I am having a problem and do not know what I should do:
Dalton is living in a “box.” He is staying in his room with the door shut all day and on into the night; spending too much time alone in his room on his computer. And then he stays up all hours of the night and sleeps half the day. It has become an unpleasant cycle. I know he is unhappy with our move – feels “home sick” and probably also feels isolated and somewhat depressed. This is not good for him; his circadian rhythm is a mess, he isn’t eating regularly or well, nor is he getting enough fresh air and exercise.
I do not think he is happy; I am told that he may have himself trapped in a situation he does not have control over and most likely cannot regulate his own computer use. He says he’s fine, though, and argues with me when I talk to him about it. And he refuses to entertain the idea of turning off the computer at midnight and going to bed. (And what do I expect – he is nearly 13!)
But I am feeling completely lost. And, unfortunately, my inclination is to want to ignore it, run away, and hope it takes care of itself. And I feel stupid and guilty; discouraged and depressed and anxious.
And it appears there is another problem here: I feel that Cherie is anxious and disappointed in how I am dealing (or not dealing) with this situation. I am feeling accountable to her, and very confused. Obviously, my sister wants nothing more than to help; she is aware of the differences between us – and the particular challenges I have in certain areas. She feels that I am not handling this situation at all, although it is causing me distress; she does not understand and is concerned.
I know that I have to handle things in my own way, but feel that my sister does not approve of “my way.” But as she rightly says, it is the results that count. I am not getting any results.
But I think I am conflicted in my desire to please her and my ability to do what is right for my son. My head is spinning and I cannot think clearly.
I am having problems adapting too. I do not trust myself; I do not feel capable of taking charge in any way. And the suggestions I am given for ways to help Dalton with this issue do not feel right to me. Sometimes I even suspect that perhaps I am blowing this all out of proportion and overwhelming myself when it is not necessary. But I also feel that to my sister, this situation is a big problem – so I thus tell myself that it is, indeed, a big problem. But is it really?
I cannot seem to separate what I think and feel from what I perceive my sister thinks and feels. This is compromising my ability to instinctively know how to deal with my son. And it is leaving me feeling STUCK.
My sister is afraid that she is watching a train wreck about to happen. She has, after all, raised a teenager. She later apologizes for being “so dramatic,” but does believe that this is a bad problem; one that I need and want to address, but that has a relatively simple solution if I would just do certain things. And her observations have reminded her of “all those times throughout [my] adult life when things have gone haywire and [she’s] been called upon to pick up the pieces.” She says:
“You …know you have certain weaknesses. One is in enforcing things that you know you need to do. Remembering to, or being willing to make Dalton temporarily unhappy; or willing to put up with a temper tantrum. Being consistent; saying something and meaning it. Making it happen. …Even were it not for the “wiring difficulties” you have, you are faced with being a single parent. Without a second parent, without good women friends to talk to who are mothers and share your values — you are handicapped by not having someone to balance you, to make up for your weaknesses, to offer insights and suggestions and feedback. I had these sorts of people in my life – you don’t – but you have me. You need to use me to help compensate for those voids. …And I need to learn to do this in a way that is helpful, but does not undermine your confidence in yourself.”
Then she outlines some things she wants me to think about:
- How you may be over-projecting your own childhood onto Dalton. What situations are the same for him? What situations are different? What caused you pain? And are you projecting your pain onto him inappropriately?
- Ways that you may be making Dalton co-parent himself (such as giving him too much information, too much responsibility for making choices when he isn’t capable of making wise choices).
- Expediency in the moment – i.e., not wanting to deal with a problem—- leads to big problems later. And you live to regret not taking care of something when it was a small matter.
The obvious “solutions” for this situation with Dalton don’t appeal to me because I know that he is trying to cope with an unfamiliar, and uncomfortable situation in the only way he knows how. He has his online “friends” and he enjoys what he is doing. It is just that too much of a good thing is not always to our benefit, and I do know that quite well.
And the problem I have is that any kind of “enforcement” that I do will not only make him unhappy, but he will view it as “punishment” and I do not want him to feel that he is being punished! So I feel that I need to be able to give him some kind of tangible alternative so that he doesn’t feel deprived or punished. And if he is not engaged in doing what he wants to do, he does not know what to do – and do I know what to suggest? Not really. I just wish he would see the wisdom and benefit of getting to bed earlier so that he can get up earlier! And I wish he had some other interests and wanted to do some other things, but right now, he does not. And at present, I don’t feel any more able to think of things to do or places to go than does he.
So the “problem” is probably more a problem with me than with Dalton. And I am all mixed up about what to do, how to do it, or why, even, to do anything. And if I weren’t so aware of my sister’s perception of things, somehow I don’t think I would be struggling with this – but I could be wrong.
This move has required a huge adjustment in many ways for all of us. If I’m having trouble, how could Dalton not be? And how can I help him when it’s so hard to know how to help myself? I am coping – but it takes time and effort.
And Dalton is changing from a little boy into someone who is suddenly exhibiting maturity in many ways that I am not fully recognizing – like I suddenly don’t know him as well as I am used to (and so old methods of dealing with him no longer feel useful or appropriate). But he is yet far from being grown up. And it is me, his mom, who suddenly feels lost and without firm footing.
I do not feel like I am on firm footing with my own self-identity these days – part of living with my big sister I guess – always unsure of myself and seeking acceptance – or being afraid of not receiving it; feeling inadequate and lacking – or WRONG somehow -like I’m here now because I proved inadequate at taking care of myself and my son. And whether this is really true or not, how can I feel on top of things if I feel like this? How can I possibly feel equal to the task of something like this when I feel so incompetent?
I am trying not to feel this way and to operate to my best ability despite it. But there is still an impact and it will take time. I have had complete control and autonomy of my life and home for as long as I can remember. This is different. This is all new. It has created insecurity in me, at least some of the time, but basically underlying everything. I don’t know how to BE or what to DO a good bit of the time. But I am trying. Parenting my child requires more from me. Insecurity and uncertainty significantly hinders/hampers my ability to operate effectively. It is nobody’s fault. My sister can’t really do anything to change that. I need to heal and strengthen my own self. I need to overcome feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
So how do I do this? And how do I help my son in the meantime?