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Too late imposing boundaries but with good reason......(36 Posts)
Firstly I'd like some advice: I suspect a lot of the issues I'm going through with my 17y7m DS are covered in the long thread about holding the end of the rope.... to get the most/best feedback from peeps should I stick to this thread or post in there too? (Mumsnet virgin!)
To attempt to cut a loooong story shortish:
Partner died 2y7m ago, a week before DS's 15th birthday. Pancreatic cancer, not properly diagnosed until the week before he died. DS & I lived in Spain, partner plied to and fro. Discovered at his deathbed that he hadn't signed his new Will, which would have made me main beneficiary. We had recently renewed our engagement. He intended to marry me to sort our finances apart from anything else.
DS & I then had to move from Spain to UK, he had to move school, leave all friends he'd had for years, the home he'd known since age 5, change lifestyle/weather/etc. We discovered rather soon that he'd had a second relationship on the go, with a woman 10 years older than me, a near neighbour, who I thought was just a friend (although I had challenged him on it). DS had been asked by his dad to keep quiet about a photo he once accidentally saw of them together/kissing/whatever.
Having been a stay at home mum all his life, I had to find work. His much loved Gran had started to descent deep into Alzheimer's. The legal fight for money ensued.
Not surprisingly he tried a few weeks at his new school but ultimately pretty much dropped out though thankfully the school was superb and with help from them and the Family Support Worker he was kept on roll and at the end of the GCSE year he was entered for six and despite only really having studied for a term and a bit in Spain plus very few weeks in the UK, he passed them all, no worse than a Grade 4. So.…. entered the local college to do A levels, didn't like the attitude of other students and the reliance on PowerPoint by one teacher. All but dropped out. Allowed to continue to just do the one A level he was excelling at (Spanish) & to re-apply for different subjects this term.
Now, two weeks in, he's had yet another crisis and after about a week of a mix of ignoring me, arguing, saying he really does want to continue learning, saying he wants to drop out and work in a fish and chip shop full time and increase his fitness routine & rugby,he's gone the whole hog and messaged his tutor he's not coming back. This seems to be directly related to me taking his car keys because he wasn't listening to me, continues to do zero help around the house, blah blah usual 17 year old stuff.
I suppose partly I want to know if I'm being TOO speedy in imposing fairly harsh changes, or if it's my own fault it's coming back to bite me in the bum because I've been too soft for too long during his long period of depression/insomnia/IBS/gaming after his dad died and when he wasn't going to school.
Ok I won't type any longer but I'm not even sure if I've given the full picture of how unhappy/mixed up/etc I am.
He has a much older half bro/sis. Brother is trying to help but exasperated.
That sounds really hard for both of you. And also isolated. Does he have mates? Support at college? Maybe right now he needs a break and to work out what he wants. Mine’s younger so I don’t know what the options are.
On the car keys- you are obviously feeling bad. Make it easy for him to earn them back? It sounds like you’re both near the end if your tether . Figure out a couple of things to work on (eg helping in house), set consequences, and ignore the rest?
The long thread was originally about keeping our own mental health whilst teens driving us mad...
What a terrible situation for you both. I think at his age you probably need to take a step back and let him make his own choices/mistakes/path in life.
You say you took his car keys -is it his car or yours? If his then give the keys back but don't give money for petrol. It sounds like he has a job lined up, let him work for a bit. He can go back to education later if he wants.
Encourage him to keep up the Spanish.
OMG I hope I'm not the only one who almost cries when they see someone's taken the trouble to answer...…
Things went from bad to worse last night, probably proving I've taken the wrong harsher line; he (walked) got home from work last night, referred to it being a shame I can't go to his rugby match today then all hell broke loose when we got into the 'can't have the car how do I get to rugby you said I could have the car for rugby yes that was before you said you were going to drop out of college where are my keys …….. leaves my room, smashes hole in landing wall.
Now I've been up for hours, have to go to work soon and am due at older DS's house to look after grandkids later today so if we don't get sorted this morning before I go to work goodness knows what will kick off.
Of course now I've got the conflict of giving the car keys being rewarding the smashing the wall behaviour.
Mental health? What mental health lol(ish)
That sounds like a really tough situation for you both, having gone though so much change, and grief, and shock, etc. Have you tried to get him counselling? Or seen by CAMHS?
He sounds like an academically bright kid, but not ready for college maybe? Can you/he research other options? I don't know, but I don't think he can work FT at that age, as I think they legally have to be in some form of education until 18.
Forgot to say technically my car but definitely bought for him and he's currently insured as main driver. I just feel it's a luxury so many 17 year olds don't have he should recognise that.
I'd let him take a year out and work. As long as he isn't on drugs or committing crimes or anything like that he could go back to education at a later date. If he's working and doing sport that should help keep him in a healthy routine.
Does he have someone outside of the situation to talk to?
He needs to hear that damaging the house is never allowed, however angry he is. But the car keys thing does seem a bit irrelevant as a response and most of all it sounds like you both (with another relative?) need to sit down and talk. If he needs the keys I’d return them with conditions. Give him a route back.
I'd let him have use of the car if he can pay for it.
You could turn this round by saying ok , I do trust you to know what’s best for yourself. You won’t let yourself down but it has been a bit hard for me seeing you go a different route to the one I thought you’d take. But I trust you.
If you live where there is no public transport then let him have the keys but leave the car costs to him once he’s working. Just keep saying you believe in him and know he’ll do what’s best for himself.
Take the rows out of your communication. Allow him to be an adult. I did this with one of my dc who was most affected by events in the family and that dc turned things around after a year or so, got themselves to uni eventually and now has an amazing career earning more than any of us!
Gosh that sounds really tough for both of you. Your ds doesn’t sound ready to study. You cannot force him to go as unfortunately he will just waste the year and get even more angry.
If neither of you back down, you get into right fighting. That’s difficult enough territory with a tween, let alone a child in their late teens. As the mature adult, that means you’re going to be the one backing down. That doesn’t mean conceding defeat.
If you can’t talk to your ds, send him a text. Tell him you’re sorry it seems to him that you’ve reneged on an agreement for the car. You thought part of the agreement was him agreeing to continue studying. Then I’d continue with what was suggested by freda that you are finding it difficult to see him going down another route but you trust him. And you love him.
I know what it is to lose a parent in similar circumstances - both age and speed of diagnosis to death. It is very hard, especially if your ds has received no counselling and moved countries. His emotions will be very mixed as I’m sure you appreciate. He lost not only a father but had the burden of knowing he’d been cheating on you for years.
I think you really need to find a way back from this otherwise you are going to push one another away further rather than lean on each other. Sending you hugs.
Sorry you are having such a time. Is the Family Support worker still involved? That may be a useful support? I think like some of the PPs I would say just allow him to work in the fish and chip shop - it is his life and he will probably choose to go back to education later. The most important thing st the moment is that he has some sense of his own ability to choose his path as so many things haven’t been his choice.
Maybe write him a note telling him how much you love him and why you're giving the keys back. Three days away may be a good break? Hope the tension eases for you both. It’s so hard sometimes I know.
Let him work, he needs to make a new life and his own place in the world. Having a boss, colleagues and rules to follow will mean you are not the only adult in his life laying down the law, and that takes the intensity and pressure off both of you.
Further qualifications can come when he’s more secure about where he’s heading and what he wants. Pick your fights, encourage him with rugby and anything else that puts structure into his life.
Has he had counselling with a specialist in teen bereavement? It sounds like he's struggling with all the changes and the catalyst was you dp's death - there's charities that have professional fully trained counsellors who could help him move forward. Meanwhile I wonder if a different sort of course might be better or let him work - may sound odd but I recommend McDonald's, dd was really helped by working there, lots of young people and the management was great at dealing with teen issues too, she was promoted after 6 months too.
Fredafrogspawn's advice is excellent. I say this with a son of the same age with similar issues. Unfortunately my son does not play Rugby. I wish he did. Rugby can be excellent because it gives your son the support of other males and a healthy outlet for his energy. I would give him the keys so he can engage in his sport and give your blessing to work in a fish and chip shop until he feel ready for study.
I'm so sorry for your loss And you and DS have both had some terrible shocks over the last couple of years. So you should try to be extra kind to yourselves, and to each other. And give each other time to recover and find your own paths. I think FredaFrogspawn's advice is great.
If he wants to work - then so long as he does it - a job in a chip shop or wherever may be just the thing for him. It doesn't have to be forever. Some of my DS's friends (who were a little older than your DS) did bar work, it's a tough environment but it's a good start in being responsible and independent and after a couple of years a couple of them use it to subsidise their studies and one of them is now well placed to make a good regular career of it. Like pp I have also heard that MacDs can be a supportive employer.
You don't need to think of this in terms of rewards and punishments. Those are for the long term, when you can plan them out and think through the implications. They are not something to impose on the spot, it's easy to overdo it. You can always give yourself time to think things through first before deciding on a consequence, just tell your DS you need time to think, and it's also OK to take a punishment back if you decide it was a mistake, so long as you are not constantly threatening and then withdrawing punishments. Right now, try to keep communications open, and give your son some stability. If rugby is something he relies on then let him use the car to get there. As pp have said if he gets a job he can maybe pay for his own petrol.
Hope things get better for both of you.
OK so I did the giving the keys back, explained how sorry I was that he was so upset, said yes he needed to get to rugby. I gave him some fuel money with the proviso if he's not in education the fuel is up to him apart from major emergencies.
Said I would find it hard if he maybe chooses a different path than I'd expected but I trust him to choose the best for him. Said I would continue to cover the year's car insurance on 3 conditions.. 1. No more house damage. 2. Tidying after self & helping when asked rather than when he chooses 3. Improved communication by both of us.
He didn't speak.. Was still in bed with eyes closed but did acknowledge & has since briefly spoken to me by phone ( I'm at work).
No the family support worker bowed out about 6 months ago when it seemed DS was steering a reasonable A Level.. Uni... path. We had bereavement counselling with Winston's Wish, though the best mentoring he's had is with a local men's 'rite of passage' group called Journeyman. Getting him to see he'd benefit from going back is nigh on impossible, though.
I do wish his 6th form college was more prepared to see the bigger picture of last year's poor attendance & step in...
Sounds as if you are getting through to him and that's good.
I like your conditions.
2. Tidying after self & helping when asked rather than when he chooses
Tidying up after himself is good. Though you might try allocating some tasks to him that he can schedule for himself during the week, rather than expecting him to do things whenever you think
of them and ask him. It's calmer that way because it means he's not on edge around you, expecting to be asked to do tasks.
I do wish his 6th form college was more prepared to see the bigger picture of last year's poor attendance & step in...
It is difficult to "step in" with someone his age unless he really wants it and is ready for it. So maybe a bit of time out from education while he works and grows up will help.
Glad you've started building bridges.
Just to continue illustrating the roller coaster (not just day by day but sometimes hour by hour) that is my life, here's what's happened since I posted last. He's responded to my message asking how rugby was going. He's asked me about the dog's medication. He's come home pretty much on time as expected, chatted about rugby, and as if I wouldn't notice, declined to go to hospital for a nose cauterisation appointment because he'll be in college. What?????
I live with this upsy downsy so much of the time it probably explains my stress level.
Nice, but let's wait and see.
So... meantime I'm at my elder son's (DS1?) about to take over childcare in the morning, DiL having just had a ridiculously early hysterectomy, at just 31. Good reasons, but early nonetheless. So as always, it's a waiting game with DS (now DS2!)
Glad things are a bit more positive between you now! Well done for keeping calm, your calm approach seems to have helped. It sounds as if he's not sure of his own direction yet. That's OK. Because it also sounds as if with you letting him get on with it and trusting him to make his own decisions, he's feeling confident enough to tell you where he's at. The calmer and more accepting you can (pretend to!) be, the less reactive and panicky he will be, and the better he will be able to think through these decisions for himself.
It sounds as if there are a lot of other stressful ups and downs in your life that aern't directly caused by DS2. You might want to consider some stress management for yourself. That will help you take everything (including DS2!) in your stride.
There are bound to be ups and downs, it doesn't mean you've done anything wrong or that there's anything wrong with DS either. Sometimes just keeping very quiet and not saying anything is the best strategy Hope all goes well with your DiL.
It's great that he's communicating with you. Respond with an "I love you" and don't push further.
I'm not good at not pushing, it's the ludicrous uncertainty I struggle with. So this morning, after good news that DS2 is up and about early having dealt with the dogs and cats, I assume that means he's getting himself together with college BUT I also get an email from college re his tutor for first lesson of the day being off...….. I know he would have two other lessons later...…… then a call from him asking what time the dog's vet appointment is (which he won't be doing if he's going to college) so I say 3 but I can change it because you said you couldn't go... he says no it's ok he'll take him. So I say what else have you got on today, he says not a lot. Thud. back to square one. So I WhatsApp confused dot com and mention his nose appointment which he can also get to if not going to college but will need changing ……… no response.
He didn't sound particularly upbeat, but maybe cos he had a tough rugby match yesterday or maybe cos he felt I pushed …… omg I hate this not knowing.
a thousand thanks everyone, it helps so much having a sounding board with folk who know something of what you're going through.
o I say what else have you got on today, he says not a lot. Thud. back to square one. So I WhatsApp confused dot com and mention his nose appointment which he can also get to if not going to college but will need changing ……… no response. He didn't sound particularly upbeat, but maybe cos he had a tough rugby match yesterday or maybe cos he felt I pushed …… omg I hate this not knowing.
Try not to get ahead of yourself. Don't jump to offer to do things for him like changing the vet appointment or the hospital or whatever, and don't chop and change appointments on the spot. Give him time to think things through for himself and ask you for help when he needs it. You sound very agitated yourself with all these different things and that's not helping him.
This chopping and changing of schedules and appointments on the spot sounds very stressful and he wont want to tell you what else he has on if that means you will start messing with his day. Either put him in charge of getting the dog to the vet and let him sort things out with the vet and hospital and college himself, or don't. Either he needs to go to hospital (and never mind the vet and college) or it can wait. But all this reactive do-this-now-if you're at-college and do-that-if-you're-not is really likely to cause problems. Decide beforehand what most needs doing - the night before or first thing in the morning - and then leave it with him. If things haven't been done you can sort that out later.
Take a step back, let him find his feet.
If it helps I had no idea what I wanted to do at that age, I flunked school from around 14 having been a really bright student who was always in the top sets. I had been a victim of CSA and went totally off the rails. Took me some time to get my head around what I wanted to do but once I had I worked bloody hard and became a solicitor. Your son has had a massive trauma, he just needs to figure it out for himself.
You have both had such a difficult time and so much to cope with .
Both my ds left their initial university courses for different reasons. One got back to uni quite quickly, the other worked for a while but went back to studying eventually. It was awful at the time. However now that they are older both feel that the extra maturity was a definite advantage, and that spending time in low paid work increased their drive to do well at uni, but also helped them to be able to deal with people a bit better.
Your ds is still very young and has had so much on his plate . I would agree that supporting his rugby is very important. I would also give him more time to decide what he really wants to do. You can’t force him to go to college or study. He can go back to it when he’s ready - and he is likely to be more successful at it if he’s doing it because he really wants to and not because it’s whats expected .
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