Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Parenting---It's Not for Sissies

When the Aspiring Adult graduated from high school, we made the same deal with him that we made with our other kids. As long as he wanted to continue his education, we'd pay for it. We don't want him to start his life saddled with student loans. When he's figured he's had enough, he just needs to say so, and that's it.

Considering that his circumstances are different than with our other two boys (neither one of them can drive), we offered to let him stay here expense-free so that he could save up his money. The only caveat is that he had to follow the house rules, of which there are only a couple.

1). No phone calls on the house phone after 9pm. Call us old-fashioned, but both Hubby and I were raised to believe that is rude. No call late at night is a good call. It usually means a loved one is ill or there's been an accident. People who know us don't call us after 9pm. At least not more than once. ;-)

2) We have a curfew. 10pm on weekdays and 12pm on weekends. It's ok to call to let us know if you're running late, just call (one exception to the no phone calls after 9 rule). We have 4 very noisy dogs who go apeshit with people coming and going in the house, and since MOST of us have to be up very early in the morning, it's unfair to wake us in the middle of the night.

3) This is not a hotel. We know you have a busy social life, but you still have to come by once in awhile and stay long enough to take care of business. Meaning, the dryer is not the place to store your clothes, and we're not your bitches. Since you're here long enough to mess up the bathroom, you get to come home and clean it from time to time. Oh, and we'd like to see your face at dinner at least once a week.

Hubby and I are not ogres, but we expect the few rules we have to be followed. The Aspiring Adult seems to think differently. He argues that he is now a man and can do whatever he wants.

We counter with, "Of course you can, you manly man. When are you planning on moving out and supporting yourself like a REAL adult?"

So since graduation, needless to say, we've been having some issues.

I don't know if it's because he's been in and out of foster care for a good part of his life, or being a teenager, or having a character flaw, but the Aspiring Adult seems to have a need to feel like he's "getting one over on us".

For example:

One morning Hubby woke up and found that the kid's car wasn't in the driveway. Didn't he come home last night? He went out to get something from his vehicle and noticed that the kid had parked across the street in the driveway of our neighbor's vacation home. WTF was up with that?

He called down the stairs and told the Aspiring Adult that he'd have to move his car, because it was Saturday, and the neighbor's relatives from the city often came and stayed the weekend and would be a bit put out to find his car there. The kid came up, moved the car (backed it down to the side of our house, which was also odd), came in, took a shower and said he was leaving for work. Hubby came outside to catch him sneaking a girl out of the basement. ;-)

Now here's the rub. We don't actually care that he had a girl here, as long as he doesn't make a habit of it. They're both over 18. The girl lives about an hour and a half away, and after their date it would have been a three-hour round trip to take her home and he said he was too tired to make the drive. We understand that. In fact, we'd have preferred they stay here, because we worry about him falling asleep at the wheel.

AND HE KNOWS THIS. He could have brought her in and out the front door. So why all the sneakiness?

Because he enjoys it.

All summer, he's been coming in at curfew, telling us good night, and then going out the basement to hang out with his friends until the wee hours. Some of the time he's been caught, and is completely unrepentant. It wouldn't be an issue if he told us that he was going to stay at a friend's house all night. He could just stay out. We don't require that he tell us who he's staying with or where he's going, so really it's a non-issue. We explain this over and over and he gets it.

He just enjoys being sneaky.

Since he totaled his car, we found out that the week before he had received a ticket for going 60 miles per hour through a stop sign. He is going to lose his driver's license, most likely for a year (he doesn't seem to think so, but then again, he's young and foolish). When we found out, we took him off our insurance as an authorized driver of our cars, because our rates were going to double. Plus, since he's turned out to be such a bad driver (went through two cars in less than a year), we don't want him anywhere NEAR our vehicles.

As a consequence to all that, and since he is a man and all, it is his responsibility to get himself to and from work. If his schedule happens to coincide with times that Hubby and I have to be in town, it's all well and good. If not, then he has options. He could catch a ride with a friend. He could walk a half mile down the highway and catch the bus. He could ride his bike. He could pay for a cab.

Not very palatable options, but options all the same. What isn't an option is expecting ME to be his personal chauffeur. I've done that for years with the other kids, since they can't drive. NOT going to do it for someone who pissed away his license by making a lot of bad choices.

Anyhoo, last week Hubby did what he frequently does---ate a bunch of crap before going to bed. He woke up with heartburn at about 2:30am and went in the kitchen to get some Tums. As he was heading back to bed, lights flashed through the living room window. A car was coming down the driveway.

My car.

Except I was asleep in bed and he knew this because he tried to play footsie with me.

That little shit.

Hubby confronted him, took the keys, and told him we'd deal with it in the morning. In the morning he was so furious that he asked me to deal with it and went to work.

At 8am I woke the kid up (like I was going to let him sleep until noon?). It went like this:

Aspiring Adult: I don't see what the big deal is.

Me: You stole my car!

AA: It wasn't stealing!

Me: Is your name on the title? No. Did I give you permission to use my car? No. That is called stealing.

AA: No it isn't.

Me: Then what would you call it?

AA: I borrowed it.

Me: Borrowing is when you ask someone's permission to use their stuff. Did you ask? No. It's not borrowing, it's stealing.

AA: I don't see what the big deal is. Cars are meant to be used by ALL the drivers in the house, including me. (Is he freaking KIDDING me?)

And round and round we went. I told him he was grounded for a month. When he wasn't at work, he was to be at home. He could continue to stay up all night if he wanted, but if he thought he'd be sleeping in until noon on his days off, he had another think coming. If he didn't have schoolwork to do, I'd find something for him to do. For a month he was going to be MY bitch.

AA: No. I'm a man and you can't ground me.

Me: Then there's the door. Use it. Now.

AA: I don't have to leave.

Me: Look at it this way. You WANT to leave. We allowed you to stay here contingent on a few rules. You've thumbed your nose at them time after time. The only conclusion I can reach is that you no longer want to live in our house. I am supporting YOUR decision. Door. Out. Now.

AA: How am I going to get into town?

Me: You have a phone, and you have feet. You're such a smart guy, I'm sure you can figure it out. Call us when you find yourself a place and you can come get your stuff.

So he left. I felt horrible about it, but there's only so much you can do. Our home is our haven and we don't want to have to lock up our keys and our valuables (we found out with Big Kid that someone who is willing to steal isn't often picky about WHAT they steal). The fact that the Aspiring Adult had completely justified the stealing of my car in his own mind was pretty disturbing.

And before anybody accuses me of being a heartless, rotten person let me say that the Aspiring Adult has a cell phone, a job, a savings account and a couple of credit cards. He knows how to rent a hotel room. He has skills. It's not like I tossed a puppy out of moving car.

He didn't speak to us for a few days. We called and left messages asking him if he was alright and if he needed anything. We drove around town looking for inexpensive places to rent that are in walking distance of his job. We did NOT call and ask him to come back. That ship has sailed.

However, as long as he stays in school and maintains a C average, we'll continue to pay for school and help him out a bit financially if he needs it. He's welcome to come over to do his laundry, get some groceries, and call us if he's in trouble. We love him and he's our guy.

And now he gets to find out what being a man is REALLY all about.


Big Daddy Autism said...

Oh boy! He sounds like a young version of me. My opinion? You did the right thing. Being a man does not only give you rights it also gives you responsibilities. Although you feel bad about it, this is a lesson he needs to learn in order to really become a man.

Jeanie said...

You have done good and you have done right. He is going to learn some lessons regarding what really being a man is all about.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I'm applauding you AND sending cyber hugs your way. What a tough thing to do. But necessary. Difficult, but brave. You, my good woman, are NO sissy.

Dolly said...

GOOD FOR YOU! So many parents just let it go on and on forever! I think this is just fine, he'll learn a lesson...

Newbius said...

Stand your ground. You did the right thing.

Crazy Mom Tats! said...

We just had to do the same thing to our own Problem Child, our middle kid. I'm with you on this. And it can be the best lesson for them, that the reality of being an Adult is NOT partying but responsibility.

Hang tight...

Dark Angel said...

Reminds me a bit of what I was like at 18. It took me a while, too, to learn that being an adult is not all freedom and rights.

KWombles said...

He didn't really leave you any choice. ((())) Nope, parenting isn't for sissies. I hope it doesn't have you too down, but I know how heartwrenching our decisions about our kids can be, even when we're making the right decision for them. They have to learn to stand on their own and to face the consequences of their actions. We don't do them any favors when we protect them from those consequences.

Joanna Jenkins said...

I yiyi, that had to be tough on you but congratulations for being a parent. "Borrowing" your car is a deal-breaker in my book and helping him man-up and take responsibility is a good life lesson.

Hang in there. xo

Anonymous said...

Try Craigslist- I've been (very easily!) able to find places to rent for $375- rooms in a house. And he could always go on food stamps if he doesnt make enough money at work. That is, if him being away doesn't change his mind. Being "kicked out" of home at 17 will earn all your friends' sympathy and ire, but after 18 (maybe 19) it just sounds pathetic & like you don't know how to act & get along with your parents' rules... so good on you for enforcing that & drawing the line. Like some people above me said- other people let it go on FOREVER & that just makes the kid think it's okay when it really isn't. He would have kept going on with taking your car (&possibly wrecked it!) if he hadn't been caught. I'd recommend hiding all your car keys & not keeping any spares in easy hiding places.

Ashley's Mom said...

I would (and probably will have to) done EXACTLY the same things you did. As someone else said, parenting is not for sissies. But, being a parent is my job and I take my job very seriously.

I applaud you!

B said...

Want to come here and do that to my brother? We let him move in after his home was destroyed by a statewide flood. The deal was he was to help out around the house, pay towards the house expenses he draws on once he started working and save to move out within a year. It's been 7 months and he hasn't paid a dime although he's been working the whole time. He also hasn't saved a single cent either so obviously moving out isn't a big concern for him. Plus he never does a single thing around the house and is very inconsiderate of everyone here. He blows all his money on partying and spends all his free time doing so. He thinks because he's 18 he can do whatever he wants yet with none of the responsibility of being an adult. We want him out but have been avoiding confronting him as he can go from 0 to 100 temper wise over minor things. Plus I have pressure from other family members to continue to help and "give him a break because he's young". Ugh.

Sirenity said...

Wonderful post and thank you for sharing one of the most difficult parenting moments.
Hugs and Laughter

Katie :o) said...

Oiy! Parenting teens is so much fun, eh? Both of our teens started acting out at the same time a couple weeks ago. We've spent lots of time talking about logical consequences... Of course, they still think we're just mean.

Jennifer Leeland said...

The Redneck commented (cause I had to read this one to him) "Try having your brother do the same shit to you when he's 38."
You know I've had people living with me who can't seem to see the difference between "stealing" and "borrowing".
I really hope if and when I have to face this situation with my children that I handle it with the same firm grace you have.
You're my hero, Attila the Mom.

Chris H said...

What a great big pain in the butt having to go through all that shit AGAIN!
I am hoping like hell Brylee and Griffin are NICE teenagers!

KL said...

ummmmm can I have his room??? I will pay rent and promise to never be out later than 9pm ;)

Anonymous said...

Want to come to my house and get my "ASS-PIRING" adults out? They won't budge and there's more of them than there is of me... Good job!

Valerie Marie said...

Dear ATM! I cannot understand the Aspiring Adult's behaviour. He was so nice to you an so happy to have a family... I'm sad for you. But you did the right thing. ((hugs)) ATM + Hubby

Rootietoot said...

We went through a *very* simliar series of events with our first one. It worked out, he's 22 and completely independent and we get along great. He'll figure it out and will be a better man for it. Good for you for not caving! Some people have to learn through experience, trial and (lotsa) errors. He knows you love him, and after the whining is over, he'll appreciate the boot.

Warner (aka ntsc) said...

You did the right thing.

Webster said...

How did I miss this?

I understand pushing the limits, but you are right - AA pushed too hard and gave you no choice but to stand firm. He will learn in a hurry what it's like to be a grown man. And I'm sure he will cry himself to sleep a night or two over his own stupidity. But he'll survive.

But you did the right thing. Absolutely.

Kate said...

That must have been tough for you do, but you did the right thing! He's got learn to stand on his own two feet, and that won't happen if you are always there to make the bad stuff go away. Parents who do that do their children no favours at all; sometimes you have to man up and be tough, you did that and I take my hat off to you.

Star said...

A brave move, and the right one I think.

Brenda said...

He's going to be so proud that you've done this some day. You're a fine Momma.

Beki said...

I detest people phoning after 9pm! I find it really rude and if it's after 10pm I panic something awful has happened!

You always think things through and do the best, and this situation is no different :)

Kim Ayres said...

Not an easy decision to make or stand by, even when you know it's the right one. But if you'd backed down and let him get away with it, what lesson would that have taught him?


Cheryl said...

I admire you. You set clear reasonable limits, with love.
If he was going to break them and rationalize them, especially your car, he needed to live on his own. You have to follow through on limits. Not easy, but I know he learned. You love him, but he can't abuse your trust like that. That is a huge life lesson, but hopefully, it helped him in so many ways.
Did I tell you you are my hero?

karatemom said...

sounds a lot like my world right now...could have written this post myself.
My oldest did move out , did rent a place , work and attend school ( then dropped out of school and had to endure a cut in work hours.....and was gone just shy of a year ...has just returned back home after finding out how hard the real world is...has decided he wishes to return home , save up his money and go back to school..

so he is is ..wont charge him room and bored providing he goes back to school september (he has to save his tuition up) ..if he doesn't enroll then he will be charged room and bored or be off to find another place ..

younger dude has not learned from seeing big brothers struggles..he may be out the door soon too ha.

Suzanne said...