Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Most people don’t understand what a cycling, raging, out of control argument is like.  I hear all the time that it is just normal teenage behavior.  But, what we experience is NOT normal teenage behavior. 

Here is another example of an irrational, blown out of proportion, disconnected thinking incident:

At some point in the last day or so, he had used my laptop and plugged his I-Pod into it.  He immediately needed to know where the I-Pod cord was.  He was adamant that I had unplugged it from my laptop when took it back out of his room and now I needed to tell him where I had put the cord.

I said, “Well, if it was in your room when I unplugged it, then the cord is in your room somewhere.  You will just have look for it.”

But, for my son, the cord did not exist since it was not in plain sight.  Since I was the one who  supposedly touched it and moved it, I should have been able to tell him where the blankety-blank cord was and it was my responsibility to find it. 

I said, “If you are going to get mad and swear at me for touching or moving things that you plug into my laptop, then you are no longer allowed to use my laptop.”

He charged up the stairs and told me that if I wanted to freak out and if I wanted to start something, then HE would start something right there, right then.  He was towering above me--raging at me within inches of my face because I wouldn’t admit to losing the cord and didn’t know where it was.  

Once again, he wouldn’t stop and went on and on about how I am not an adult and not a grown-up and that I can’t even admit when I have done something wrong.  He went on to say that he sure as he** wasn’t going to school the next day without his f-ing I-Pod because the I-Pod is the only thing that gets him through school.

I had to call my husband and give him our “meltdown” code phrase (“the cat sat on the headphones”) so that he would know things were getting out of control and that he needed to come home as soon as possible. 

( Once, my son went into his room, stepped on his X-Box headphones and broke them.  Because he can’t accept that anything is ever his fault, he got upset and screamed at me that my cat had gone into his room and sat on his headphones and had broken them.  And, since, it was the cat’s fault, I was responsible to buy him new headphones.   It was so ludicrous to me that the cat had broken the headphones, that I made the mistake of laughing at how ridiculous he was being.  He got so mad that I had to leave the house to get away from him).    

The missing I-Pod cord was one of those “cat sat on the headphones” incidents.

Rather than look for it himself, he stood there and yelled at me, blamed me, accused me, and belittled me. 

I went into his room, looked all over the floor, under piles of clothes, and garbage and didn’t see it.  All the while he hadn't stopped ranting and raging.  I stood up and looked at the top of his dresser and moved the beanie hat that HE put on his dresser when he took it off his head--and the I-Pod cord was underneath it. 

And, maybe, I placed the cord on his dresser.  Or possibly, he did.  Maybe the leprechauns put it there.  But, HE put the beanie cap on it.  He obscured it from view.  He could not lift up a hat to see if there was anything underneath it.  And, yet he still would not concede that he should have been able to find that cord himself.  

He continued yelling at me that I needed to admit that it was my fault for not knowing where I had put the cord. 

At this point, I had had enough.  I resorted to yelling back at him that I was done talking about it!  But, because he was in a raging cycle and raring for the fight, next, he started in on me for being yelled at.  He said that I am always yelling at him.  I don’t yell at him as much as he thinks I do, but to him, anytime that I change my tone, tell him no, or won’t/can’t do what he wants me to do, it is yelling. 

Even though, he was the one doing the yelling and blowing everything out of proportion.

And so it goes again:

Another night, he went back to the fact that he didn’t have access to Skype.  He wanted to be able to talk to a friend while playing a game.  I would have liked to have been able to let him have that privilege, but he had not done anything to earn it back.

He played computer games and the X-Box all the time.  He didn’t keep his room clean.  He didn’t do any chores.  He didn’t talk to us unless he wanted something.  And with the constant raging about anything that did not go his way almost every single day, he was not going to get Skype back.

That night, in the battle that ensued, he threatened us that if we didn’t give him what he wanted, then we were not going to like the consequences.

As if threatening us was going to get him what he wanted. 

So, I went into the office, unplugged the router cord that goes upstairs to his X-Box and locked the door to the office and said, “You are grounded from the X-Box and the computer for two days.”  (This was the maximum amount of time that the psych-therapist told us we could reasonably ground him from things).

His response to that was that we don’t give a f*** about him, that we are trying to ruin his life, that we make him live with us and we don’t do anything for him.  He got very abusive and screamed terrible things about my husband right in his face.  

Two minutes later, he decided to change tactics and requested to be able to talk to me in private saying that he wanted to apologize for how he had been acting and to discuss the parental controls of Skype like adults.  I said I was sorry, but that there really was nothing to discuss. "Five minutes ago, you said that I didn’t give a f*** about you and therefore, I am not really interested in talking to you at the moment."  He wouldn’t listen when I told him that my not wanting to have a discussion with him was a consequence of how he had been acting and he began swearing at me, again, telling me that I was a jerk for not letting him apologize. 

As my husband intervened, taking the brunt of the hateful behavior on himself, instead of letting it all rest on me, he was told was again, by my son, that he never wants to talk to him again his life.

Later, as we talked alone about what had happened, I said, “Even if I had done the validating thing that we have been taught to do so many times, and had said, ‘I know it must be hard for you not to have Skype like you want and I know you really want it, and I am sure you have a hard time understanding why we aren’t going to unblock it…..etc.’, he would have yelled and f-bombed and everything else because he STILL wasn’t getting his way.

I am so tired of this.  Things will go smoothly for a day or maybe even two, and then something sets him off and everything hits the fan.  He reminds us that we are terrible parents, that he hates living with us, hates how stubborn we are, and hates that WE are the reason he has to listen to what a judge thinks because we are always calling the police on him. 

There doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.

I don’t want to be in the tunnel anymore.

I am tired of the darkness.

Around and Around

Toward the end of the first week that he was back in school, we had this conversation:

I said, “I just found out that school starts at 8:30 on Fridays.”

“Well, for me, it is going to start an hour and a half later because I am not going to my painting class anymore.”

I said, “You can’t just NOT go to your painting class.  If you don’t want to take that class you need to have the counselor move you to a different class.”

“You know what?  I am really going to just drop out.  As soon as I get done with court on Tuesday, I am not going to school anymore.  It is pointless.  I can’t graduate.  Going to school is a complete waste of time.”

I said, “Go to school now.  Pass 4th quarter and all of your senior year.  Do packets and then when graduation time comes, you’ll probably only be about 6 credits behind.  If you immediately go to the Adult High School, you can probably get your diploma quickly.  You’ll have the rest of the high school experience and a high school diploma, too.”

“I just want to quit school.  I’ll get my GED sometime if I decide to.  I want to work and get money for my band.”

I said, “Employers are more likely to hire you if you are in school.  They might not think you have much commitment towards a job, if you couldn’t stay committed to school.”

“What are you going to do – call everyone that I apply with and tell them that I am not in school?”

I said, “In your interview, you will have to answer their questions honestly.  If they find out that you lied, they will probably fire you.”

“Are you going to tell the judge on Tuesday that I am planning on dropping out of school?”

I said, “I will answer all of the questions that I am asked honestly.”

“You just go ahead and make my life worse than it is and tell the judge that I said that.  Because that is what you like to do—ruin my life.”

It seems like every interaction and conversation just goes around and around like that.

Even after he went to court and was given his sentence, he was not immediately concerned about anything that was said, except for the part that dealt with school.  He started an argument with us as we left the courthouse because we asked the probation officer to clarify the school stipulation so that there wasn’t any confusion that would lead to arguments.

This was his sentence:
95 hours of community service completed in 60 days.  (Therapy and AA meeting hours would count).
No drivers license for 1 year
5 days in detention, suspended
Drug and alcohol counseling 
Individual counseling
Meds as prescribed
Comply w/ DCFS
Reside at home
Screened friends
Fully participate in education program
No drugs/alcohol or associates who use
No violence or threats of violence
Random drug tests

The probation officer gave this clarification about fully participating in an education program: 

“Your will stay in school until you can provide me with information on another educational alternative that the court will approve of.  You need to come up with this alternative plan within one week.”

As soon as we were in the parking lot of the court house, the f-bombs began flying and he took all his anger about the situation out on us and said, “Thanks a lot for asking him that!  Now I can’t f-ing drop out of school!” 

For days on end after that,  there were tirades about parental controls on the computer, about bedtimes, about anything that he wanted that he couldn’t have, and of course, tirades about school.  Nothing that we did or said made him happy or was satisfactory to him in any way.

The situation in our home was intolerable and we didn’t know what to do about it.

DCFS was supposed to be helping us with this, but when we had our weekly visits, we didn’t even dare tell the therapist how it was honestly going because of the verbal retaliation we would get after he left.

I e-mailed this letter to him after the next home visit:

“Thanks for volunteering to go the school counselor appointment tomorrow.

I don't know if you felt any vibes when you walked in the door today or not, be we were having a "discussion" before you arrived and he wasn't being very nice. But, I knew that if I said anything to you about it that, it would just get worse after you left.

When we left the courthouse last week, we had just barely walked out of the building before he was f-bombing us about how we had no right to make the probation officer say that he had to stay in school until he came up with a plan that was acceptable to the court for his education. He was planning on dropping out of school the next day and was so mad when we made sure that it was clarified that he had to keep going.  We told him we were just trying to make sure he didn't burn his bridges at the high school before he found out whether he had to keep going to school there or not.  But, he was livid with us.

He took most of it out on my husband and said that he wasn't his dad anymore and that he never wanted to speak to him again.

Today, after school, before you came, he turned on the computer, then came running to me and said that a new update came out today for Starcraft and that if he buys it this week, it is only $30.00 and he wanted me to loan him $30.00 right then.

I didn’t want to loan him any more money.  It’s one thing to do nice things for your child when they are behaving and acting decently toward you.  I just can’t do it when he treats me the way he does. 

He gets so mad, if I don't give him what he wants, when he wants it. So when I told him I had to think about it, he was ready to fight to the death to get me to let him have the money right then.

He was badgering me and badgering me to tell him exactly when I would let him know if he could have the money because he had to get the update this week or the price was going to go up to $60.00 and that it was stupid for me to want him to have to pay $60.00.

I said that it had nothing to do with my intelligence, it had to do with the fact that I either wanted to lend him the money or not and that the ruder he was to me, the less I wanted to let him have the money. He said that if I wasn't going to give him the money, he had to get a backup plan before the end of the week and I told him to get a backup plan while I was thinking about it. He said that the only backup plan he had was to steal the money and that was why he was not going to give up until I gave in.

At this point, he was starting to get irrational, and told ME that I needed to act like a grown-up, because parents are supposed to want to make their kids happy. He declared that I had taken everything away from him that makes him happy and now I wanted to take Starcraft away from him too.

What have I taken away? He has his X-Box and he can hang out with certain friends, if he wants to. His example was that I blocked Skype on the computer and he says he needs Skype to be able to do live podcasting to people about how to play Starcraft.

I told him that the things that he has had taken away from him have been the consequences of his own behavior. For instance, he was looking at porn on the computer, so I blocked everything that I could to stop him from doing things he shouldn't do online.

He does not have any understanding that consequences are a result of HIS actions. In his mind, all consequences are someone else's fault. 

I don't even have a problem with giving him money every now and then to get the things that he needs or wants, but I do have a problem with him demanding that I do it, with him belittling me and being rude to me to try to get what he wants.

As far as school goes, he thinks he will be able to drop out when the next school year starts because he will be off probation by then.  He isn't serious about wanting to earn credits or get an education. And as you can see, no matter what we say, or how we try to explain how it is important for him to do it now, he won't listen.

He doesn't even listen to his sponsor (who struggled with addiction well into his 30's).  He has been through it all, can give great advice, and knows how important getting an education is.  Even though he has been successful enough in his dad's financial planning business to open his own men's sober living house, he is going to night school, too.  He wants to get his degree and is paying the price by going to night school, now.  

At the beginning of the sophomore year, his sponsor encouraged him to get his diploma and even offered to give him a big fat check and a car after he graduated. At that time, our son was excited about it and wanted to do packets and everything he could to graduate early.

Three months later, he lost his motivation and we are where we are right now with his attitude about school.

I know school is a struggle for him and I know that if he could do it on his own, through self motivation, and desire to succeed, it would be awesome. But, he doesn't have the motivation and even his plan to enroll in school online is just a game that he is playing to make it look like he is complying with the educational plan.

No matter what anyone decrees, or says, or does, he is going to show all of us that he doesn't have to do anything that is expected and that he is going to do whatever he wants to do.  

Thank you for all of your help.  As you can see, we need it.”
This was the therapist’s report to the probation officer, following the counselor's appointment:

“He did not appear particularly interested in his options. He repeatedly stated he plans to drop out of school in 5 months when he believes court jurisdiction will be terminated. His motivation to pursue an education is quite low despite the fact he could reasonably graduate on time with significant effort. Family relations are strained and he appears intransigent to problem solve when options do not include affording him the opportunity to do exactly what he wants to do.
At this point I would not support him engaging in schooling options that would afford him with less structure, support, and services. I believe that he has the best opportunity to be successful at the high school, if not a Day Treatment type setting.
I am hoping that through the provision of individual counseling he can become a customer and find some motivation to address his needs. I will meet with the family next week to further discuss options, expectations, and his thinking about school.”

This was my son’s report to me after the meeting:  “I am f***** until I can drop out in 5 months. I would have done credit recovery on my own at home if the judicial system hadn't f****** up my life.”

He said he would do packets in his CARES class, but that he wouldn’t do anything to pass his other classes. I said, "Why won't you do what you have to do to pass?" And he said, "I CAN'T pass!  Where have you been the last 5 years?"

For the last five years, I have been helping and pushing and believing and trying to make sure he would and could do everything that he had to.  I know he can do anything that he sets his mind to, so, why would I not think he could pass his classes? He is very intelligent and retains almost everything he hears and can quote it all back word for word.  

Of course I believed he could succeed.

But, not much could happen if only one of us believed that. 

Around and around we go.