The boy with the face tattoo

The last several weeks have been very unsettling for Paul and I. We reached a fork in the road and we don’t know what way to turn.

We both feel that by being blessed with financial security, we have an obligation to help others living in poverty. We currently sponsor 4 children in third world countries and help supply for their most basic needs. We can send a check in the mail every month and pat ourselves on the back for the children we help but will never see. It seemed so easy until the boy with the face tattoo shattered our perception of what it means to really help others.

How can we help others far away yet turn away someone in need in our own front yard?

He ran away/got kicked out of his house mainly because of the poor decisions he was making. Do we really need another teen in the house with issues? Why do we feel like it is our responsibility to provide for his care? We discussed being foster parents to this boy, taking him in as a surrogate son. Yet, we have a problem with him being alone in our house all day while we are at work and the kids are in school.

He was living at our house off and on for a good month. He also has been staying at the houses of different friends.

Do we take him in or do we let him sink or swim?

He needs so much help, probably more than we can provide.

  1. He quit going to school and studies online. Someone needs to monitor that he is doing his work in order for him to graduate.
  2. Rehab at the very minimum counseling. I’ve seen him completely wasted several times. The last time we saw him like that, we thought that his path was going to lead him to addiciton or ODing. How can he afford drugs? Is he selling them? Do we want to invite all of that into our house? Can we demand sobriety? Is that even attainable for him without professional help?
  3. He needs to learn very basic life skills such as cooking and budgeting. He needs clothing.
  4. He needs basic doctor and dental care. What happens if he gets sick?
  5. He needs to learn how to drive in order to get a job and maintain independence once he becomes an adult.
  6. This is a big one. He needs to have his tattoo removed from his face. Tattoo removal costs a lot of money, but he will have a really hard time finding a job without it removed. Who on earth would agree to tattoo the face of a minor? It makes my blood boil to think about it.
  7. This boy tends to make bad decisions and gets into fights, although we’ve known him since he was little and he is basically a good kid. The odds are really against him for succeeding. He was raised by a single teen mom and also has a disabled sibling which really pulls at our heartstrings from our similar experiences. They have nothing which is really not much to run away from. He might rather live in our house. Do we allow that?

If we take him in are we enabling him not to work things out with his mother? Do we really want to accept that kind of responsibility? Do we have the energy to deal with this? Will he have a bad influence on our other children living in our house? Why do I feel like I need to fix him? Is that realistic or do I just want to feel like a heroine? Why do we need to take him in or cast him out? Why can’t he just stay once in awhile if he needs to?

We need to make hard decision and have firm boundaries. Sometimes we have to confront. Why is this so unsettling? Maybe it would be for anyone not used to dealing with these issues?

We don’t have a problem with him staying at our house when we are home. But the other day he was at our house without our permission. We felt angry and violated that he snuck in. What is he doing by himself in our house?? What do we do?

Do we call the police? Do we drop him off on his mother’s doorstep? He is her responsibility, not ours. I feel angry that she is shirking him off on everyone else. Is it her fault or did he run away? I can’t blame her for not wanting to deal with it, but that doesn’t mean I want to either. Could she get in trouble with the law? Will her other children be taken away? Would our son ever talk to us again if we turn him away? Could we be in trouble if he stays? Does anybody really care anyway??

At this point, there are more questions than answers. This has really pushed us over the edge. Paul set up a first meeting with a counselor to help us deal with all this crap. We also have a lot of inadequacies as parents from growing up in unhealthy and difficult homes. We are very high functioning broken people. I wish we had all of the answers, but we keep striving to grow and improve which is all I can ask for.

It has been stressful, but little did I know more difficulties were on the way…

Parenthood watch

We saw the first snowfall at our new house when the parents of Alex’s friend arrived on the chilly autumn Saturday afternoon. It felt rather ominous of what was yet to come, but at the same time brilliant and beautiful.

The other parents were concerned about how much partying our sons were doing. We decided to get together as a group with another set of parents and just talk, a support group so to say for parents of wayward sons. These boys are all good kids really. They just took a detour down the wrong path. They are partying and failing classes. They aren’t picking fights, stealing, destroying property…

I am making an effort to stop lying to myself. Part of that means facing the fact that my son may never go to college. I thought up to a month ago that he was going to college after graduating. Back when he was in grade school, Alex wanted to be an accountant. I had to ask the teacher to give him more challenging math. Then in middle school and high school, he barely passed math. In fact, he is failing his math class as we speak.

I lied to myself. I’ve been lying to myself for a long time. I’ve been telling myself that he is still that boy in grade school that needs more challenging math. But he really is the party boy that doesn’t give a crap about school. If we come down on him too hard for partying, then we fear that he will leave home and not even finish high school. It is very heartbreaking to see him waste his brilliant mind. It is so much easier to lie to myself.

I don’t have any control over the path he decides to take when he leaves here. It has been causing us a lot of grief. I hope and pray that he matures and grows out of it. Until then, now we have a group of parents that are just as concerned as we are. We might not be able to keep them from taking the wrong path, but at least we don’t have to deal with this alone.

Last night we had our first parenthood watch meeting. We shared our stories about our sons which were remarkably similar…

We are going to have a parenthood watch meeting once a month and exchanged numbers. It’s time for us to work together and do what we can to make things better. It’s not a lot of fun to deal with this alone.

 

perspective

This morning I paced the floor. I felt anxious and stressed. Only 8 1/2 months to go. But who’s counting?

He overslept. Things were going so well the whole two days since school started, until today that is. He left at the time he should’ve been at school which is problematic since we moved further away. He had over a half an hour drive before picking up two friends on the way.

My son will be the death of me. If I disappear from the bloggosphere someday, you’ll know why.

Being late stresses me out. But since I am not one to be late, I am stressed out vicariously through my kids.

It put me in a really negative and anxious mood. I know I shouldn’t let my kid’s tardiness affect my day. But it is hard to just let it go sometimes.

Then I opened up Facebook this morning and saw a memory from a race I ran several years back with Lisa and her teen daughter that recently passed away in a car accident. We all placed in the small town race and were showing off our medals. Lisa’s daughter won’t be going to school today. She won’t be graduating, going to college, having a family…any of that. Maybe if she overslept she would still be alive, instead of falling asleep behind the wheel.

It really puts things into perspective.

Will my son’s tardiness be something that I will think about next year? It is incredibly frustrating today. Sometimes I need the little reminders to be thankful for the days we have together. I only have a few months left with him under my roof.

I’m trying to let go and not let his mistakes ruin my day.

 

The pharmacist

When he got expelled for selling drugs in middle school, his mother said that he had aspirations of becoming a pharmacist. 

I saw his mother this past weekend. I don’t know if she noticed me. Maybe she pretended she did not, like I did with her. In all honesty, I feel disgust towards her mixed with a strong dose of pity.

Looking back, maybe I shouldn’t have allowed my kids to have sleepovers. But I still fondly remember childhood sleepovers…popcorn and movies…staying up all night…laughter and friendship. Why would I take that from my kids for no good reason?

Did she know back then that her son was the pharmacist??

He seemed so smooth, so friendly. Almost too nice, too charming. He always used terms like Mr. and Mrs., please and thank you. Is being too polite now a warning sign?

Who would’ve guessed? For the record, Paul always had a bad feeling about the boy. But he was so young then, only 12, when he dragged the neighborhood boys off the straight and narrow down a deep dark path.

He left them somewhere along the way and kept going…deeper, narrower, darker…DMT, heroin…pills, needles, pipes…I heard he is in juvie now.

Sometimes, when it first begins, it’s hard to see the sole’s first tread off the path.

I didn’t know why he left school at the beginning of the school year. He went on ‘vacation’ for a couple of weeks after leaving. Something about going to visit a relative out of state, but his mother stayed home. Then he started homeschooling because his mother did not like the school anymore. Then there were the Saturday morning community service projects. The warning bells rang like sirens in my head.

I felt angry with his mother for not telling us what was really going on. But is it her fault her son is the way he is? Did she know what was happening in her own house?? Was it already too late when she found out?

Eventually, the neighborhood moms found out what was happening. Their boys were banned from seeing the pharmacist early in the path. But what happened while we were at work?? He only lived a couple houses down. It was a hard time. Teenagers sometimes need as much supervision as toddlers.

Could it have been prevented? We already made sure we had conversations with the parents before allowing our children over for sleepovers.

Keep vigilant when things seem off.

Don’t tell yourself that the empty Benadryl wrappers you found were from your child treating allergies when you don’t carry those pills in the house. You will second guess yourself at first especially when you are not ready to face the truth. Don’t tell yourself, he is only 13.

Then start hoping and praying that your child did not enter a path that they have a hard time finding their way back from.

The internet is a double edged sword. It’s sickening how much info is out there for kids who want to experiment. But on the flip side it can also be a great resource to parents, like me, who have no clue.

Keep talking, eventually the truth comes out. When the truth comes out, don’t expect it to be pretty. Whatever you do, don’t act out of anger towards your teen if they tell the truth no matter how hard it is to hear.

And don’t expect an apology from the mother. Expect to hear that her son has aspirations of becoming a pharmacist.

 

New endings

I was planning on writing something inspirational today. But, hey, it’s a stormy Monday and I’m just not feeling it. I feel sad and tired today.

This past weekend Angel left to start her junior year in college. She really doesn’t need us anymore. Her boyfriend helped move her in. I guess I always feel sad this time of year. But with each passing year, it does get easier when she leaves. It is also hard to think of summer ending when we know the harshness that lies ahead.

Angel left on a good note. Even her brother Alex and her are getting along.

We’ve been struggling with Alex. We have a college tour scheduled in a couple of weeks and he just said that he is no longer interested in going to college. The only thing he wants to do with his life is music, which will be a difficult path even if he does go to college. Now that he is an adult, he is ready to move out. We have been talking to him and giving him advice, but he has no interest in listening.

We are out of touch and don’t know anything. Wait! I thought that was my parents, not me!!

I suppose it is the natural way of life. You have so much wisdom and experience to share with your adult children, but they just want to do it their own way. No one ever told me it would be so hard to see them making the wrong decisions. It’s laughable actually. I thought that when my kids became adults I would be done with this. But it is actually one of the hardest parenting times ever. For the first time ever, you have to learn to walk away.

My youngest daughter Arabella will be starting a new school next week as a sophomore. She decided that she wanted to get up early this week and prepare herself for having to get up early for school. She stays out of trouble, gets good grades, and has a job. She is very responsible. But will that all come to a crashing halt in the next couple of years?? I am afraid of that, but this time I am totally prepared for it.

I feel disappointment and sorrow. Maybe I need to change my focus from all that is going wrong to all that is going right. I have to let go and move on with my own life. I did everything that I could do.

 

siphon

Last week my son was supposed to have his senior pictures taken. Supposed to is the key word…A couple of hours before the scheduled appointment, I noticed that my son had a black eye. Seriously??!? How did that happen? He said that he was boxing with his friend. That is just how things go with him. Some day I will look back in laughter, but today is not one of those days.

Last summer Alex had a full time job doing demo work for a flooring company. It was tough work and it paid well. This summer my son is unemployed. One of the main reasons for this was that he went on a school trip to Europe and was gone 3 weeks in the middle of summer break. That makes getting a summer seasonal job rather difficult.

My son also wants to hang out with his friends. He said this will be the last summer before they graduate from high school and go off into the real world. I get that, really I do. We have been very generous with our adult children. We pay for their cell phones, insurance, and gas for the cars we’ve given them to drive. I really don’t mind doing this as long as they are in school and are responsible.

But lately it has become too much. We feel taken advantage of. Paul said that we are no longer going to give Alex gas money just to run around with his friends. He is the only friend that has a car, so he is the taxi service to run around his friends on our dime. They never chip in for gas. They go to parties and have fun. They even went camping in Upper Michigan.

Maybe if he appreciated us or even kept his room clean, it probably wouldn’t be a huge deal. Yesterday he decided that he wanted to siphon gas from his car that wasn’t working to the car that was. I was totally against this idea.

We had another couple over at the time. They are newer friends, but have the potential to be really good friends since we have a lot in common. My friend asked about my hobbies and I mentioned that I like to write. She wants to write a book and also has a blog on WP. Most people reply ‘that’s nice’ when I say that I like to write, but she asked so many questions that I ended up telling her I have this blog. This is where things got a little awkward. Sorry, I only share very personal things about my life with total strangers and not friends.

She said that when I was ready, she would love to read my blog. I want to share my life with the people I care about, yet I don’t. It has been a real struggle over the years. The more followers I get, the harder it is to keep this hush hush and private. Maybe some day I will tell friends and family, but right now I’m too afraid. You see the things I write about! Why do I feel so guarded, so private about my life? It doesn’t feel safe to share these things. Sometimes I feel conflicted about sharing anything with anyone at all.

Anyway, they were over and my son’s friend comes over to help him siphon gas. I told him that I really had a problem with him doing that but still refused to give him money. I took time away from my friends to deal with the situation which immediately threw me into a bad mood. It ended with one of Alex’s friends saying that he could borrow some money for gas.

Our friends were joking around about the situation, which was fine. They said that if he tries to siphon gas and then smokes, part of his face would be blown off. I never thought of that! My anxiety went through the roof! A black eye and part of his face blown off really wouldn’t look good for the senior pictures.

Some day this better be good for a few laughs…But as of right now, I’m going crazy!

Luke’s visit, part 3

Today is my mom’s 70th birthday. She also decided that she was ready to retire from her career. It was almost getting to the point where I thought that I would be retiring before she did. My siblings and I threw her a party at the cabin up north this past weekend. We invited relatives, co-workers, and some friends that my mom hasn’t seen for years.

My dad thanked me several times for throwing my mom the party. She seemed so happy. I don’t think he ever thanked me before for anything. I didn’t see him get off of the couch. His feet were swollen and propped up. Paul said that I needed to start working through my issues and talk to my dad before it was too late. I haven’t felt the need to do that like my brother Luke did. Am I making a mistake?

Our friends Lisa and Tom came to the party with their daughter. Lisa did an internship for my mom a couple years back. Once Tom and Lisa arrived, we pretty much ditched everyone at the party and talked to them only. It was the first time that we were able to speak to them alone since their oldest daughter died.

Lisa said that they believe their daughter died in the car crash from falling asleep. The night before, her daughter had a sleepover with a friend. Lisa went to bed at 10. She told the girls to go to bed by 11 since they needed to leave early the next morning for work. They didn’t listen. The girls were giddy and giggly that night. They were on social media with friends until 3:30 AM the next morning. They might have had only 3 hours of sleep before leaving for work. It is assumed that both girls fell asleep when they ran off the road and hit the tree bursting the car into flames.

Lisa’s daughter told my daughter that her last words to her sister were ‘I hate you, go to bed’. The whole situation is very tragic. Everyone is having a hard time with it. Lisa told me that she doesn’t want to live anymore without her daughter. It was heart wrenching. I told her that she needed to do everything she could to stay strong for her other children.

That night after everyone left, the extended family talked. I felt rather alone because I was the only one in my immediate family that stayed overnight at the cabin. With the whole family there, sleeping space was rather limited.

They asked about Alex and his new car. I told the story of how he pissed off the wrong people the day he got his car and how they damaged his vehicle with a metal pipe. Since then, he hit a deer with the car and smashed the front end. Plus the car is leaking oil everywhere. I also spoke of miscellaneous fines.

I felt like almost everyone blamed and criticized me for being a crappy parent. That is what my family does, blame and criticize versus support and encourage. I am guilty of this too. The one who gave me the hardest time was my sister-in-law that doesn’t even have kids. I felt frustration with my family and with my son. Raising teenagers is excruciatingly painful and stressful. We feel like we are making the best decisions that we can in regards to our children.

I was starting to feel miserable about all of it. But then I thought in the scope of things, does it really matter?? Yeah, my son trashed a car within a month after getting it. Most of it wasn’t his fault, but some of it was. Yes, I am feeling really frustrated as a parent right now. But, he is still alive. I can still hug him and tell him that I love him even if he decides to make a mess of his life. That is an opportunity that not all of my friends have.

The next morning Luke apologized to me for being negative and critical. He said that he was sure that Alex would turn out just fine. He said that he was trying to turn his life around. He wants to be more supportive and less judgmental.

I told Luke that I was under the misconception that if I provided the right kind of home for my children that they would make the right decisions. It is very painful as parents to see our children make wrong choices, especially when I feel like my family is blaming me for the wrong choices my children make.

My life has been changing so fast lately. So have the lives of everyone around me that I am close to. I feel like everything is moving too fast. I want to be able to slow down and just catch my breath for a couple minutes.

Fortune cookie wisdom #14

You never suffer from a money problem, you always suffer from an idea problem.

Before we start today, I want to tell you that this is not my fortune. My daughter Angel received this on her 20th birthday. My fortune was so boring I left it behind. Paul’s fortune said that his life would be filled with happiness and peace or some crap like that. He is always the luckiest! I mean, he does have me after all…Ha ha…anyway..

So as of this past weekend, my oldest is no longer a teenager. Wonderful news! Now I only have two teenagers. But I am not about to change my about page anytime soon.

Angel was a great teenager to raise…although there was that little blip right at the end that really showed she was a teenager. At times she was a little mouthy, but she also is an endless optimist, has leadership skills, has charisma, woo, maturity, and is beautiful both inside and out. The good far out weighs the bad. She is so charming that the rest of us have a hard time keeping up.

Most days go well for Angel, but her birthday was a little rough. She wanted to go sailing to the beach but the weather was not favorable. It was windy, rainy, and cool. Rumor has it that a sailboat capsized at the sailing club that very day. So we sat around home and didn’t do much which was a mild form of torture for me.

I did pick up a new hobby though..Weeding! How come none of you gardeners told me how therapeutic it could be?? I weeded for hours, until my carpal tunnel acted up.

Anyway, back to the birthday…Angel wanted Paul and I to take Dan and her out for sushi. Dan never had sushi before and it is one of Angel’s favorite foods. Dan totally hated it. He stayed out late with friends the night before, was crabby, and fell asleep once we got back home. Angel played her music, an opera song that she is hoping to be able to sing by the end of graduate school. Dan said he didn’t care for the song. Oh boy!

Other than that, things have been going well with Dan.

We are hoping to take Dan and Angel out sailing to the beach before she has to go back to college…We’ll see what happens.

I hope she doesn’t run out of time, ideas, or money.

 

The party uninvited

I knew that it happened. I won’t tell you how, I just knew.

I was angry, a feeling that hasn’t been fleeting lately.

I thought that once my teens became adults that I would be done with all of the crap. But now I find myself looking for babysitters, who btw were always in short supply in the first place.

Babysitters for adults? Laughable, almost.

I flipped through some parenting magazines. Did you ever notice that they stop giving advice right before children hit puberty? You know, the time when most parents really start needing advice.

I long for the days when sleeping through the night was my biggest concern. Scratch that, how I long to sleep through the night. It’s something I rarely do anymore.

I am worn down. It’s funny how parenting three teenagers can do that to you. I used to resent parents of teenagers before when my kids were little. They were always minimizing my problems…little kids, little problems…big kids, big problems.. Now I understand. If only I could capture the middle childhood years in a bottle like an expensive vintage wine. Those were the best years. I could rest easily back then.

Parents of children ages 6 to 11, enjoy it. Those are the best years. They are some of the busiest years too. Cut back. Don’t run your kids to this sport and that practice every single night of the week. Yes, now I am that obnoxious person giving advice.

Guess what? Sometimes I feel like the world’s worst parent. I felt that way this past weekend. Sometimes I want to end it all. I just want to kick my adult children out of my house. I want to cut them off completely and let them try to live on their own without the help of mommy and daddy. Maybe then they would wake up and I would finally sleep.

I probably never will do this (unless they are still living at home in their late 20’s), although at times I want to. When do you cut the cord? Do you ever really cut the cord? They are all still teenagers.

This past weekend, my daughter Arabella and I went up north. Arabella did not want to go up north with me, but at 15 I told her she was too young to stay alone. We actually had a nice time. Until I found out about the party, that is…

My daughter Angel stayed home Friday night last minute. When I left she had a college friend over (that had been staying a couple days since it was a long drive) and her boyfriend Dan. She also said that another couple might be stopping by for awhile. Okay, no problem. She is almost 20 and I trust her. Big mistake that was.

We just moved into a beautiful new house. Everything is perfect, except for one major flaw. There is a balcony that overlooks the pool that seems to have a magnetic force that strongly attracts idiots of all sorts. I have now heard of at least 4 people that jumped off of the second floor balcony into the pool. Apparently this is a social media event worthy of recording. But one misstep could turn it into a fatal flaw.

Angel invited one more friend over on Friday night. This friend found out that a) we have an indoor pool which is super cool, and b) Angel’s parents weren’t home. This ‘friend’ invited 25 of her friends over. These friends showed up in droves with cigarettes and drunk on cheap beer.

Angel got a little sick of it after awhile. Kids were showing up steadily at the door all night. It became unmanageable. Angel hollered out that the neighbors called the cops and everyone left to victimize the next house. Although nothing was broken or stolen, I do feel violated. She may have not intended for our home to be the site of a wild underage drinking party, but it was.

I am not going to be too harsh on her since this is the first time that she really got in deep water. Frankly, I thought that her brother would be the first one to do this. Maybe some good did come of it. It is forcing us to come up with some new strict house rules.

In the meantime, I am wondering how to place a wanted ad for a nanny for adult children.

I wonder what kind of advice the parenting magazine would give me.

Moral dilemma 2

I had another moral dilemma recently…Oh believe me, the topics are only going to get progressively worse..

Recently my daughter Arabella celebrated her golden 15th birthday by having a sleepover with some friends.

I’m going to give the disclaimer right now that my kids are I are very open and honest with communication which oftentimes means that I hear a lot of things that I don’t want to hear.

Last year, my daughter wanted me to contact her friend’s mother whom I am a good friend with because her daughter was sharing with my daughter that she was very depressed. This is right around the time that her daughter came out of the closet with her close friends. It was a really hard time for her. Arabella was really worried about her.

I called her friend’s mother and told her that Arabella was worried about how depressed her daughter was. I left it at that. As of right now, I am really the only adult besides my husband and adult daughter that knows about her daughter’s orientation. It really isn’t my place to tell her parents.

But here was the moral dilemma…Arabella’s friend was in a relationship with another girl that was invited to the sleepover. I told Arabella flat out that I did not want anyone in a relationship sleeping together in my house. But remember, I was not supposed to be privy to the information.

Arabella told me that the weekend previous to her party that her two friends in a relationship were having a sleepover together at her friend’s house. Again, I felt that it was not my place to tell their parents.

Arabella told her friends that I knew about their relationship and that I did not want them sleeping together at her party. They were afraid that I would contact their parents.

It is very difficult sometimes to be a carrier of knowledge, the keeper of secrets. Sometimes I would rather be oblivious to what today’s teens are dealing with. Some days I would rather bury my head in the sand…everything is fine and dandy in la la land..

But I also want to be the adult that understands, cares, and listens. I will not break that trust unless, like previously mentioned, I feel like someone could be in danger.

Everything ended up turning out fine in the end. One of the girl’s in the relationship could not attend the sleepover, so that was one less thing to worry about.

Tonight I am hosting a sleepover at our new house for my son’s 18th birthday. What could possibly go wrong??