I have been AFK (“away from keyboard”) with regard to my blogging for awhile. Periodically, I would log in to see how my blogger friends were doing but I didn’t have the mental capacity to interact because things were busy and a little chaotic.
Here I am.
I spent most of the holidays at the house with the boys and H. H wanted me to move back in for the remainder of the school year so we could “lean on each other” and get the boys through this critical time. [For the record, his concept of “leaning on each other” is not healthy for me.] My oldest (Son 1, or S1) is a senior in high school and has had the typical senior year fraught with challenges, exploration of the world, and learning. My youngest (Son 2, S2) is challenged in school due to a developmental delay which makes immaturity and lack of self-regulation daily challenges.
It was fun to be with my boys, together, and watch S1 be a kid at Christmas. Otherwise, I felt trapped a lot of the time. I fell back into some of my old patterns and did a respectable job of catching myself (whenever possible) and redirecting my behavior toward healthy thinking, not codependent behaviors. All in all, I did well.
Last weekend S1 went on a ski trip and came back with his 3rd concussion. H was skeptical and thought he was “faking”. H tried to get him up for school on Wednesday and all hell broke loose. All year it’s been a challenge for H to get S1 to school, let alone get him up in time so H could get to work. I understand the frustration because I’ve dealt with it with both of my sons, as well as with my step kids, who are now grown and gone.
H couldn’t get S1 up because S1 was feeling nauseous and rotten b/c of the concussion. We had not yet been to the doc because S1 was in denial and we weren’t really sure how severe it was. H threw an out-of-control temper tantrum and I awoke to a slammed door that rocked the whole house. I went out to the kitchen and see S1 and H yelling at each other. I do not wake up well and sometimes have flashbacks to childhood abuse mornings so I was rather disoriented when I confronted the scene. I started to cry and tried to calm them down but H’s mouth kept going and going and going. He had full momentum and NO intent of controlling his behavior or his mouth. I gently moved S1 toward the steps to try to diffuse the escalating situation. H was now shouting “I’m done with him! He’s out of here! I want him out!” S1 finally said “F you dad” and went upstairs, punching the wall as he went [great. My sons now emulate angry behavior as a response.] H followed him and I followed H. Next thing I know, all 3 of us are standing in S1’s room as H is calling S1 into a fist fight!
I got between them as H was shouting “you want to hit me? C’mon, take a swing at me! C’mon!” and S1 said “I would never hit you Dad!” All I could think of was another injury to S1’s brain because of this stupid testosterone-driven temper tantrum. I was also concerned about the fact that this was the second occurrence of H “throwing him out” and realized instantly how damaging this all was – for so many reasons. I got H out of S1’s room and started down the steps. I saw the dent in the wall and crumbled to the steps, sitting and sobbing as my dog stayed close. S1 got dressed and went to leave and I told him I would take him to school. S1 went out the front door saying “I’m ok Mom, I have a ride.” By now I was dressed so I followed him outside and S1 told me he was not going to school. I quietly said to him “Please don’t skip school. I need to get you to a doctor. If you skip that will compound things. Please let me help you.” S1 came back in and by then, H was getting ready for work. S1 went back to bed and I went to H, hugged him [trying to exhibit that I loved him, but DEFINITELY not his behavior – this is what the books say to do right? ARGGGHHH. Maybe not…]. H went off to work and I formulated a plan to get S1 to the doc.
I couldn’t get S1 to the doc until after I went to work so right after class, I drove to the house and picked up S1 and took him to the urgent care. Concussion and whiplash. The way S1 fell (he was wearing a helmet, as usual) prompted the doc to say he’s lucky he didn’t break his neck, or worse. I took S1 home and H didn’t even ask what had happened. S1 sarcastically said “nothing wrong with me” and H barely paid attention. I corrected the moment and said “concussion and whiplash, 3rd successive injury, recovery is critical to avoid long term damage.” H didn’t say anything. S1 went to bed and S2 asked what had happened that morning. H said something disparaging about S1 to S2 and I corrected that moment by saying “sometimes teenagers and parents have conflicts. It’s about S1’s behavior and he is not a bad person. It’s complicated but we love both of our sons very much.” S2 looked at me and sorta kinda bought it but not before he could add a “piling on” comment. I corrected S2 and told him that wasn’t OK and that he should try to stay out of it because the parents would handle things.
I spent Thursday thinking about what I knew I had to do. In the early afternoon, I told S1 that he was coming with me to the apartment for a few days and that it wasn’t permanent, it was just that he needed quiet and calm so he could get better. He was so out of it and didn’t resist at all. I told him I would handle things with his dad because that was my job as the parent. He seemed relieved. As we drove to my apartment, S1 quietly petted the dog who was sitting with him in the front seat. I looked at my son and saw a memory of my dejected stepson who had been thrown out of the house by his mother when he was 15.
It broken my heart into a zillion little shards.
When H came home, we went outside for a smoke and I calmly told him I was taking S1 for a few days. I told him this was separate from our relationship (because at the time I wanted to believe it was). No reaction. We then talked about a few business things and I kissed him and left. I ignored any little “hooks” that were cast to try to draw me into unhealthy interactions and/or my usual codependent behaviors. I was focused on NOT facilitating any more childish behavior on his part.
I had to return to the house yesterday morning to get S2 ready for school because H had to be at work early. H was feeling heavy in his chest and looked tired. I hugged him and, again, refused to get sucked in. H couldn’t leave work in time to get S2 off the bus, so after spending the day with S1 and making sure he had food, quiet, comfort, and a sense of security from at least 1 parent, I went over to the house again to take care of S2. When H arrived home, we talked and he told me if I wanted to “spend some time together” I could come over later. I graciously declined saying I did not want to leave S1 alone for too long, that he was depressed and anxious (normal with concussions, but likely exacerbated because of the F’d up situation) and a bit confused/disoriented at times. H said nothing. I asked him if he had texted/called S1 yet and H said that he hadn’t but he would soon.
I left it at that but internally I seethed:
You mean to tell me that you’re such an emotional infant that you can’t even check in on how your son is feeling?
I’ve checked the phone records and can’t tell whether or not there was a text/call from H to S1 because the data only goes up to the 16th. It totally pisses me off that H cannot be an adult when the chips are down. H didn’t raise his kids from the teenage years, I did. No matter how I look at it, there is *no excuse whatsoever* for H’s extreme behavior. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch. For the first time, I was actually afraid of what H would do (in the physical sense). Further, I was afraid that S1 would take him at his word and disappear, thinking he had no place to go and that his parents didn’t love him. All with a rather serious head injury.
He sat there, shaking, as he talked with me last night. I have said nothing about the incident. What’s to say?
“You’re an ass!”
“You’re a child!”
“You need help!”
None of these things are constructive. None of these things help me ensure my son recovers from this injury. None of these things help me to try to set a better example for my sons and teach them a better way to handle their emotions. My unhealthy coping mechanisms, which I’ve been working on, have facilitated more than enough dysfunction and it’s time for me to stand up to the ugly.
I think H is embarrassed, frightened, and angry with himself. I feel compassion for him but I also feel like he brought it on himself. While I feel slightly guilty admitting it, I feel H deserves to feel bad, if that’s what he chooses. The more productive route would be to run to a therapist and get down to business, but that’s up to him, not me.
I’m really concerned about S1’s recovery and am watching him closely. He says the depression and anxiety are worse this time and I’m focused only on making a loving environment where he feels safe. It was far too easy for H to “throw him out” a second time. I knew it was coming. I knew S1 was becoming depressed about his father’s anger and controlling actions before the accident because S1 told me. I knew that there is an increased risk for bad things down the road with regard to S1’s recovery if I didn’t help S1 get out of that environment. If he doesn’t improve, I am getting him to a specialist. I still may pursue a specialist, not sure yet. I’m just taking things as they come.
It has been written by many experts that abusers and chronically angry people will not change their behavior unless something major happens. Even then, they might not change. It has also been written that there would be nothing to prompt them to change their behavior if someone is enabling them. In this case, both prompts point to me.
Here’s my takeaway:
- No more. This escalation was so far over the top that there was no question about what I had to do.
- I must provide security for my children.
- I must protect and advocate for my children.
- I cannot change H’s behavior and/or thinking. He must do that for himself.
- I must teach my sons that there is a better way to cope with anger and frustration or the cycle will repeat for yet another generation.
My dad facilitated my mom’s continued and chronic abuse of me and has never stepped in when he should have. I harbor no resentment as I’ve dealt with that and understand my parents were broken. I learned from it that those things have adversely affected my attachment style to the extent that I have clearly developed a disorganized attachment style in my closest relationships. I learned that I have a choice in what my sons are exposed to and how they grow up.
I am really, really proud of myself – and therefore hopeful – because I showed my sons that 1) such behavior is damaging and hurtful and 2) I am the Mom and will protect my children no matter what.
I am not afraid.