Monday, December 28, 2009
When the strongest one in the family can no longer carry all of the burdens, it is critical that another person carries at least part of the load. If no one steps up or is able to, the center falls apart, and this family is no more.
Sometimes that second person in the family need only to carry themselves.
Such has been the case with my son, Xavier, the past weekend. Each day he gets ups, presses a white shirt and puts on a tie. Then he seeks employment.
I have scared the hell out of my son. He thinks the odds are high that we're moving to a shelter 'cause Mama is broke. It's the only way I could wake his azz up. I'll be financially hurting like crazy if and when I pay for boxes, bubble wrap, tape, a moving company, and a deposit on yet another place to live, but I'm pretty sure the County will offer some assistance.
Yesterday evening, he spoke not as a spoiled, entitled brat without a care in a world or regard to my suffering, but as one who is trying to fit his feet into adult shoes.
"Ma," Xavier said as he watched me throw away things I don't need nor want to take when we eventually leave, "I can't believe this is happening, but I know that God will see us through this. Keep your faith."
"My faith ain't gone nowhere," I replied, thinking that for a lifetime he has depended too much and exclusively on me. If he thinks God will make it just as easy on him now, he's got a major wake up call coming.
He nodded, then said, "I've been looking at my ID card several times a day... I look at my birthday on it to remind me that I'm 21. That means I'm grown. I have to get a job and be able to take care of myself."
What an odd way of dealing with reality, I thought. Instead, I said, "That's true. Good luck."
He said other stuff, but that's the highlight I remember most. He was parroting back many of the common sense things that I and others have said to him the past several years.
My danger of actually hearing him talk the talk and seeing him take action, is that it has me entertaining the idea that he will evolve into the kind of person who operates best under extreme pressure.
Years ago I had vision of him working in a rescue type job, maybe as a medic, fireman, or good soldier. He still might end up on a path like that. Who knows?
Meanwhile, I fight my codependent urge to take him with us where ever we go. It's a battle I silently fight several times a day. The thought will creep into my mind: "See, he's growing up and better already. Dressing up and actually looking for work. Talking to me with respect, not like an ungrateful and appallingly selfish teenager."
And then I recognize the trap of this thinking. It's crystal clear when I see it in others. It has been my blindspot in loving and nurturing my son, to both his detriment and my own. He's like a plant that I have over-watered. If ever there was a time that he does not need to be rescued, that time is now.
My enabling thoughts hit me hardest early yesterday afternoon. My daughter Cassie and I snuck off to see a new house for rent. The man who owns it is a contractor, bought it for what had to be one of the greatest deals in the area, and renovated it. The place is knock-dead gorgeous, spacious, and located a block from the Metro.
If I sublet to a professional who paid his or rent on time, we could afford it. That's a big "if", in times when people are being laid off in droves and can't find work. I live in Maryland, just outside of DC, and even my friends married to lawyers or have one who just graduated law or business school are in distress that their loved ones are out of work.
And then the self-destructive thought based on wishful thinking snuck into my mind:
I could sublet to my son! It could work, I delude myself for a few minutes, because if Xavier was 100% determined to get and keep a job and not relapse again and not get disrespectful and abusive and clean up after himself and not bring home questionable friends when we're not there and and and...
He has no track record to suggest he could pull that off, and I'd be in a deeper financial and emotional hole than I am now.
I'd also be a piss poor role model for my 14 year old daughter. I can just see this whole cycle repeating itself ten or twenty years from now. She'd could end up with a deadbeat boyfriend, husband, son or daughter whom she enables to remain dysfunctional, and she'd be good at it because she would have learned how to do this from me.
No, I pray silently to myself when moments like these strike. God, please help me stay strong, to not fear that he will perceive my moving on as abandonment, and as a result, succeeds in yet another suicide attempt.
I haven't decided if Xavier's baby-on-the-way is another wild card that is a blessing in disguise. His girlfriend confirmed it the other day. She is most definitely pregnant - and not two months, but nearly three and now just barely showing. I can almost feel the life inside of her.
He has got to get his shit together or he'll lose her for sure. She has zero plans to abort it, and is waiting until she's a little bit further along so her parents won't pressure her to do so. If Xavier plays his cards right, he'll be working, self-sufficient, and marry in the spring when she turns 18.
Damn, but my family situation is sounding more ghetto by the minute. It's almost funny. Almost.
All we need now is me succumbing to stupidity and letting Xavier move in with me wherever I go next, then his girl getting kicked out and him bringing her and their baby home, followed by him getting locked up over some Mickey Mouse marijuana charge, and the picture will be complete.
I ask myself, how in the hell did even this much happen to me?
Yeah, one answer: from a social systems point of view, my son wasn't an infant when I adopted him. He came with tons of emotional baggage from a mother on drugs who had few resources, followed by neglect in two foster homes, then spotty services in the school and mental health systems. I'm fairly convinced he would not have all these issues had I adopted him as an infant.
On the other hand, you never know. Even educated and stable people produce children who have emotional and mental vulnerabilities, i.e. learning disabilities, mood disorders, and alcohol and substance abuse problems. You get what you get and you deal with it.
Meanwhile, the exploitative, potentially violent and manic landlord in the basement has been quiet as mouse. He's hardly been here. I have no idea whether my telling him in writing on the 23rd that I went to the police about his threats has made him back off, or if he's still a time bomb waiting to go off again.
As I said in the comment section of my last post, he is the problem in my life that came out of left field.
That's alright; God is control of this game... and I fight the urge to choke up now with sentimentality as I think, God surely wants us to win.
Maybe not in the way I would like, but in a way that will free me from prolonging the agony of parenting a grown-azz, immature young adult, from my son remaining a child, and my daughter from subconsciously learning that it's okay to tolerate chronic dependency, being taken for granted, and sucking up disrespect from others, even when it's from family.
And pride is an issue. I have too much and have only shared what we're going through with family and one close friend. As I have talked with other friends over the holidays, I listen to what they've been up to and plan for movie dates and a party. They have no idea what I've been going through.
It's kind of weird being competent and strong all my life, only to have things fall apart now. I'm not sure if my need to be doing fine or at least give the appearance of being so, is a good or bad thing. This is very fairly common in my family and social circle. We're all high achievers. We're stoic. It's like we rarely reveal hardships until after a storm of life blows over, and the damage has been cleaned up, that we share that we've even been in a storm. Nearly all of us work in helping professions, too.
I have to think about this value system more, where helpers hate needing help and become so embarrassed when they do. On one hand it makes you utterly self-sufficient and independent, but on the other hand, it slows down the problem-solving and healing process because you've walled off some of best resources with secrecy.
I hope that your having a peak inside my life helps many of you struggling with your own problems. Your comments and the few emails I received, even the most critical, have been enormously helpful in me not feeling so alone, and in staying on this very hard path. Thank you.
Posted by Kit (Keep It Trill) at 7:30 AM