07 June 2009

Kid A.

So, I have steered away from family talk for the most part on this here blog, primarily because I don't want to tempt Karma. Also because once you start telling family stories, you sort of have to tell them all in order for the situation to be completely understood. And that is not something I want to do. There is also the small bit about opening up the quirks of your family situation to ridicule- dude, I know we are weird, but it is a whole other thing when a stranger tells you your family is weird, right? Which brings me to Kid A, Swiss's 14 year old son from his previous marriage to P.

Kid A is this sort of entity that bounces in and out of our lives for various reasons on a somewhat constantly quasi-frequent basis. I don't say this to imply that we don't want him in our lives. That isn't the case at all. Its just that he isn't a constant in our home. He is like an earthquake... you don't know when he's coming, but he arrives with a bang and you always know it when he's there. And that is mostly a product of his mother, not him. P has full custody of him, but when Swiss is around and she doesn't feel like being a parent anymore, Kid A ends up with us. Nothing like making the kid feel wanted, right? So he bounces in and out of our lives... in and out... in and out...

Anyway, Kid A showed up at our house again today with his friend. No big deal, but it is the second day in a row after not seeing him for a few months. I like hanging out with him and I like that he is comfortable enough with me and likes me enough to come over when Swiss isn't here. But then he went and said that he wanted to move in with us after Swiss gets home. And I can't help but feel like I'm either getting played or getting set up to have our hearts broken by him one more time.

See, Kid A's mom isn't what you would call a good parent. And I can say this without any personal feeling about her clouding my judgment. She's smoked pot in front of him when he was 10, she's 'tried to kill herself' (a half-assed job mostly for attention), she's let him essentially fail most of Middle School, and she never disciplines him. He's become quite a handful under her tutelage; he lies, he is defiant (beyond the usual teenage norms), he is unmotivated and he doesn't know that being strict (us) is different from being mean (his mom, she's a fighter and a yeller).

But under all of those rather large issues, he is a good kid. He just takes the easy way out, because he always has one. He lies because that is what he has been raised with. And he doesn't try because no one expects or asks him to. He needs structure and discipline and love and someone who is going to push him to be something more than a gas station attendant. He needs us, but living with us is a heck of a lot harder than living with his mom. So when things get tough, he goes back to her. And we have done this 3 times now since Swiss and I have been together. We even tried to put him with his favorite uncle (Swiss's brother) temporarily while Swiss was deployed. Every time it is the same routine, things get hard and he bolts to his mom.

Of course there is a flip side to this. When he does live with his mom he recognizes the differences, he knows that he isn't her top priority. And eventually he realizes that he should have stayed with us, or his uncle. But how many times are we going to get on this carousel? Every time Swiss tries to do the right thing for him, he ends up with his heart broken because Kid A bolts for his half-assed mom whenever you try to do the right things and be a real parent.

So yes, that is the saga of Kid A. He hasn't had it easy, but he has a habit of choosing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. I can't help but wonder why it would be any different when Swiss comes home this time. And I can't help but wonder if he really would move to Fort X, if he really would go to court so we could get full custody (which is absolutely necessary), if he really does want to live with us. I just don't know what to believe or what to do. So I guess, for now, I'll just settle for being the cool step-mom that he can hang out with when he wants do.

I don't know what else to do.


Army Duck said...

This situation sounds similar to the one I was put in with my brother.

The good news is that eventually my brother did get it right and although he still has some way to go he has started to turn his life around.

It is such a horrible position to be in. You don't want to allow them to use you and then abuse you but you also have that hope that eventually they will get it right and things will turn around.

Althought the situation isn't the same, it's your step son where as it was my brother, the only advice I can give is hang in there. Set some boundries and make clear what they are but make sure he is aware that you want to help and that when he wants it you will be there. It may not work the first time or the second time but eventually it will be enough and he will realise that everybody needs rules and boundries and people that care about them.

Good luck hun and remember that we are all here for you.


snarkynavywife said...

Sounds like you're doing all you can do just being there for him.

I assume you've tried establishing a contract with him. That's the only suggestion I'd be able to offer, which is redundant, I'm sure.

You're a total rock star step-mom.

kimba said...

Wow, tough one. I worked with at-risk kids for a long time, and the things that seem to be nearly universal with them is that, like most teenagers, they have no long view and no consequential thinking skills. Hence the train wrecks that ensue when there are knucklehead parents involved (and of course I mean mom, not Swiss). Damn, do kids need structure.

Part of me really believes that kids in this situation almost always have to full-out fall on their asses before they start seeing the big picture. Hopefully this takes the form something fairly minor. It's almost like they need a demonstration of what's ahead if they don't start doing for themselves what their parent(s) ought to be doing for them.

I hope you can get custody, if that's what you want, but I think it's going to be tough going. He's going to need a real kick in the ass. And since you seem to be asking for advice, I'l throw this out there: It's cool to be the refuge now and then, but if you set yourself up as his buddy, you may have problems later when you become a full-time step-parent. If he's going to come by, there should be rules and boundaries. You aren't a hangout place - this is your home. Let him know you love him and that he's welcome, but that you're not a place to hang out with friends, unannounced, on a Saturday night.

Ok, butting out now. Good luck! This stuff is hard.

Kiki said...

What a tough situation. This story reminds me a lot of my sister when our parents first separated. She got involved with this loser of a guy and when my mom told her she couldn't see him, she ran to my dad's and threatened to move in with him. My mom didn't want to "lose" her, so she just gave in to whatever she wanted. How manipulative!

LopsidedMom said...

Only now catching up...I'm reading a great book now that may offer a bit of insight on this generation of kids - they are facing extraordinary changes that most parents are not ready to deal with, easy access to just about anything, busy, disconnected parents etc... Childhood Unbound by Ron Taffel.

I do second Kimba on this one - if you are thinking about full time parenting post deployment, start now. Rules and boundaries. Hanging out may be okay with you, but he still needs to call first and check with you, especially if he's bringing friends.