“I will not yell, I will not scream, I will not cry..” I saw that on a t-shirt one time with a punchline at the bottom that read… “because I am the teacher, I am the teacher, I am the teacher.” I think of this because right now I feel just like yelling, screaming, and crying… but not because I am a teacher. I don’t seem to have the same emotional responses to any behaviors in the classroom that I do at home. No, I am having these emotions because I am the mother, I am the mother, I am the mother.
I need to keep reminding myself that I am the mother so that I do not get swirled into a vortex where I come out on the other end as the peer or the sibling of this oppositional and willful child/man who is living in my house. So that I don’t say mean things to him just because he says mean things to me, so that my behaviors are not motivated by retribution but by loving and firm parenting and teaching.
I dreamed the other night about Alex. I dreamed that he was 2 and I was putting him into time-out. Even in my dream he was oppositional– getting up and running out of time out and mocking me with his facial expressions. In the dream, I keep putting him back into time-out and telling him that I am adding another 5 minutes to his time for his refusal to stay in time-out. The content of the dream is not the compelling factor, however, as much as the age he is in the dream that is telling. Alex is not two and it has been nearly 16 years since he was two years old. He will be 18 years old on May 12th of this very year. In 72 days, he will be technically an adult [he will be able to vote, purchase cigarettes, sign documents as an adult, and will be entitled to all sorts of other adult privileges]. I will also be technically absolved of parental responsibility. I will not be held liable if he makes poor choices, and I will not be required to support or even house him.
Of course, I this is all completely irrelevant since my child is completely dependent upon me. He does not have a driver’s license because he never really was interested in getting one enough to pursue it. He does not have a job, and has only held one summer job in his life [which he held for approximately 3 weeks]. He has not graduated from high school. He quit school and began an online high school program in which he has already been put on probation twice for not completing the required 12 hours a week. He is supposed to wash his own clothing, but he very rarely does. It just piles up in noxious piles in his room. He eats non-stop, but he does not wash his own dishes or even remove the dirty ones from his room unless reminded repeatedly or threatened.
This afternoon’s exchange went something like this:
Me: Alex, my house smells like cigarette smoke. You’ve been smoking in here again when I asked you to please not smoke inside this house.
Alex: No, I haven’t.
Me: Yes, you have. I can smell it.
Alex: No, I told you I haven’t.
Me: Why do you have a McDonald’s cup with ashes and butts floating in your coke from last night if you are not smoking in the computer room?
Alex: I don’t know.
Me: Do you think I am stupid?
Alex: [no response]
Me: Why do you tell me that you are not going to smoke in the house and then go ahead and do it anyway?
Alex: I don’t know.
Me: I need you to get that cup out of here and clean the ashes off the computer table and open the window and then spray in there.
His defense is that he is depressed. He says he cares about very little and I need to give him time. He says I am contributing to his predicament because I simply nag him constantly.. that I do not interact with him positively, but spend all of my time interacting with him telling him what he should be doing or scolding him about what he should have done but has not. He is tired of me and I am tired of him. We are at a stand-off or perhaps a crossroad.
Sometimes I write in order to make sense of my world, well, actually , often I do this. So, I have no pithy way to sum up this entry. I only have an overwhelming feeling of impotence in terms of how to help motivate him to move forward. I am not sure whether to go tough love on him or whether to be understanding as I shape his behavior using some sort of innovative behavior management techniques. I have no idea which way to proceed, and I am frankly tired. I want to hire someone else to come in here and do it. I want a miracle. I want my prayers to be answered faster than they are being answered.