Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snow As A Metaphor
For Troubled Relationships

Have you ever been right, and everyone knew you were right, but still, something wasn't quite right?

Like, you're stuck in the snow, and you spin your wheels, they don't do a thing to free you, so you roll up your sleeves, get out the shovel and sand, and finally, movement.

What about the snow's perspective?

"Hey, I don't really want to be stuck to you. It just happened, and I'm just being me," Snow says. "So ain't I right, too?"

"But I'm entrapped," I say. "And you're so cold in a blizzard that it endangers my survival."

"Yeah," he agrees, "but I'm fun and playful and make you laugh. You know this, and you also know I get too deep and cold sometimes, which makes me unbearable to you. This is how God made me and you know this. Because of this, you ain't one hundred percent right."

I hold my head down in shame; what Snow says is true. We have a love-hate relationship.

"I have to move on, Snow. I'm sorry. If I stay, I will freeze to death. Where I'm going, it's warm, and if you follow me, you will melt."

"You want me to die? I'll die if you want me to, you know I will. A piece of me dies every time you misunderstand my coldness and reject me, and you turn up the heat with your anger."

"I know," I say sadly. "But no, I don't want you to die. I love you."

"I love you too."


This is the heart and soul of many troubled relationships, including the one I have with my young adult son. One person acts in ways that are as unpredictable as the weather. They may be, or at least seem, relentlessly cold and stormy at times. They are the way they are because that is how God made them, or because their ideal environment is not living with you.

And because of that, you're not 100% right.

We tell others about those blizzards or storms, and they say, "You're so right to get the hell out of there."

Even Snow knows this, and some part of him (or her) yearns to leave too, to be free, to be.


I could not be completely free and neither could my son until I freed myself from fear of his safety as an adult, and my ambivalence in believing he can survive.

You can't have it both ways: living like a car stuck in the snow and being able to drive with so much of it surrounding it.

"Can't deal with your disrespect any longer," I said in January. "I'm moving at the first opportunity."

Xavier began watching me dig myself out... my going on job interviews to get that full time job and good salary to free myself. He pretended not to notice when I ignored his dark moods and statements to bait me, like, "Don't worry about me, I won't be around much longer."

For those of you who do not know, he's been a long time expert at making suicide threats and attempts (or messing up or breaking up your stuff) to avoid both responsibility and abandonment.

Digging myself out, one day at a time. Digging out years of snow impacted around my metaphorical car. Digging out of debt, because not having enough money can keep you trapped in a baaaad situation.

Then, finally, he began to dig himself out.

He got back his old job. He doesn't know that I begged his old boss in person to give him another chance.

He does know why I applied for him to get to SSI for his emotional disability - "It's a safety net for you," I told him, "so that when I'm gone, you'll have a little money and medical insurance if you try to kill yourself again. You'll need that since I won't be around."

"Then I won't go," he said angrily.

"I don't need you to," I replied dryly.

And I went and he watched me go to SSI, as though he were watching me dig myself out.

"Sign this," I said when I returned.

"What if I don't?"

"It's your safety net. Take it or leave it."

He signed.

Both methodically and gently, the snow is being moved next to my metaphorical car where it is safe but won't hinder my movement, i.e. my life.

Next step: a bank account.

"Why are we here?", he asks impatiently.

"Adulthood isn't complete without a bank account," I answer.

I have him open a checking account and give him $25 for a deposit. I told the bank lady to not issue him a debit card. His credit is bad from two past cell phone disaster plans, so that's not even an issue.

I say outside the bank, "Any money from SSI, if they approve you, will automatically come here. Probably won't be much if you're working. If you choose to be wise, you will avoid getting a debit card since you had trouble keeping track of how much you spent with the last one, and use this account only to write checks for your rent when you get a room. You can also cash your paychecks here. I strongly suggest you pay everything except rent by cash, that way you'll hold on to your money a lot longer."

This was painful to the Snow; he knew this act was yet another sign of me digging out. When we parted, he walked to a friend's house rather than accepting a ride or returning home.

Two weeks had gone by before I realized his disrespect and the drinking had become sporatic, then stopped.

Another week went by before I realized that the Snow, aka my son, was was less sad or angry. I had seen signs of calmness, but it didn't really register until I accidentally saw two videos he made for his Facebook.

He sang his heart out, doing the kind of jazz that John Legend might sing and nearly as well, on two songs he'd written himself. Remarkable, because he's usually doing hardcore gangsta raps.

Apprehensively, I entered his bedroom. He laid in the dark even though it was only 6PM, and I could see the depression emanating from his slim body. His drama-prone girlfriend recently "discovered" she's not pregnant - if she ever was - and the two sorta broke up.


"What?", he answered, sounding irritable.

"I don't know if I should say this, but I heard your music and watched you perform in your videos. I think you found your niche. It's fabulous. Somewhere right down the street in DC, there's a small jazz club that I'll bet would love to have you."

I paused, then said, "But, what do I know? I'm easy to please and your mother. Still... your talent is a gift from God, maybe to compensate for your problems. I hope for your sake you keep using it."

He grunted, I left.

Minutes later, he was up, on the computer, and writing another song and singing again. My heart smiled.

This manchild's moods are so hot they're cold, like snow, and he can hit you with a blizzard of problems. At the same time, I've always said on this blog how much fun he is and can be. He's like sledding in the snow.

We used to do this a lot when he was little, before my daughter came into our lives; they're seven years apart. Sometimes I'd wake him up at two in the morning. We'd bring the dog and sled for an hour, come back home, and I'd put him to bed. We had two, an inflatable tire kind and a disc. They were great! A few hours later he'd be in class, and so excited that he got to sled, especially if it had melted before school let out.

As I been freeing myself and remaining psychologically free, one day at a time, he's began to copycat me, and slowly figure out that he doesn't need me.

This is a milestone for him, and a necessary transition for anyone striving for real adulthood, because adults are generally resentful when they need someone else to survive, and have to play by that person's rules or at least make compromises, no matter how reasonable.

Tonight (well, technically it's now after midnight) I am stuck home because of the real blizzard that hit our area. Around noon, for the first time in his life, Xavier shoveled our walkway without being asked and went out to shovel show to earn extra money, then returned this evening and shoveled the last snowflakes from the storm.

It didn't occur to him to remove the snow surrounding my car. As they say in therapy circles, there are no accidents in life. This is sometimes true.

Still, I wonder if maybe he didn't because he's tired and I really have nowhere to go tomorrow, or if it's because even the main roads are empty and nearly everything is closed, or because he knows I actually like being out in the snow and don't mind doing this myself...

Or maybe it's an unconscious knowledge that it's something I have to do for myself... unconscious because he hasn't heard a word from me about "digging out" or using snow as a metaphor for our situation. If it's the latter, he either knows I need to do this for myself, or he's still feeling some ambivalence about me driving off into the sunset.

Whatever the reason, Xavier was happy over his fatter wallet, and he had me laughing at his jokes just before he left.

I watched him from my window, walking in the middle of our winterland street to the home of a friend who lives a mile away. Tonight he walked like a man who is comfortable with himself - and with the snow.

He and the snow are one, and in my heart at least, my car is unstuck.


  1. Wow, that is great, Kit. I hope things keep getting better for all of you. There's nothing healthier for a young person (or any person, for that matter) than earning their self-respect and independence. Maybe the false pregnancy thing was a sign that he actually has a chance to make the best of himself, without being burdened by responsibilities he's not ready for.

  2. Yet another insightful, thought-provoking post, Kit. Your love and concern for Xavier is undeniable. As you mentioned, there are no accidents, your commitment to Xavier during the ups and downs is a testament to the reason we're often connected to others for a much deeper reason. Your efforts are not overlooked or forgotten.

  3. Marianne, I'm not sure what to think about the false pregnancy issue; the whole story might have a whopper of a lie back during Thanksgiving, if you recall, to justify his relapse. I am none the less thankful for it, because his abysmal behavior made me detach from him. This was something we both needed.

    Curvy Girl, It is love, but a different kind of love - a healthier one grounded in a reality of who he is at this stage in his life, and one for myself. Most importantly, I think, it's a love for myself, with enough compassion for him to provide him with some safety nets before this nest is dismantled and I move on to make another for my youngest and myself. He'll be fine if he chooses to be so.

  4. Kit let me say this as a full time father who has been-there-done-that with what you and your son are going through. I can tell you that as a mother, your natural maternal instinct is to stay there and fight it no matter how tough it may be. But as I told my former wife,(we're still great friends even after the break up)when we were going through a similar thing with our daughter, at some time you have to let go no matter how hard it may be; for your OWN SOUL'S SAKE. You can't take yourself to hell with him if that's his destiny and G-d Knows Best.
    As a student of scripture I would invite you to consider the story of the Prophet Noah and his wayward son. In that story one finds a powerful teachable moment. Believe I and my former wife went through the EXACT SAME THING with our then wayward daughter. She had to fall to rock bottom and be taught a valuable lesson before she got her life together. I suggest the same thing must happen to your son. He's using you and he knows how to push your buttons. Your steps toward your soul's liberation is the very thing that you both need to move forward.
    Take it from one whose been there.
    Peace and Security

  5. This is an excellent read KIT; and I really like your snow metaphor. It is what it is.

  6. Abdul, Thank you so much for caring and sharing you story. I draw strength from these and they're inspirational. I agree with what you said 100%, and am methodically planning my gettaway (digging out) as humanely possible for him. I envision a soon to be future where he'll be independent; he can make this hard for himself or easy, but my job ends very soon.

    I realize there will be ups and downs and drama until this day comes, as it inevitably must for me to save my own soul, as you said so nicely. Again, thank you, and tonight I'll read about Noah again, but this time focusing on how he dealt with his pain in the ass kid.

  7. Reggie, Thanks! Being surrounded by mountains of snow and having a propensity for learning through nature, this one came easy. :)

  8. I'm so happy that things are finally starting to work out for you. You're a great example of resilience and determination in the face of adversity. I'm beginning to find out myself that sometimes, refusing to save someone is the best form of help you can give them. Peace & blessings to you and your family!

  9. Brownbelle, thank you, but...
    it's not a clear cut case of refusing to save him, because I am throwing some final life lines and building safety nets around him so he can save himself and be prepared for adult independence.

    Most parents do this to varying degrees, but comes down to tough love for the dysfunctional adult child or becoming dysfunctional yourself.


    With help from family, friends, and readers, and of course, God, at least I know I've done all I can. Hopefully there will be a happy ending and I can look back on these posts a year from now and smile.

    Tough love doesn't always have happy endings though; I've heard of so many cases where the kid ended up dead, diseased, strung out on crack, in jail, etc.

    I've also seen parents lose the quality of their lives by not enforcing tough love. Here's a quick story of my mom. When I first adopted Xavier, I'd ask my mother too often to babysit.

    Finally, one day she said, "Pretend I'm dead."


    "Pretend I'm dead. I raised my kids, it's your turn to raise yours. Find a babysitter and just use me as a backup in real emergencies."

    She said it with a smile, but she was serious. I'm chuckling now. She was a great woman and not a week goes by that I don't miss her.

  10. Thank you for sharing this Kit. Beautiful writing, and beautiful love and caring for your son. It's all very inspirational, and it's also great to hear that things might finally be going better with Xavier, for both of you.

  11. Man it was a pleasure to read this.

    I'm happy for you and for Xavier. Happy that he's making this progress while you're around to see it because I know that's got to give you some joy. :)

  12. Macon D and A. Smith, Thanks for the compliments on my writing, I appreciate that.

    My prognosis for my son's ability to make it in this world remains guarded. My prognosis for me to have reasonable peace and happiness with him living with me is nil. Thus, self-preservation trumps love.

    It's waaaay to early to call this a happy ending or success case, 'cause my kid has suckered me before a million times. Not this time.

    Can't wait for tomorrow. Got a BIG job interview if the snow doesn't cancel it - and my car is dug out.

    I was outside, shoveling snow away from it, determined as can be, and along comes this nice guy my age from the Caribbean and offered a hand. Call me superstitious, but I suspect this is a good sign!

    Right now I'm chuckling, because Xavier refused to help me. He stayed true to character and said he didn't feel like it. He could have earned cash today for himself working for others but didn't. It is this exact kind of behavior that gives me a clear picture of his future. My digging out today gives me a clear picture of mine. Amen.

  13. Really happy to read this.

    God is real.

  14. I'm a sucka for a good metaphor with different levels so I'm really feeling this. Great post and I'm glad that you and your son is making progress in your situation. I'm very happy to read this.

    Oh yeah, and ain't nothing wrong with gansta!

  15. Big Man, Yes, God is real, and getting me through this. Him too, I hope.

    Monk, Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed the metaphors. Love those since my days of reading Aesop's Fables.

    *laughing* You know I like all kinds of music, including gangsta rap. Just had said this because I don't feel it's healthy for people with a certain mindset to fixate only on that genre, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him doing something else.

    Otherwise, folks, I'm ticked off. Yesterday my interview was canceled b/c of more expected snow, which didn't even start until late afternoon. Two back to back blizzards in this area is historic... well, at least the power hasn't gone out.

  16. I am so glad to read these and see change happening. I think you guys are going to be alright but its a journey.

  17. "I have to move on, Snow. I'm sorry. If I stay, I will freeze to death. Where I'm going, it's warm, and if you follow me, you will melt."

    That right there. I feel so understood right now. Uhh!


  18. Buttafly, I knew my metaphor would hit the target for a number of people in tough relationships. Thank you for letting me know.

    BGIM, *chuckles*
    Yes indeed, parenthood is a journey, and after many unexpected twists and turns, I'm determined it won't lead me to a dead end road.

  19. Kitt,
    I could read your thoughts all day. This was a wonderful post. Just wonderful. Let me stop there beore I get all emotional. I don't want to break any more man-laws.... LOL

  20. Kit, this is a wonderful metaphor. But what struck me was that he left your car piled up because he didn't want you to be in an unsafe situation, such as out on those roads. so maybe that is also a sign of progress.

    I had been wondering how you were doing in the blizzards. it's not been fun but we've survived. Hope your power continued to hold out.

  21. Red, *hugs*

    Laurel, These two back-to-back blizzards have been amazing... as in amazingly inconvenient! It's not like I needed to lose a dime of income, and having a job interview canceled was truly a drag.

    As for him being considerate? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

  22. KIT,
    Great post,

    Its good that Xavier is showing progress and making the necessary steps to adulthood. Lord willing, he'll be able to continue on his own.

    Either way, you've done everything possible that you can do.

    The agent of change resides inside of Xavier and it will be him who decides where his life headed.


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