May 6, 2020

So, you know what's fun? & not an accident

Living with kids approaching final exams or currently taking final exams and also preparing for AP tests and one studying for the June ACT test, well - let me tell you, that is a PARTY.  At last count there are 4 kids who fall into one of these categories.  Not everyone currently forced to live under our roof deals well with stress.  Pretty relaxing for those of us just trying to keep enough food in the fridge to feed the inmates.

And if you happen to be an Irish dancer who attends zoom classes, well - be prepared to be ridiculed and shouted at to pack up your stupid zoom class and move to another room where you might tick off a different sibling. 

Lad's issues have escalated.  Not sure any of you really want to hear about it, but I will try to give you the 'sunny-side' of what this amounts to:  he has not messed with pot in a few weeks, so that's something to celebrate.

We have gathered information after speaking to Lad's therapist, Chip.  I am combining what we have learned from Chip with what we gathered from our close family friend, Lynn, who is also a therapist (different courses of study, I would say without knowing the technical specifics in the type of therapy they do).

On Saturday, Coach needed to see one patient.  Kind of a favor to the company's owner.  They are closed on the weekends, but the owner's favor meant he had to see this woman (who is one of those certifiable patients who obsesses over pain and is convinced she knows how to heal herself, etc.  So BIG favor).  Coach isn't creepy, but seeing a female patient alone in the clinic is NOT part of 'best practices.'  

I agreed to go ride the bike at the clinic during crackpot's appointment.  When she left, he did his patient notes.  I rode 10 miles on the bike, and wanted to get my walk underway.  I started walking home and Coach said he would drive past me and pick me up in about 25 minutes or so.

I literally bumped into Lynn and her husband, the 'Godfather' - he is Reg's godfather, while on my walk.  These two form the most amazing couple.  Anytime I spend time with them, it is like being renewed and filled with peace and hope.  They are a gift.  Lynn actually was my babysitter when I was a toddler.  Crazy, right?  

Coach pulled up and we all talked from 6 feet away on the sidewalk.  We were standing in the front yard of my dear friend, Becky, where I had stopped to say a distant 'hi' to as I walked along.  Becky and Godfather, who had never met, chatted away while Coach and I shared with Lynn some of what has been going on with Lad.

Later, Coach was like "So how does Becky know Godfather?"

Me:  "They didn't know each other."  Coach isn't wired that way - talking to new people nonstop.

The dealio:  As a kid Lad could not catch a break - (click link for details).  Between teachers and classmates, it was a bumpy ride.  Then he came home from school after being picked on and he pushed buttons of the little siblings.  My role in all of this, I am heartbroken to admit, is that I lost my shit with him on the regular.  Coach worked long hours and I had a gaggle of little kids who were constantly crying because Lad would knock down their lego towers, etc.  I did a lot of shouting and blaming and was generally frustrated with Lad.  He learned to take negative attention, and unfortunately I dished it out.

Other people, like coaches and grandparents, failed him.  My dad once asked Ed, "Why are you so skinny when Lad is so fat?"  My dad's solution to my regular frazzled state was that the kids needed a man to sit with us at the dinner table.  When Coach worked late my dad came over and sat at our dinner table.  After the fat comment was made (Lad was probably 6th grade when he was just shy of a major growth spurt and he was packing on the pounds - all temporary) at the dinner table while he THOUGHT he was helping me, I told him "I got this" and told him not to come back.  

Of course you remember the 'book' my dad wrote about his life a few Christmasesago.  He mentions each of his kids in the book and some of our challenges - why not focus on our successes?, well anyway - he pointed out Lad's ADD and then handed a copy to each family member and Lad raced out of the house sobbing.  So painful.

Lad at his art show in '08- water
color painting of Soldier's Field.
So, Lad's role in our family is that of a bully.  Hard cycle to break.  His siblings cringe anticipating he'll drive them nuts or start something.  He has had enough constant little traumas that he struggles in relationships.  Sabotages.  Thinks he isn't worthy.  It never helped that whatever Ed did as a kid turned into a success:  sports, friends, academics.  Even back then I recognized this and that is when I put Lad in swimming, so he had his own 'thing', and that was a positive.  I tried in other ways . .  .  

I enrolled Lad in an art class.  He was in 6th or 7th grade and he won an award for his painting of a duck.  He's an amazing artist.  What I'm trying to say is I tried.  I tried to find ways to celebrate his talents.  I got creative inviting over kids he knew from Irish music lessons to hang out with him when he was struggling with classmates.  Apparently, it was just not enough.

Curly was in a baby carrier sleeping,but here
 are the other hooligans at Lad's art
 show in '08.  Lad's wood duck
painting is the one next to the light
fixture with the orange ribbon. Feeling
 weird covering their sweet faces, because
 doubt anyone would ID them
 from this but old habits.
Chip's theory is all this gets better when Lad doesn't live with us.  He's essentially expecting us to hold tight until Lad can move out and then the tension can ease.  Coach and I are like, huh?  We want him to get help, so he can function in the real world.  His issues are not limited to our family circle.  We hope and pray that there is resolution within our family so that the relationships with the siblings and parents are repaired.

Lynn gave me some tips on active listening - pointed out some ways to try to hear him and how to understand how Lad sees things, experiences things, and how much of this is now about control.  She cannot treat Lad, or any of us.  Too close. Coach and I are leaning towards finding a therapist that will agree to take a more active role in resolving and repairing vs just dusting shit under the rug.  Lynn can probably recommend someone.  I also have a friend whose father is a child psychologist and she said he could give us some names.

The thought of 'starting over' is daunting and exhausting in an already exhausting situation.

Coach looked at me when we got back in the car after our bump-in with Lynn and Godfather.  "I don't think that was an accident.  We needed that and God arranged that."  I couldn't agree more.

We drove home across town.  All 6 kids were out playing volleyball.  Minutes later, fireworks.  Later Lad told us that he coaches Reg and Curly about how to improve their volleyball game.  They don't listen to him, but they WILL listen to Ed.   It doesn't matter that no one has asked for his input.  It should just be fun.  Apparently not the point.

Ed has confided in me that he no longer responds to Lad's little jabs and verbal nonsense.  Lad told Ed in the middle of the night the other night that he was going to beat the fuck out of him.

Yesterday Lad (who is almost 22!) snuck out of the house and hid in the garage to watch Reg play basketball.  After hearing the garage door close, I figured out Lad was not inside.  I knew how this would end:  he would physically push 14 yr old Reg around 'challenging' him to basketball or verbally abuse him as he tried to shoot hoops.  I called Reg back inside.

The other night in the middle of the night, Lad sent Coach and I a photo of a picture of the page in my dad's 'book' detailing Lad's ADD.  Not sure how to heal that scar, or the others for that matter.  

Lad's exams are this week.  I am wondering if this awful behavior spike we are experiencing is because of stress.  Or the fact that we have instructed all the kids not to respond to him and not to police him (eating in the family room, eating food I have reserved for an upcoming meal, etc.) and we are REALLY TRYING to keep things positive - is the fact that we are not feeding off of his explosive energy leaving him reeling?

No idea.  There are bad days and then there are just days.  Hoping you are not walking on eggshells in your in-home sentence.  Hoping that I didn't scare you off with how 'real' life is over here.  For me it feels unreal, honestly.  After growing up in a family full of favoritism and glossing over-ness, I worked so hard to try to raise happy kids who got along.  

Just a never-ending nightmare.  I appreciate you, my readers, my stuck-inside-my-computer friends, and I try to avoid writing about what is actually happening here in my prison so you agree to come back.  Sometimes writing about it does help, so thanks for being here.

This is longer than I intended too, sorry.  Next post will be shorter.  Promise.  


Suzanne said...

This all sounds so hard. I'm so sorry.

Ernie said...

Suzanne - thanks. I appreciate that. I like things to be sorted out. I can handle chaos, lots of it - in the form of clutter and last minute schedule changes and stacks of unsorted laundry and a jam packed fridge, but having a kid's emotional well-being fluctuate, and trying to protect the other members of the house from the ensuing nonsense is stressful and unnerving.

Anonymous said...

I have no words of wisdom for you, however I think it does sound like he should see a different therapist. Prayers and hugs for your entire family!

Anonymous said...

Vent away, we are all doing our best. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I enjoy reading your blog, thank you for keeping it real. I have 2 children with mental illness (not saying yours does, just what helps us), and use DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy). It works really well with children/adults that have tempers. The four modules: core mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.Even if it doesn't help for your son, it may help you and your other children's behavior toward hi. We use it with our other children.
Good luck, and know that there are definitely others out there in similar situations.
Big hug to you!!!

Charlie said...

Lad’s lucky to have such a supportive family, who aren’t giving up on him. Just take a day at a time Ernie. But don’t doubt your abilities as a parent, either now or back then. We are all just trying our best, but ultimately making it up as we go along. Sending hugs to you for being so brave to let us see your reality x

Anonymous said...

I'm in a similar situation. My husband and I have 4 kids in the house - 3 of them are my stepkids from his first marriage, and 1 together. My stepson has alienated everyone in the house with bullying, stealing from everyone, and worse. We have him in therapy, but he doesn't participate much in it. We tell the other kids not to engage him too. I often feel like it's a hostage situation at home, and we're the hostages. I'm not going to go into detail - this is already too long. Just wanted to let you know that you're not alone, and that it's not your fault. <3

Gigi said...

Oh sweetie - sending hugs. I can't even imagine how stressful life is for all of you right now.

JP said...

That’s so hard. I’m sorry.

Busy Bee Suz said...

I wish I could snap my fingers and make this better. My heart breaks for him and your family; he's in a vicious cycle (mostly in his brain) and it must be so difficult.

I believe you might need to talk to someone else too; he's an adult and this isn't the way an adult should be acting. MY biggest worry is that the longer he behaves like this, the more 'normal' it will feel for him. (I learned this from my Psych major daughter)

Does he take any medication for ADD? I wonder if perhaps he should take something or if he is, switch something? Feels to me like his brain is 'amped' up; constantly looking for a fight/action.

Please, never worry about what you need to 'talk' about, it's your blog and we all love your family.

Ernie said...

Anon 1 - thank you. Yes, I agree. I think this pandemic has really opened our eyes to what lies beneath, so while it is unpleasant, I am glad we are seeing things clearly.

Anon 2 - Thanks, I appreciate that. I so prefer to keep things light and fluffy, but man there are DAYS!

Anon 3 - Thanks for the suggestions, terms. If anyone is going to lose a temper here it is going to be your truly. I am not above the mental illness term. I do think he had lots of bad strokes, but I also think he is wired differently. I appreciate having those terms here for a reference.

Charlie - I agree - we ARE supportive (if not exhausted), thanks for noticing. I feel like my sister gave up on one of her daughters, and kind of think the rest of my family expects us to give up on Lad. Can I get an amen on the making it up as we go along? Until I wrote this I had forgotten about how I used to grab a kid that Lad enjoyed from music lessons who lived NO WHERE near us and they would spend the day together. Or I would host a cousin get together. I appreciate your kind words.

Anon 4 - How about the anonymous folks coming out of the woodwork today - ha! Welcome and thanks for commenting. I am so sorry to hear that about your home life. Sounds so unpleasant. Lad definitely goes in spurts. Today was a good day, but he is almost done with exams and I wonder if the stress clearing has made him less 'intense.' No comment is ever too long for me! Ed took a psych class last year and he was like, Lad is just made this way. Not your fault. I went to bat so many times for this kid, got in teachers' faces, called out parents with ass hole kids, and now I am the enemy. Thanks for sharing, I hope your situation is resolved.

Gigi - Thanks Gigi. Yes, stressful. I am really hoping that exams go well and then a weight is lifted. Four of them are super grouchy right now. Pleasant weather today and tomorrow helps. Big time. People can get out and move about.

JP - thanks so much. It is no cake walk. I hope and pray that we get him on the right path.

Suz - I wish your finger snapping worked too, believe me. I think the fact that he is willing to talk to someone is a good sign. He takes meds just to study. I worry that he has borderline personality disorder, but I have read that that is treatable. I so want treatable. I want my son back. He is not a bad kid, but it is like he has to hold it together for the world, but not at home. Not succeeding in holding it together in the world though, really. Struggles to get along with teammates and friends and roommates. Rough stuff. Thanks for your support, it is very appreciated.

Nicole MacPherson said...

I'm so sorry, it all sounds so hard. I agree with anon above, maybe a different therapist.

Kari said...

As a parent of a child with ADHD, I can understand some of this. But I think he needs to stay far the hell away from your dad. The things your dad has said about or to your son are mentally abusive. Maybe that is a tough pill to swallow but from what I have read, it is completely uncalled for. No child should feel shame for a disorder over which they have no control.

I am sorry for what you all are going through but I think getting a new therapist is key as well as what your friends said: he might thrive outside of your home. This is not to say YOU are the problem at all. But maybe all of you are triggers for him from past memories. Also, he needs to take accountability for his actions (Lad) because he is a grown man now.

Sending all of you love and hugs. If you need to talk, text me any time.

Ernie said...

Nicole - It is hard. As any mother, I just want the best for my son and despite all of this I still see his finer points. They are tough to focus on, but he is a great guy. He takes his last tests today for college. Hoping he graduates, but Coach and I discussed the next step this morning. Finding different therapy is top on the list.

Kari - I totally agree. Ironically my dad turns 80 today. We are supposed to go stand in his yard at 5:30. I know no other details because Ann not speaking to me. I will not make Lad go, but he might want to come to say 'hey' to some of his same age cousins. Even my dad's apology for the book thing was NO apology. I told Lad that too. I think the texting us the page in the book cropped up because of the big b-day today and we were discussing a gift we are making for him, since NOT doing the photo thing with Ann. His therapist is the one saying 'this all gets better when he moves out' - which might be true in the short term, but he clearly hates Ed because he feels competitive with him and I hope a therapist can help them heal. Yes, moving out gives everyone much needed space. but the kid NEEDS a job and who can find one of those right now? Yes -= take responsibility. For years I have asked him to please 'own it.' That 'shame' word has been mentioned by my friend Lynn and I agree, I have never thought people should be so damn secretive or judgmental about ADD it is out of their control. I appreciate your support and it helps to know I can reach out to you and that you 'get' the ADD thing. Thanks and hooray for the Chicago weather today, right?!

Beth Cotell said...

I appreciate you telling us what's going on. And I agree, many times just writing in down is helpful in processing your feelings.

I hope you guys can find the right counselor for this situation because I'm not sure just hoping for the best when he gets back into his apartment is the best thing - especially considering that's when the smoking started.

I feel for Lad and for you all. I hope and pray you guys can get some help and that you all can start healing. (((((hugs))))))

Bibliomama said...

You know, there are so many recognized disorders now that just didn't even have a vocabulary to describe them when our kids were small. It sounds like a lot of stuff was gasoline on a fire, but it's not remotely your fault (your dad sucks, but we've already kind of established that). I agree that Chip has to go (were we not quite there yet? How the fuck is "just get him out of the house and ignore him more and everything will be better" sound therapeutic advice? And I'm just gonna say it, Chip is a dumb name for a therapist. Is Chip his real name? If it's not, why wouldn't he use his real name in a professional capacity? If it is, what tf was his mother thinking? Perhaps I am focusing on the wrong thing here because I am ANNOYED WITH CHIP). Regardless, I am really, really sorry that this is making an already-stressful time that much harder, and you should feel free to blog about it as much as is helpful to you.

Ernie said...

Beth - I tend to be an 'open-book- type but I have to be more guarded with people in my world that I share this with. My family knows nothing of what we are dealing with. Obviously that makes the most sense.

His apartment is back in New York and he graduates from school in a week, so he has no apartment and no job which is a bummer because space might help BUT definitely need to get him better services. Lynn gave me 3 different places that she recommends. Two are a little far, so I am hoping the closest one will work. Also need to bridge the topic with him of 'hey, we think you need more intense treatment.' Nerve wracking. I appreciate your support. Really!

Ali - yes gasoline on a fire, exactly. I do think that his wiring is just different - his perspective of things has always been unique, so things impacted him differently. My dad turned 80 yesterday and we did a bday parade and then stood around on my folks' driveway from a distance. Lad skipped it and that was totally fine. Chip is NOT his real name, you crack me up. I suppose there is no real need to change his name, but I change all names on my blog. His real name is Dale. Get it- I changed it to Chip to make it easy for me to remember. I will now sit patiently and wait for my nutty neighbor Mary Ann to find my blog since I just shared lad's therapist's name. Hee hee. I appreciate you weighing in. I honeslty have felt a hell of a lot better with the support from all of my commenters. Lad has seemed like a totally different kid since he finished exams yesterday. Like someone flipped a switch. Far from perfect, but more approachable and less wiling to fight with a 14 yr old. Even if stress is a trigger, still needs to be addressed. And I am hopeful that he will be on board with a new therapist/approach, etc.