Shortly after my husband left my then 15 year old became openly rebellious and seemed constantly angry toward me and his siblings. He stepped on them as he walked across the room. He leaned against the preschooler, crushing his hand against the carseat. He glared at me and refused to comply with my requests.
It came to a head when he grabbed my arm and yelled, “No!” at me. I told him he had to live with his dad if he was going to act like him. He stole my phone and tried to leave with it, stating he was going to call the church and “see if there is someone who will take in a youth” because he wasn’t going to live with either of us.
I could see that he was looking for a stranger’s home where he would be treated like a guest and expectations would be nonexistent.
I made a deal with him that required he go to counseling. He accepted and thus began a year long journey of self discovery and change. And, I not only loved my son, but I liked him once again.
We were fortunate. His counselor was a soft spoken man with tremendous insight and wisdom. He could confront the truth and remain encouraging. He was a godsend. He diagnosed my son with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ADHD, and Dysthymia.
A pleasant young man graduated counseling the following August, and I naively thought the divorce was my last hurdle.
Slowly but surely the prior hateful looks began to take up residence in our home. The upper lip stiffened whenever I spoke to him. He stayed up late and slept in, leaving the mountain of rural chores to my 12 year old and me. He dictated benign activities, controlling his younger brothers until his anger infected them.
Facebook was his constant companion, and 4,000 texts a month were an easy achievement. But, his schoolwork was chronically late and incomplete.
The children and I waited in the car for him while he lingered in the house, causing us to be late for work, church, and just about everywhere else we might go.
Yet, all the while, he bought me coffees and expressed deep concern for his friends. He seemed, on the outside, to be a thoughtful young man. But, at home or in the car with me, the hateful looks abounded and he could only respond with a snappy tone.
One morning a few days ago, around 11, I still had not seen nor heard him. We should have started school at 9. The house was freezing, so I thought I’d enlist his help and get him started for the day. I called his name. My 6 year old came running down the stairs ahead of him, eager to tattle. “R said, ‘Oh, my God!’ when you hollered for him. And, he stomped!”
I asked him what was going on and offered him to give me his solutions for what would make him happy. Silence.
My youngest said his brother even looks like Dad. He said, “He looks like R
when he used to get in your face and say, ‘L!”
My adult daughter commented on his behavior on Saturday.
By Sunday you could cut the tension with a knife. He offered to stay home and stack the wood that I had asked him to stack last summer while I took the younger ones grocery shopping. I thought the time alone would be good for him, so I agreed.
I was shocked eight hours later to see very little accomplished in all that time. I asked if he’d been on Facebook or texting, and he angrily confessed that he had. His attitude screamed, “How dare I question him!”
I decided I’ve coddled him long enough and have created a monster. I told him to put the computer in the school room. It is to be used only for school from here on out. Then, I took his phone.
I told him the phone is for visitation and activities, not to use all day when he’s supposed to be doing school. He was angry.
Because my own mother rummaged through my personal belongings constantly I’ve always adhered to a strict policy of respect for my kids’ privacy. However, I thought I’d better see who he was texting 4000 times a month, so I peeked.
I saw texts back and forth between him and the charter school teacher. He was blatantly lying about me and reporting me for abuse. She was encouraging him. I grew up with her sister. And, our daughters are playmates. We’ve even traveled to a neighboring town for her daughter’s birthday party. I thought I knew her. I thought she knew me.
Apparently these back stabbing, inflammatory texts have been going on for months. I’d thought she’d acted funny toward me all year. But, ya know, I can be overly sensitive so had just attributed it to stress in her own life. She never said a word to me about it though. She apparently never suggested my son talk to his counselor or discuss his feelings with me.
My daughter works for the state’s family services division and is working on her Master’s in Mental Health counseling. Her professional opinion is that he needs someone to hold him accountable, not label him with a diagnosis.
I called the local public high school. The guidance counselor seemed to really get the issues with ODD. He expressed that they sit the student down and make sure the student understands “this is their responsibility. “
That’s what my son needs to prevent him from ending up like his dad. Individuals, responsible adults, who will help my son realize personal responsibility and accountability. Not someone to encourage him in his lying, his excuse making, in making himself a victim, and in acting phony. She may have had good intentions, but she encouraged him in the worst direction.
When I shared with her, before this all happened, that I worry about this son, she told me “mercy before judgment.” Unfortunately, she didn’t apply her own philosophy toward me. And, in her effort to be the cool, buddy teacher she encouraged a fragile, damaged young man to follow in his father’s footsteps.
I’m weak. I’m fragile and damaged, too, but I’m not letting him go that easily. I’m determined he will not become a typical DV statistic without a good fight from his mama. I’ll muster what little I have left to make sure it is not another case of like father, like son.