Trying to understand what's happening to my son

(42 Posts)
Appleandbanana123 Fri 22-Jun-18 19:26:47

My son is 19, but it all started in his mid-teens: he struggle to establish a connection between effort and reward. Every single parents evening I had to listen to his frustrated teachers (rightly so) saying how bright he was but how little effort he was putting into his work. Slowly, the same attitude applied to his sports (he used to love his rugby and swimming) and pretty much everything else. The one exception: his paper rounds and later on his paid part-time work outside school.

So over the years, his school grades got slightly lower each time (still above national average) and he was literally doing just enough to get by. He got a number of A* on GCSEs with almost no revision and wrongly thought that he could do the same with his A-levels.

With a bunch of Bs, Cs and Ds, DS then decided to move into a house owned by a friend's parents and house-share with two mates. He paid himself for to re-sit his A-levels but then failed to turn up for them these past week. He's working full-time in an admin job (an admin apprenticeship) and his outgoing are really low (token gesture, a fraction of what he'd be paying in a normal arrangement), so he's just loving it: all this freedom, nobody on his back and money coming in.

We have fallen out a number of times as I can't comprehend where it's all gone so wrong and why he lacks motivation or desire to succeed. He can't possibly be oblivious to the fact that most of his mates, including his best friend are now finishing their first year at uni while he's in his little bubble.

Then he didn't bother turning up on Mother's Day, skipped lunch on Easter Sunday because he was hungover and still hasn't bothered to give me my birthday present (which was over 2 months ago). In fact, we got him a bag of goodies (t-shirts etc) from a recent trip to America and I ended up giving it to the friend's mum as I found it really upsetting to see it sitting there. Well, not as much as a 'thank you' message. So not only is he systematically shutting every door in his own face but he's also turning into some not very nice person whom I don't recognise...

OP’s posts: |
GreenTulips Fri 22-Jun-18 19:30:47

HEs an adult
He's left home
He's enjoying his life
He has money his uni friends don't

Leave him and he'll come back full circle when he's ready - leave him to make his own mistakes

letsallhaveanap Fri 22-Jun-18 19:39:12

yeah.... thing is though hes an adult and he is actually supporting himself... which is pretty bloody good at 19 tbh
He will just go on his own journey and it doesnt actually sound like hes completely unmotivated... perhaps he is not doing the things that you would have liked but its not like hes doing completely nothing

The stuff regards to you is a little sad and I get why you are hurt... but it also seems like you had a really rigid idea of what he should want from life and are now making no effort to hide how dissapointed you are... which is not really going to be something he will want to be around
So its not much wonder he hasnt been seeing you or engaging with you as much as before

Saying he is unmotivated just because he got a job instead of going to uni... and saying he is turning into a bad person because he skipped easter lunch as was hungover are actually really harsh and extreme reactions.... hes 19!!
You really risk pushing him away massively by being so negative.
I get you are worried and that you feel he was clever and should have gone to uni but that is not what has happened.... so focus on the positives of what has actually happened and realise that his life will still progress and if he is clever and interested in making money which he certainly seems to be, then its not actually the negative picture you are painting to yourself....

hettie Fri 22-Jun-18 20:37:40

He may not want a flashy job and more money. If/when he does he'll figure out that he has to work hard/get qualifications. Can't imagine this arrangement with his mate will last into his 40s....

Battleax Fri 22-Jun-18 20:43:01

I think you have to wait for him to mature, get over the novelty of independence and binge drinking and find his consideration and internal motivation. Although I would send a text calmly expressing my hurt that he’d essentially ignored my birthday.

So sorry. It’s tough flowers

Redcliff Fri 22-Jun-18 20:45:46

What is it your falling out over? 19 years old are not know for their empathy and consideration- I had no thought of my parents at that age.

I left school at 16 and worked a number of retail/waitessing jobs and now at 47 I have a great job which is well paid, own my own home etc - going to uni isn't the be all and end all to everything

BangingOn Fri 22-Jun-18 20:50:30

I can understand why you’re upset, I really can. But look at it this way- he’s working, he isn’t on benefits as a lifestyle choice, he isn’t at home sponging from you. He has a job and he’s living independently.


endofthelinefinally Fri 22-Jun-18 20:51:14

I would wonder about drugs.

43percentburnt Fri 22-Jun-18 20:51:39

I agree with others. Keep in touch, let him work through it. If paid employment motivates him you may find he is very successful. Having jobs as a teenager is rare now and that work ethic is what employers find desirable. And the house share is hopefully giving him life skills. I hope he does well, give him time.

InternalGangsta Fri 22-Jun-18 20:58:24

Is he depressed? It's much more common than people realise

blueskypink Fri 22-Jun-18 21:15:04

We have fallen out a number of times as I can't comprehend where it's all gone so wrong and why he lacks motivation or desire to succeed. He can't possibly be oblivious to the fact that most of his mates, including his best friend are now finishing their first year at uni while he's in his little bubble.

STOP RIGHT THERE!!! What exactly has gone so wrong?!!! Why should he give a stuff what most of his peers are doing? How is that relevant? He's not a sheep. Full marks to him for not following the herd if it doesn't suit him. How does he lack motivation? He's living independently, has decent A level grades and is working full time.

You really do need to get a grip.

NerrSnerr Fri 22-Jun-18 21:21:36

What has actually gone wrong. He has a job and he's paying his rent (however little that is). He has plenty of time for university or other training if he chooses. It's likely he'll be working for the next 50 odd years so I'm sure he'll figure it out.

NerrSnerr Fri 22-Jun-18 21:29:06

We have fallen out a number of times as I can't comprehend where it's all gone so wrong and why he lacks motivation or desire to succeed. He can't possibly be oblivious to the fact that most of his mates, including his best friend are now finishing their first year at uni while he's in his little bubble.

Does he not want to see you because he feels that you think he's a failure? Do you nag him when you see him about alevels, university or how you think his job is below him? That's what's coming across in the post that you think he's failing when it seems he's doing fine. Just different to what you want for him.

Verbena87 Fri 22-Jun-18 21:32:09

It’s understandable you’re upset and miss him.

But I’ve just had my student loans statement for my 3 year degree ending 2009 (so lower than current fees), and 1 year post graduate qualification (2012, higher fees) and although I’ve been paying it back for 5 years it’s just over 30 grand. I suspect I’ll never pay it off. He’s earning, paying his way and not accruing massive debt. ‘Success’ and ‘failure’ depend very much on how you look at things.

CherriesAndLemonade Fri 22-Jun-18 21:32:31

OP-he's not at Uni-lots of teens go to uni end up not finishing due to stress. He's not miserable at uni. He's also not on the streets ir living off you. He's independent of you has a job and a social life? So he forgot mothers day-imo its commercialised and over rated.Yeah he's being a bit thoughtless. He'll mature a bit later... He sounds like he's happy and doing ok. That's all you can hope for as a parent really. Cut him some slack.Step back-it's really not that bad.

corythatwas Sat 23-Jun-18 00:34:00

We have fallen out a number of times as I can't comprehend where it's all gone so wrong and why he lacks motivation or desire to succeed. He can't possibly be oblivious to the fact that most of his mates, including his best friend are now finishing their first year at uni while he's in his little bubble.

So you have a son who at 19 is living independently and supporting himself by honest work and this is how you speak of him!!!! Sorry, but my jaw is on the floor!!! I'm not surprised he doesn't particularly feel like spending time with you or giving you a birthday present: I don't think I would either under the circumstances.

For the record, my own dd spent 2 years working as a barrista before she went on into HE - and I couldn 't be prouder of her! She supported herself, she was not a burden on anyone, and by the time she went she was a good deal more ready to make the most of her studies than most of the 18/9 yos I see in my job as a university lecturer.

Pretty well all the plagiarist cases I have dealt with, and an awful lot of the fails, have been students who weren't really interested in university but felt pressurised by their parents into going. You sit there with the box of tissues at the ready and try not to say "but why on earth didn't you think for yourself?"

As for my ds, he has another year left in Sixth Form, but has said he wants an apprenticeship- again, I will be very, very proud of him.

One of my nephews is going to the conservatoire in Vienna, another one trained as a carpenter, his sister started off working in a call centre but has now got a much better job. Their parents are very proud of them all. Because they are all doing well and are a credit to their parents.

Failingat40 Sat 23-Jun-18 00:57:34

I think it sounds as if he's doing pretty well tbh. He's following his own path, not yours, not his friends but his path through life.

Not everyone is academic, Apprenticeships's are not easy to find so if he's got one in administration it will almost certainly lead onto other things. You should be proud and supportive of him. He's independent and learning.

There's absolutely no guarantee his friends will all get through Uni with good degrees and find decent jobs. By then your son could have progressed well at his job and be earning more than them.

"*Then he didn't bother turning up on Mother's Day, skipped lunch on Easter Sunday because he was hungover and still hasn't bothered to give me my birthday present (which was over 2 months ago*"

^ He's telling you he's hurt. Listen to him.

Stop trying to control him. He's doing well.

2blueshoes Sat 23-Jun-18 01:47:02

My DS went to uni, he was back 2 months later. Trying to keep a job down, bouncing from one crap job to another. He is trying to move out with his gf (who practically lives here).

I know where you are coming from, I had such high hopes for him. He doesn't have motivation or drive at all. Smokes weed, a real motivation destroyer.

Tbh, I'll be glad when he does move out and become independent. I'd be grateful for him to be in your son's position.

Appleandbanana123 Sat 23-Jun-18 08:41:08

Hi and thank you ever so much for sharing your views!

I wasn't as clearly as I could have been on what I perceive to be the main issue with DS: he won't only go as far as his naturally ability will take him. He is a very independent individual, and doesn't lack initiative, but he appears to struggle with discipline and a degree of effort. He secured the apprenticeship 100% on his own but then he is very well spoken and comes across well.

An example of my concern: a couple of years ago, he missed out on a school rugby tour to South Africa simply because he couldn't be bothered with training and fitness. It was part of the deal (and he was struggling slightly with his weight at the time so I saw it as an added incentive) that if he wanted to go, he had to commit to training and to going to the gym with his peers. He couldn't be bothered (and was given a number of warnings along the way) and missed out on it - right or wrong, I don't earn to throw over £1k at what was going to be a jolly in South Africa. When it came to his GCSEs and he only just got the grades that he needed to stay at his grammar school's 6th form (as in really just), I thought that was going to be a bit of a wake-up call but nope...

UNI per se isn't really the issue and I actually advised him against going to one of the not-as-good establishments, or going into HE for the sake of it. As many have pointed out, the cost is prohibitive and I believe that they need to be ready so that it doesn't go to waste.

Then, as you've guessed, there is my disappointment which shouldn't come into it but... I can't even begin to explain how hard it is for me to sit back and watch, never mind accept my DS' choices. I made so many sacrifices so that he would have opportunities that I didn't have, and attend the best possible schools. To see him not showing a hint of appreciation for any of it, and systematically shutting all those doors ungis face is unbelievably hard. He is a natural linguistic (said by every one of his language teachers), so if he had decided to go to live in Germany or France for a while, I would feel that he was at least putting some of his natural ability and education to good use - a new culture etc and above all stretching himself / having to make an effort. Quite the opposite has happened though and again, this refusal to work for things is very upsetting and worrying... But I know that my disappointment is really by the by, and the ultimately it is his life! sadthanksbrew

OP’s posts: |
blueskypink Sat 23-Jun-18 09:30:07

He got a number of A on GCSEs with almost no revision and wrongly thought that he could do the same with his A-levels.

With a bunch of Bs, Cs and Ds*

So he has got decent qualifications?

I do understand your disappointment op, but I think you are letting it get completely out of proportion.

I have 3 dcs. One of them has filled his potential in every way possible. The other two less so. My youngest, who is exceptionally bright has shown exceptional talent in many areas which he then loses interest in and gives up on - languages, music, sport. He's now facing resits at the end of his first year at uni. Might make him pull his socks up but I wouldn't be surprised if he wants to walk away.

We've made sacrifices to give our dcs lots of opportunities - but they didn't ask us to! We made that decision, just as we made the decision to bring them into the world. Please don't expect gratitude or payback from your ds in the form of living his life the way you want him to.

MysweetAudrina Sat 23-Jun-18 09:30:41

My eldest is 25 this week and it's only in the last year that he has realised he is getting left behind. His younger sister has completed her nursing degree and he is working full time in a local retailers. However, he got his ass into gear last year and has a year completed of an accounting qualification. You really have to wait until they are ready. And if they are bright and capable then it is likely that they will get their act together in time. 19 is still young. My ds moved out and supported himself from that age which has to at least be better than sitting at home relying on your parents. Ds also has a job interview in an area where there are progression routes so it is starting to come together for him. He has however never missed mothers day or birthdays and is very thoughtful towards me and his family. That would bother me more than the college/job situation.

corythatwas Sat 23-Jun-18 21:19:01

I think you might need to unpick why it is so worrying, OP. Do you think it is because he will have an unhappy life if he does not fulfil the potential you have seen in him?

Or do you feel that when you made those sacrifices for him that ought to have resulted in a certain type of person as the end-product iyswim?

Did it feel like you were in a sense giving yourself the opportunities you had been denied? Because that is quite a burden to lay on somebody else- "you need to become this person because I was never allowed to".

My DM was highly academic but above all very musical and dreamed of having a child who could fulfil the musical dreams she had never been allowed to. She was lonely and unhappy and poured all she had into providing a home environment where we could learn. There was music every night, she taught us languages, she assembled a wonderful library, she denied herself the most basic treats so she could take us abroad.

Her eldest child went to agricultural college and then took a job as a trawlerman. Her second child (me) was too lazy to practise any instrument for more than 5 minutes but did become an academic. Her third did show potential for music and practised very hard for many years to prepare himself as a violinist: he dropped out after his first year at the conservatoire (but did become an academic). Her fourth dropped out of uni after a year to work in an IT job, but eventually set up his own software firm.

My mother, who was a wise woman, decided to be equally proud of all of us. She saved herself a lot of unhappiness that way. And did, I think, make it easier for all of us to be successful in our own separate paths because we weren't struggling under the horrible burden of her disappointment.

HollowTalk Sat 23-Jun-18 21:25:20

If I were you I'd treat this as an extended gap year. I'd keep off his back (and I know how hard that is to do) in the hope that he had enough about him to realise in time.

I think sailing through GCSEs is something that does nothing but harm - they don't learn how to learn, so really struggle when they hit the next stage.

I'd just try to keep on good terms with him and keep your fingers crossed that at some point he'll realise he has to put some effort in.

Peanutbuttercups21 Sat 23-Jun-18 21:35:35

I think you are judging him harshly OP

About rugby, my teen DS has just dropped out. It is just one of those sports you need to be 100% committed to. It also changes a lot every year. I did not push my son to stay.

As to the sacrifices you made, most parents make sacrifices for their kids but IMO your kids don't owe you gratitude, they did not ask you to make those sacrifices or even to be born...

Count the positives instead

TinklyLittleLaugh Sat 23-Jun-18 21:43:57

OP, if he's happy and healthy and paying his way then you've done a good job.

Someone should have a word with him about the Mother's Day and birthday thing though, that's not cool.

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