Just as a little aside here, does anyone else think old Patrick from the previous post has a God complex? I read his three lengthy comments and I don't quite know what his intention was or what kind of reaction he was hoping to get, but really, I have to tell him a big heartfelt thank you. Not because anything he said really made me change my way of thinking or to suddenly wake up and think, "Oh, wow, I have been sober almost 9 years thanks to AA, but shit, I have been doing it wrong!" No, no, I have really needed a good belly laugh, and he gave it to me tenfold. Hell, he gave me enough to laugh about for days! In addition, he also motivated me to try to feel a little less crazy, because I am preeeety sure that I don't want to end up in a straitjacket next to him. Just sayin'. And thanks for the defense, FreedomFirst, but for now I am just going to leave them up to remind of why it is that I believe the way I do.
Tonight Eli and I have a little meeting scheduled, to talk about the recent problems and what we are going to do about it. And to Jennifer, I know you meant well when you suggested more one-on-one time, and I am sure that would help some, but the problems we are experiencing go far beyond him needing a little extra attention. And regardless of whether he is feeling slighted or whatever it is, he is 14.5 years old, not 2; he is very capable of verbalizing what he is feeling, as well as mature enough to be well aware of the choices he is making. He is defying my authority and daring me to do something about it; he is stretching his little independent teenaged wings and trying to figure out his place in the world as a young man. And while I understand it to an extent, I will also not allow him to use that as an excuse for blatantly and unrepentantly causing problems and being hateful and vindictive.
I am well prepared for the fall-out from this post, but this is what I have decided. At our meeting tonight, we are going to sit down and discuss the problems and what the possible solutions might be. The way I see it, he has two choices: he can either get his shit together, and I will help him in what ways I can, including counseling should that be necessary, or he moves out. I would hate to send him to live with his dad for a variety of reasons, not the least of which that his dad really has no clue (and no, I don't dislike his dad, we actually get along quite well for the most part but really, he has no clue. Hannah did go live with him for a year and ended up calling me and begging to be able to come back home), but I am at the point where I have to take into account what is good for the entire family as opposed to what is best for Eli. Let's be honest: it would be best for Eli to have two parents, unlimited income, his own room and privacy and unqualified support in every arena of his life. It would be best for him to have a non-working mom who had time to spend with each child on a daily basis and to make a healthy dinner including all items from that food pyramid thing every night. Barring any of that, which is obviously not going to happen in his lifetime, it would be best if his struggling single mom had the support and help she needed from the schools, the Health and Welfare system, and Child Support Services so that perhaps this would not be a last resort. However, since either scenario is as ridiculous and far-fetched as the other, this is where I am at. Eli is going to have some choices to make, and yes, this IS his choice.
Part of our discussion tonight is going to be about the consequences for his recent behavior. The first thing is that he is NOT going to get his Sports Physical, which means he will have to drop out of the weight class and instead go to a different PE class. He is NOT going to be in Cross Country. He is NOT going to get new shorts for PE (his new complaint is that they are 1 quarter inch above his knees, which is apparently a huge fashion faux pas). He WILL be getting rid of his puppy, and he WILL be home every day after school, no exceptions. This trimester is over in November; he has two months in which to decide where he is going and what he is doing. I am well aware that he may choose to not follow through on my expectations; I hope he does, because the thought of not having him around hurts terribly. When Hannah was gone for that year with her dad, my heart hurt every day that she was away from me (and it was a different situation, she made the choice TO move up there). However, if I have learned only one thing about being a parent, it is that I can no more control their behavior or choices than I can George W. Bush's (and oh god, wouldn't I love it if I could?). All I can do is set down the rules, follow through on punishments, and try to lead them in the right direction.
Yes, I am strict, and there is a cold, callous streak in me that when I use it for good (as opposed to using it to hurt someone), it has been an invaluable tool in this parenting game. See, and I am not saying this in order to garner sympathy or pity, but instead to let you in on the reality: there is just me. We do have a lot of really great friends and people who love not just me but our entire family, but at the end of the day, it is myself and four kids. I have to set forth the rules, decide the punishment if said rules are broken, and also follow through. I need to be able to detach myself in order to be able to hold my kids accountable; believe me, when Owen is sobbing in time out or Hannah is pouting in her room or Sam is begging me to please give in or Eli turns on the charm, it is all I can do to stand firm and NOT give in. I want to give my kids everything they ask for and need, but the reality is that I can't. Not just because of physical circumstances, but because I really and truly believe that the most valuable thing I can teach my kids is personal responsibility/accountability. Part of that is following through on the consequences, natural and imposed; it might really, really suck, and in the sort term it hurts everyone who has to go through it, but I can't-and WON'T, no matter how much I want to-protect my kids from the fact that every choice has a result, good or bad.
So this is where we are today. I have been, as you know, feeling overwhelmed and not up to the task, but during the wee hours of the night while I was praying about it and journaling about it (Yep, Patrick, this Godless heathen who belongs to the terrible cult of AA actually can't make it through the day without praying!), the answer I got from The Big Guy was, "Hey there, chickadee, grow some balls. You are it. It isn't an option for you to go all Nancy on this kid. I am here hanging out with you and will give you what you need to be strong, but you are the parent. You can either sit here and piss and moan about how hard it is-and yes, it is, I know it, I feel it, and I hate to see you hurting-or you can get up and do something about it. And you are allowed to feel sad and vent and rant and be all two-year-old 'life isn't fair', because it isn't-but not in front of the kids. That's why you blog and have friends and go to AA, that's what I am here for too." (For the briefest moment, I thought I might really be going crazy because I swear I heard Him REALLY talking, but then I realized that the radio was playing in Eli's room. whew! But I DID get an answer, whether it was the one I wanted or not).
I am not impotent and powerless, even though I get bogged down at times and feel like I simply can't move. I am focusing now on taking things one step at a time, doing what is in front of me at any given moment, and leaving the rest in The Big Guy's hands. For me, this is part of floating on the wave I talked about yesterday; doing what I CAN do, stopping the fighting and floundering, and letting things happen as they will. That's all I got, really, and it isn't a bad thing unless I make it one, you know?
So life is still good, even though by my words it may not seem like it at times. I really believe that I haven't been brought this far only to be dropped on my ass at this point in time. It DOES get overwhelming, and hard, and lonely, but God knows I don't corner the market on those feelings. Mostly I just think it is the nature of life: you take what shit is thrown out at you, and you try to find a way to use the shit to fertilize something beautiful. Or you look at it and say "dude, this is shit"-and you throw it away. Whatever works best at the moment.