foreign currency and visa, doing all his washing, helping with packing and so on and so on ? makes me sound like a complete doormat). When he spends time at home, he carries on exactly as he does at uni, staying up all night talking on Skype, leaving the place in a mess, even though I have pointed out that I go to work and need my sleep. We have now said that this has been the final straw and that he cannot come home, though we will continue to finance him through university. BUT ? I feel so guilty and cannot get out of this cycle of self blame. I know that I have done so much for him and been pushed to the limits so many times and I need to protect myself but I also feel desperately sorry for him and feel that I have been a complete and utter failure as a mother. What is to become of him? I could go on! Have any of you had a similar experience? Are there times with your offspring when you just have to withdraw? His behaviour has had such a bad effect on the family. I am surprised that we are still married. Our younger son has been affected but can also hurtfully blame me (bit like battered wives are said to be at fault), for not kicking his brother out sooner and for not successfully protecting him. HELP!


Alibobster Tue 06-Apr-10 21:09:19

I'm really sorry, I don't have any advice for you but I hope someone comes along soon who does. The only thing I want to say is that you sound like a wonderful mother and NOT a failure at all x

BJS1958 Tue 06-Apr-10 22:03:13

thanks Alibobster -- wish I could convince myself that that was true

AgentProvocateur Tue 06-Apr-10 22:09:47

Gosh, what a difficult situation. I can't give you any advice - only sympathy and reassurance that it sounds like you have gone over and above the call of duty.

If your other children do not behave like this, then it's nothing to do with his upbringing.

I think you are doing the right thing, and I'm not sure that I would be brave enough to do it.

Hope someone can give you more practical advice soon.

serendipitysally Tue 06-Apr-10 23:19:38

It must be heartbreaking to see the son you love behave so badly.
Maybe the fact that he know he gets away with it that he pushes the boundaries so much, that he knows his mother loves him so much he will be forgiven anything.
You are doing the typical thing - feeling guilty and blaming yourself. You really musn't do that. Your actions have come from the heart - from being a mother who loves her son.

You say that you do everything for him.
I'm not a pyschologist but when someone has everything done for them, they will inevitably feel like they don't have control of a situation, they won't have confidence and they will become defensive and potentially bullying and controlling behaviour will manifest itself elsewhere. You say that he is very controlling in his relationship with his girlfriend. Control issues are something a psychologist can elaborate on. But I know us mums ALL have problems with letting go....

Maybe it's about changing YOUR role in the family. Do less. Find something to make you relax and feel carefree. Surprise your sons and husband with a 'oh, it doesn't matter' attitude, let the place get messy, don't always do the cooking etc. You will actually be doing them a favour - Give others in your family the space to find a role. It's so easy to get stuck in roles in a marriage and when you're parents. Your son probably comes home and slips back into the badly- behaved-selfish-childish-lazy-son he's perceived to be, while you cook and clean and organize his life.
Give him a bit more space. Things won't change overnight but you can find a better balance and a better relationship with both your sons.
Simple things like letting him take over the kitchen and cook for you all - don't step in and try and help him. He's 20 and he has to feel that you trust and respect him as an adult, then you'll get that respect back.
And maybe with things like buying his foreign currency and sorting visa - rather than do the whole lot for him, just hand him details/a form/tel number and leave him to do it.
This is a subject I understand in some way because I have a husband whose mother dedicated her life to him, did everything for him until into his late 20's. Ten years later he's still struggling to fill in forms and organise his life, he gets angry and difficult, and doesn't have a very easy relationship with his mum. If only his mum stepped back a bit from the mother role they would have found a friendship and seen more of each other.

Do something good for yourself. You are more than a mother. Don't blame yourself. Think easy, peaceful thoughts.

I've just re-read your email and there's so much more to the situation that I initially really must be so hard for you.
My final advice is to just be good to yourself about all this. If you feel you have left things on bad terms with your son - and there's more you want to say to him, maybe just write him a letter.
Along the lines of....
^Please understand the love and care I have for you.....we all have our own lives to lead and happiness to find...I know things have been difficult but I want you to know there IS an open door for you here.... I only wish for your success at university and am proud of what you've achieved so far...^

Allow a bit of time and space between you - and then maybe for the summer holidays suggest he comes home for a family barbecue. That you need help with a barbecue - give him some control over the situation. Even let him buy a new barbecue, pick up the charcoal, be in charge of the food.
Don't hang around to help him with it - make an excuse to pop out somewhere else (help a neighbour, get a haircut). Come back later and you may find a mess, and the food may not be perfect but have an easygoing attitude, have a laugh.
Keep that happy vision of him coming home and things being relaxed in your mind, but don't have high expectations.
At the end of the day he's a male in his 20's and no matter what you've done and what you do he's not going to be easy.
But he will eventually appreciate what you do for him and when he's a bit older he'll realise how much you've done for him and what a wonderful mum you are.

outofmysystem Tue 06-Apr-10 23:27:11

I was wondering if there is any blaming in the family of your dh to you[or putting you down] which might have been copied by your son.
Also if you have found it hard to be tough with him and discipline him along the waay[always forgiving him]this could be why he has got away with so much.
If you are tougher with him but give him a way forward at the same time,it may take a few months but he may then improve.

Don't blame yourself,because it's not your fault.

cory Wed 07-Apr-10 00:25:33

I am wondering if we even need to go to all the trouble of looking for something you have done wrong (been too helpful? controlled him? not been helpful enough?). The truth is, he is now an adult and what he chooses to do is his responsibility.

Surely, you don't blame your own mum for every single decision you take as an adult? Well, he's there now- an adult. Sounds like he's making some crappy decisions at the moment- but they are his decisions, not yours. And his girlfriend will have to make her own decision about whether to kick him out or not.

Chances are it is a phase and he will grow out of it- but you can't do his growing for him.

JustAnotherManicMummy Wed 07-Apr-10 00:52:27

He's 20. Sounds pretty typical of 20 year old men tbh.

I fully agree he needs to behave like an adult whilst in your house or he doesn't stay. However, you need to start treating him like an adult. Keep out of his relationship with his gf (why is she emailing you?) and let him do his own housekeeping.

I am in two minds about whether he will grow out of it. If you keep holding the past over him he'll never change. And if he actually is some sort of sociopath then he won't be able to change. But your his mother so you'll try any way in the hope that he will change. Hopefully this thread will give you some good suggestions.

It sounds like there's a lot of anger and resentment in your family. Have you thought about family therapy?

JustAnotherManicMummy Wed 07-Apr-10 00:53:51

Gosh apologies for awful spelling and grammar blush

BJS1958 Wed 07-Apr-10 09:47:50

thanks all for your support and kind words. I always felt that one of my main roles as a parent was to bring up happy, well adjusted and independent people. I have tried so hard not to do too much for him. I have backed off with the help over the years but will help to a certain extent if he asks. For instance, I show him how to use the washing machine - I don't do it all for him, if he doesn't want to eat the family meal he has to make something for himself later, I NEVER clear up his room while he is at home etc etc But obviously I probably have done too much, though if I had done the same for my other son it would never have ended up like this. Interesting that JustAnotherManicMummy (great name!) mentioned sociopath as I have sometimes wondered if there is somthing like that going on. DH suspects he is somewhere on the austistic spectrum as he just doesn't seem to get the concept of negotiation. He tries to get whet he wants by bullying and being agressive. During the psychotherapy he was assessed by a psychiatrist, who suggested a trial of ritalin but to no effect (and I hated giving it to him). I am in email contact with the GF as when she was in England she came to stay with us a few times (there's another thing, we have always welcomed his friends and GFs here, and have always got on with them very well, though I can tell they have sometimes felt very uncomfortable with way he treats us). My DH, who had a fantastic realtionship with our son when he was younger, is very supportive but has found it easier to withdraw. He has suggested I get some therapy to deal with the guilt as he says he just doesn't know how to help me.

outofmysystem Wed 07-Apr-10 20:02:17

It is interesring you say about possible aspergers or similar...our son was incredibly hard work when he was younger,especially over holidays and christmas rang a bell ,some of your description.

He is fine now,he is very sweet,but I wonder if it will show itself again in the future

Solo2 Wed 07-Apr-10 20:13:06

V short reply as limited time but...I suspect he was born with some attributes hardwired that are entirely not your fault.

This would then exaggerate 'normal' selfish behaviour of young men and women. He sounds as if he find it v hard to work out how to stay within socially appropriate behaviour and that would also indicate maybe Asperger's traits.

I like the posts that suggest you look after YOU now. Be less available to DS. Be so busy and involved in your own life that you have genuinely less time and space available to look after him. But of course let him know how much you love him - from a distance.

He may need, just as a toddler and teenager needs - thousands of repetitions of responses to his behaviour to get the message that you now mean what you say and you are going to say and stick to a 'loving no' and your boundaries.

I suspect he needs more psychological support - preferably something like CBT rather than any kind of psychoanalysis.

Must get my sons to bed now. Good luck and be kind to

Supercherry Wed 07-Apr-10 20:19:14

As mothers we tend to shoulder the blame for everything that goes wrong with our kids. Unfortunately, despite the best will in the world, nature sometimes will win over nurture.

I agree with the poster who says he is an adult and makes his own decisions. You sound like a great mother but you can't baby him forever. You are doing the right thing by stepping back. He won't treat you with respect if you don't show him that you respect yourself. Do not put up with his crap.

Your son sounds like my brother, he is 26 now and has never shown much respect for my mother She has always been far too soft on him IMO.

GeekyGirl Wed 07-Apr-10 20:20:09

BJS - don't be too hard on yourself - as I get older I become more convinced that nature is sometimes stronger than nurture. The hardest thing in the world is to watch someone you love suffer. I think your DH is right to suggest you get some counselling to help you cope with your guilt and sorrow and sadness. You may not be able to change your son but you can find ways to live with the situation.

BJS1958 Wed 07-Apr-10 21:35:19

thanks to all of you -- its amazing how much the support of strangers can mean. So much of what some of you have said really resonates. I need to believe that I DO deserve to be treated with respect by my son, after all no-one else seems to find it that hard! Thank you again, to each and every one of you

HermioneHatesHoovering Wed 03-Oct-12 20:14:52

<marking place>

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