As a parent, giving up on a child who seems to not want your help is very hard to do. But sometimes it must be done in order to preserve your life and health, to preserve the rest of the family left reeling, to retain the few resources you have left, and to allow the troubled child to figure their own shit out.
I had three sons (two I birthed, and one I accrued through marriage). We fed them all the same food. They stayed in the same home under the same roof. They had the same rules. They went to the same schools. They had the same opportunities, life-skills training, and life-lessons. They had the same role-models and examples, except for those they sought outside of our knowledge.
I have this one son that has given me a fit since he was in elementary school. Thankfully, we lived in a small community where everyone knew everyone, which kept him out of big trouble for as long as we all could. This village really helped to raise its children.
In elementary school, my troublesome son decided he was going to take my Italian seasoning, bag it up, and take it to school to try and sell as weed. In elementary school. Who does this?
If it wasn’t for his youngest brother understanding it was wrong and dangerous and telling me, who knows where this mess would have led us. I withdrew him from school and sent him to live with my mom for the rest of the school year. I have never used drugs in my entire life. His paternal aunts and uncles were drug users, so I assumed he picked up some tips from them. Maybe it’s genetics. No one knew for sure.
From that point forward though, I spent the rest of his childhood “protecting” him. Or so I thought.
I had to advise my other kids not to follow him. I could see the road he was heading down.
I tried to stop it. I really tried. It was was a long, hard road. I never hid it. We gladly shared with other parents about my struggles raising him. Lots of people aided me in my efforts along the way. It seems none of our friends had the problems we did with this kid. We knew he was going to be our special kid.
He did so much shit over the years.
Like the time he tried to steal something for a video game from Walmart and got caught. He was in middle school. He had money in his pocket to buy what he stole, but apparently was attempting to steal as a part of a gang initiation ritual according to the Sheriff that came to arrest him. It was a trend of late. Furthermore, my son chose to steal while he was with his baby brother. My youngest child had no clue what he had done. When the store surveillance stopped my youngest son, he almost went into cardiac arrest because he was so afraid. He was the complete opposite of his brother, my good kid.
I was so angry at his disrespect to me and that endangered his little brother. I was angry because even though he had been caught, he was arrogant and lying. I was ashamed.
I was so angry, I slapped him in front of the arresting deputy. The deputy let him go (and didn’t charge me with child abuse) after a stern warning. He said he could tell after watching the surveillance cameras that I was decent and was trying my best to raise decent kids. He was banned my son from the store, which meant I’d now have to leave him home when I shopped there.
He was getting to that ripe old age where your teen sins could come with adult penalties. I was getting tired, but as a parent I wasn’t giving up on him. I already knew what that was like. My parents had done that to me when they put me in foster care. I was going to break the cycle.
More Troubled Waters…
I’ll never forget the Sunday the youth pastor pulled my husband and I out of church and advised us to go home immediately and search our home. One of the teens in his Sunday school class he mentored had gotten a whiff of my seemingly incorrigible (and naive) son attempting to sell drugs for some upper middle class White kids at his high school.
We left the kids in church and immediately went home to search my trouble son’s bedroom. We found everything the pastor told us we’d find. Drugs, a scale, baggies, and even a Budweiser beer bottle.
I noticed the new friends, those White kids that had started to come to my home all of a sudden. When I asked my son why the new friends all of a sudden he didn’t have a good reason. I asked him to tell them not to come back. I knew there was something wrong, I just had no clue it was something like this.
I couldn’t trust my own kid in our home. anymore No matter what I did, he resisted right, hard work, and most importantly respecting our home. We had to start inspecting the room like we were DEA, and we even removed the bedroom door from the hinges.
What the fuck was wrong with this kid? Why was he so disobedient? Why is he so hell bent on destroying his life? Why is he putting us all at risk? Did I do something wrong? The other kids aren’t terrible, why is this son?
At the time, my now ex-husband was a nurse with a long career (including 20 years in the military) and was a Nurse Manager for one of the top family medicine residency programs in the nation. His nursing license and our home was on the line with the trickery. It was a wake up call for both of us.
This kid was dangerous for all of us.
We threw the drugs in the trash, went to church to collect the children, and had a huge argument with my son about his behavior, engaging in illegal sale of drugs, putting our livelihoods and home in jeopardy, and so forth.
He looked at us as if he didn’t care. He was 16–17 years old at the time.
My husband and I made a decision that we would try to get him on the other side of the tracks, once again. We realized all kids were different, and some were just more trouble than others.
After that, I caught him with a White girl in his bedroom after I told him no company in our home when we weren’t there. He was unable to go to her home because her father was racist. She continued to come to my home even after I asked her not to. I eventually took his bedroom door from the hinges. His right to privacy in our home had been forfeited.
I had to nail his bedroom window shut because I found cigarette butts outside of his window while cutting my grass and trimming hedges. He was smoking in our home. No one in our home smoked or consumed alcohol. He stole my bank card number and used it to replenish his cellphone with minutes to text his friends (I did not give my kids smartphones until they were graduating high school). Money and jewelry were missing. He used the house computer we all shared to search for porn. It was always something. Too many things to share here.
I supported him in all of his sporting activities. I sent him to expensive athletic camps in hopes he would make it to college on a athletic scholarship. We put him in mentoring programs, and even joined the church. I did everything good parents do when trying to raise decent, productive human beings.
Nothing it seems really worked long-term. This son would do just enough to get us off of his ass, then go right back to being the same old terrible kid. I started really disliking my own son.
How can a kid just be so difficult to deal with?
He made me wish I’d had an abortion. I was wishing to God I could have a do over. It just seemed so unfair. My other two sons were suffering. They didn’t get the attention they needed and deserved, because the bad kid was sucking the life out of us. He started a bad-mouthing campaign to our families. He had my father calling me telling me I was being too hard on him.
My father had no clue of all the things my son had done. The little cunning manipulator strikes again. Enough was enough.
We decided after the drug incident that 18-years and high school was all we could take. He needed to go into the military or get a job, but he had to go. It was a silent plan. I had so many plans for him. I wanted him to have more than I had. He was ruining his life. He was ruining our entire family.
About two weeks after he turned eighteen in the middle of the school year, he decided he was moving out. The nerve. I was out done by this impromptu announcement.
“Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya. If you leave, you can’t come back. You’ll need me before I need you” I said.
I felt relief, even though I knew his leaving would be a disaster. He needed constant monitoring. But I was tired. I was ready to give up. I was angry all over again.
I called my husband to tell him what about what my son said. He rushed home from work. My son called his girlfriend to pick him and some of his belongings up. I asked for our house key back. I was done.
Or so I thought.
I thought about the final things I could do to make this severance as clean as possible. My husband hugged me. He knew how hard it was as a mother. He had disrespected my husband to the point where it as a relief for him to be gone, although he would never say it to my face. He could see where my son was going long before I ever did. It’s as if he was prepared.
I called the high school principal to inform them about what happened. He promised to make certain he would at least complete his final year of high school. By the end of the high school year he managed to finish with a high school diploma. He ruined his GPA. It was so low I couldn’t believe he was able to graduate.
I made sure all of his graduation fees were paid to walk. At least he’d have a high school diploma. I also paid for his books he failed to return. He’s an adult now the law says. My obligations to this kid were done. He never said thank you.
Same Shit, Different Day
As my son’s friends were all getting ready to go to college, my terrible son apparently felt like he wanted to go at the very last minute. Perhaps he was embarrassed. The king of manipulation came back with all of his hopes, dreams, aspirations and bullshit.
I fell for it. After all, I’m a mother who wants the best for her kids.
I scurry around trying to find someone to accept this kid with such a low GPA, and I did. It was Georgia Military School. The only school that would accept him with a campus to live on. Plus it’s focus was guiding young people into the military. We knew he needed this type of structure. My son said he liked the place. He was ready to go and turn his life around.
My husband was skeptical. I was hopeful.
So we spent our money (again) to get him ready for college (yet again). He was going to be the second of three sons enrolled. My husband and I were so proud. We drove him to the campus, sat through orientation, did the financial aid paperwork, paid the tuition, unloaded the car, filled his dorm room, gave him a hug, and then drove the long 3-hours back home.
My husband and I were happy. We felt peace. We thought this was going to be a new beginning. We listened to Rick James all the way home. That was my happy music. Boy were we were so wrong.
He stopped going to the college.
His girlfriend was driving from South Carolina to Georgia, three fucking hours, to pick him up because he wanted to go home. He wouldn’t go back sometimes. During the first semester, his only semester, the college’s commander called my husband and told us to come get our son. He wasn’t going to school and was taking up a spot for a kid that wanted to be there.
My husband and I drove 3-hours down to the college to speak with the commander. The commander agreed to give him another chance. We drove back home, got our incorrigible kid, and took him back to the school. By the end of the first semester of college, he was officially kicked out.
I was done. Again.
We drove to the campus to pick up his things he had abandoned, and drove back home. It was a long ride. A silent ride. It was a sad ride.
How could a kid that had so much put into him turn out to be so rotten. We had done everything we could to help him. But nothing we did was ever enough. I never thought I would say that just like acquaintances in our lives, there are some people you just can’t help. My boy was one of those people.
My son just couldn’t be helped, and it hurt so bad. I was defeated by him yet again.
Over the years, I can’t count how many times I have helped my disrespectful, disobedient, non-compliant son out of jams. I’ve tried so many times to get him back onto the right path. I’ve done so many things since his brief time in college to help him not end up in the bottoms, but he went to the bottoms anyway.
He’s 28 now. He’s been to jail a few times. He has a few kids by a few different women. He’s chronically unemployed, and he there is no way he can likely dig himself out of the big hole he’s put himself in. He’s worn his welcome out with family and friends. No one is taking his bait anymore.
A Mother’s Worst Nightmare
I got a text message with a photo of my son’s most recent mug shot from my youngest son. The charge: failing to comply with a lawful order. The shit that is getting black men killed today. I asked my son what happened. He said he didn’t know, he hadn’t talked to him much since relocating for work to North Carolina. I took a deep breathe, wiped away the tears from my eyes, and began to recount all of the counter-measures my ex-husband and I had taken to avoid this moment. A child that brought me so much happiness now brings me so much sorrow and grief. It’s hard. I’m hurt and I’m so tired.
My light of hope is burning dim.
Why did I continue to do all the things I did for a kid who seemed to not appreciate anything I’ve ever done for him.
I continued to help him because most teens are ignorant and rebellious, they don’t have a clue about the dangers they face in life. It was my job as a parent to make sure I helped my kid navigate those difficult teenage years.
I continued to help because I loved my kid. I wanted him to have opportunities and chances I didn’t have.
I would have to say I also continued to help because society says I should. It’s okay for your kids to abuse their parents I guess. How would it look for a mother to be giving up on her child.
I would have to say the real reason I continued helping my child is because giving up on your kid, no matter their age, is so hard to do. Donnie Hathaway’s song expresses it perfectly. Giving up when you really love someone, especially your child, is so hard to do.
“Giving up, so hard to do
But it just ain’t no use
Giving up, so hard to do
I said I’ve tried
But it just ain’t no use
But my light of hope is burning dim
But in my heart I pray
That my love and faith in the girl (boy)
My love…will bring her back someday
I’m talking ‘bout when you really love someone
Whether she knows or not
She really needs me too
The little girl is all I got
Yes she is
And giving, giving up is hard to do
So hard to do
So very hard to do
I said I’ve tried
Hey, but I just can’t get loose
So hard for me to do
I don’t want to lose you
Cause you mean so much to me”