Worried, frustrated and helpless. Need support and advice.
This site helped me get through a tough time a few years ago, and I definately need some support, encouragement and advice right now with a tough time I am having with my youngest son. I have raised 6 teenagers before him and they have all been challenging in one way or another, but with him it is completely different. Nathan is 17 and I have been trying to think of how to describe him without it being textbook size, because there are so many things that conflict with other things.
Nathan is the funniest, most cheerful person a great deal of the time (when he is on his meds for depression and anxiety. The other great deal of the time (much more marked if he chose to stop taking meds) he is....well, an absolute ass. He will be mad if he walks into a room and anyone else is there. He will get mad at anyone making any noise (talking, walking, having the TV on) when he feels he needs quiet. And then he will plug his guitar or bass into the amp and blast it LOUDLY, often with his window open and will roll his eyes and say "Thanks. You broke my focus- PLEASE leave me alone so I can work" when we tell him turn it down (again)and close his window (yet again). I should mention that the two things that he does to center himself when anxious, stressed, mad, depressed, etc are walking, especially in wildlife (he wants to work for the National Parks Dept). He feels like he is a horrible person who doesn't fit in with anybody, and has talked VERY seriously over the past few years about suicide. That's why I don't take his musical gear (he is a very, very good self taught musician, song writer, can play just about anything without ever having a lesson and since he was 12 or 13 has played numerous sets in quite impressive venues which he arranged himself - a great promoter). He has no respect for the house or other people's things, and will take them (often without asking), use them for whatever he needed, and then drop them on the ground, garbage, yard, wherever he is standing, and think nothing of it even after we discuss this for the millionth time. He is very messy and will only keep his room clean, but in the rest of the house, there is a very real possibility that he has never picked up a thing in his life. No rules pertain to him, in his opinion. He refuses to do chores and really doesn't care at all if we take things away or have other consequences. He will just disappear for a few days or maybe not at all, but he will not do chores. On the other hand, animals and little kids are drawn to him. He is drawn to animals and is shamanistic in thinking (I think he is a very old soul), and as for kids he finds them funny and adorable, and will put up with my grandchildren (1 and 7) as long as he can, which is never too terribly long. But he is so good with them and will play whatever they want, take them for walks, and talk to them.
He recently found a baby bunny that had been dropped by a bird. He brought it home and sat with that poor little thing day and night as we tried to locate a rehab that would take it. He did a VERY good job of researching what it should be fed, and for three days gently fed him water from a syringe and experimented to find what foods the bunny liked best, and would support it's body so it could eat. When it died (this was 2 months ago) he woke up with it dead on his chest and came to me and sobbed and sobbed. He buried it, marked the grave, and likes to go sit nearby the grave and study the frogs (we call him the frog whisperer). He is alwaysdoing things with the dogs that he shouldn"t (uncrating them even if they are crated just so we have enough time to complete some hourlong project like putting slug bait down because we don't want them to be curious what we are doing and investigate as they always do). We can tell him specifically to do or not do something and then he will do as he pleases because he 'didn't agree' and felt we were treating the dogs poorly. He will stand up for anyone he feels is being bullied or treated unfairly (which was a real pain when one of other kids had done something wrong and were being punished or talked to about it.
Earlier this week he asked if we could not have gifts this Christmas and instead use the money to pay the bills and/or get groceries for a very elderly man who spends hours each day sitting on the sidewalk asking for money because his wife is very ill and he just can't make ends meet. A high school teacher (last year) confirmed that this was indeed the correct state of affairs with this man, and used it as part of a lesson in a class Nathan was in. So Nathan went straight out, met him several times to just talk and enjoy the company. A few days ago asked if we could give our Christmas to him. We all think it sounds like a great idea.
Nathan does not learn from his mistakes. And he does not learn anything unless it is a specific passion of his. This is why he failed every grade from 6 to 11th (they kept passing him along just to be rid of him, I think, and to keep him with the few friends he had since we all felt that his depression would get to dangerous levels without the company of friends), yet he is fairly well read and impressively knowledeable about interests he has. This is why he can speak (not fluently by any means, but enough to hold somewhat of a conversation) in german, italian, and japanese. Languages and other places and cultures fascinate him.
His good friends (that he had for years) all eventually drifted away one by one because of how rude he gets if you are around him for long periods of time. With a houseful of 3 other teen boys, Nathan's friends would often abandon him because he was being rude, and would wander into the area where the others were all playing video games, poker, or just laughing about stuff and being happy kids with other friends. That hurt him very deeply - to the core - every time it happened. He feels like he has to keep his friends seperate from his brothers now because he will lose them. He is a very very lonely person who now hangs out with fringe friends, smoking weed and not giving a damn whether or not we know. He is POSITIVE he will never get caught, but of course we all know he just hasn't been caught yet (he generally smokes it directly behind our neighbors house on a bench. This neighbor is a police officer. Nathan is trying to get into job corps so even if they would let him in with a positive test (which they do, then follow them carefully), he cannot get in with a criminal record.
The local police all know him well (small town) and seem to get a kick out of him because he is never actually doing something very wrong, and he is genuinely at ease and comfortable with chatting with them, and he is good at charming people. So far. They usually leave laughing and scolding the group, but he was arrested once and convicted of a felony. He was 13 at the time so it has since been expunged, but he hasn't even learned from that.
I have believed from a very young age that he had asperger syndrome or some variant on the autistic spectrum. The doctors put it down to a VERY hyperactive, busy boy ( have asked 4 or 5 different physicians since he was age of 4 and up to now). He has never been referred to a specialist, and for the past maybe 3 years has been showing (to me and to himself - he looked into it independently) bipolar issues. A bunch of my father's many sisters were bipolar as is my mom. Our Dr.(who is very on top of things) recently had a few appointments with him, and told me that he is very depressed and very anxious, but she didnt think he was bipolar at all . That was 6 to 9 months ago and I finally just called a child psychologist today to have him evaluated by a specialist.
Nathan has (from age 6 or so) very often fooled me into thinking he was swallowing his adhd pills, but since he doesn't think ahead, I would find out later when I found the pills here or there, wherever he was when he spit them out of his mouth. At age 12 he refused to take them at all anymore. He went onto a antidepressant/anti-anxiety meds when he was 16 (at his request because he was feeling so depressed and suicidal). He keeps them in his room and insists on being the one who takes care of taking them and reordering. It's that or nothing. Sometimes he will take them perfectly for a few months and then decide to stop because they are taking off his 'creative edge' with regard to his music. So we notice the difference and remind him again how they work and that he cannot simply stop taking them. Then he will later forget to reorder them (he has actually never done that because it seems boring and complicated). I ask him frequently if he has taken them today, but he would say yes just to get me off his back, so I am never sure.
And here is the real kicker. Ever since he was very, very young, he has wanted to be self sufficient. He always insists on managing everything by himself and only comes to us when the world has exploded around him. Before then, he is extremely secretive. We don't help him fix things but always have used these occasions as teaching moments as to the natural consequence of his actions, and we show him how he can fix it. Then we figure out why this particular meltdown of his world happened, and tell him what options are available to him. And no matter what is tweaked, no matter if he gets an ESL or goes to an alternate school, is homeschooled, or studies online, and no matter how much we check up on how he is doing, the same thing happens again and again.
We have tried every way imaginable to parent him and guide him because he clearly doesn't have the .He insists he knows now and needs to do whatever at his own pace. We have written down a contract (his terms, even, with deadlines about certain things) using rewards or consequences of his choosing. And he will not do a thing he argued for and agreed to. When we say "well then you won't be able to (whatever the reward was) and he will shrug and say 'Okay. That's fine'. Or if we say 'Okay the consequence is that you have to give up your phone (or computer, whatever)' he will hold it out calmly before you are done wih the sentence. If you ground him he will always escape, often for days.
Well, recently I have been very persistent with Job Corp, since they had layoffs, then fired his inept admissions counselor without telling us, etc and he has now been trying to get in with all his paperwork in order since last December or something. I worked my butt off to convince them to give him an interview next week. This is something he has been asking me about constantly for about 6 months. He WANTS to go. So, they actually put him at the top of the stack, and it looks like he may get placed at site where they have the forestry program he wants, is surrounded by wilderness like he loves, and actually has instrument available for people who want to jam on their down time. Too good to be real. He just sort of shrugged and said 'k - let's see if it actually happens this time'. No thank you or anything for what I went through to get this, and then he wandered out to the kitchen.
We have been slowly unpacking boxes and clearing out our garage recently, and three days ago the whole family was very happy to find a decorative peace pipe (no bowl) that we have always had hanging in our house. It's just something that is cool looking and has always been around. Brought back lots of memories for everyone. We hung it up, and this morning one of his brothers brought it to me when he found it in the bathroom, which REEKED of weed. We know he smokes it, we hate it, and have tried just about everything to get him to stop short of calling the police so that he can get into Job Corps. He has always maintained that he will continue to smoke it now and then (and from watching him carefully I believe it is indeed a now and then thing), and that whether or not he goes to jail or we say no, he is going to do it. Short of putting him in handcuffs 24/7, we really cannot prevent that. So we told him that if he gets caught with it somewhere else he is on his own, and we will not bail him out. The thing we told him we would NEVER tolerate though, is having it in our house in any form. Ever. We regularly search his room when he is gone to make sure.
So Mr. I Make My Own Rules carved into this wonderful decorative and very old, beloved pipe to make it functional. And he smoked it in the bathroom!!!!! When I talked to him about it (intentionally being very calm and quiet) he didn't even listen but made snarky comments. He acted like a pettish 13 year old brat, Kept interrupting me to say "are you done? I'm not even listening" and that sort of thing. I did tell him that we were extremely disappointed about this on a lot of different levels, but most of what we talked about was about the importance of keeping your word, that this was a very big deal on many levels, and how this sort of thing could potentially derail his life, He kept saying 'it wasn't a big deal, but it is now, apparently". That led to a discussion about at least taking responsibility for his actions, and never blaming other people for what he alone chose to do. To which he responded if I hadn't gotten involved it wouldn't be a big deal. I left his room at that point, worried that I might beat him to death with my shoe or turn feral and eat my young.
I am so hopeless about him. I am so worried that he will never learn from his mistakes and will alway act on impulse or because he doesn't give a damn about rules. He has always been VERY immature for his age and is surprisingly naive about a lot of things. He is a gentle and compassionate person and has such good energy when he has success with things or when he even gets to hang out with his brothers. He is extremely lonely and, I think, losing all hope. Yet he won't let people help him.
Every day I sneak into his room if he has been sleeping in. If he is sleeping, I watch to make sure he is breathing. If he isn't in bed, I check his closet to see if he is hanging.
This is killing me.