I just had a chat with DH, to reinforce the knowledge that he’s going to have to be firm with Casanova when I’m gone. I won’t be around for him to rely on to be the bad guy. This isn’t a vacation for the two of them! If he lets the routines get lax, Casanova will be running wild, by the time I get back. I just know it.
Going into this, DH lectured me that I would have to mellow out, because I couldn’t expect the kid to be perfectly well behaved and obedient, like I expect my dogs to be. I realized this was true, and I set out to be flexible and reasonable. Within a week, it became obvious that DH had completely forgotten how to be a parent, and his default setting had become to be friends with Casanova. In effect, I’ve got two kids now, not just one.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Casanova was seeking permission to do something that we preferred he didn’t do. Instead of telling the kid no, DH told him to ask me, expecting me to be the hardass and the bad guy. Except, I’ve been working on not being such an unreasonable hardass, so I said yes. Which leads to a discussion about how DH expected me to say no, and that we didn’t really think he should go, after all. Cripes! I’m okay being the bad guy, but WARN ME first! All that hassle would have been avoided if he’d given me the heads up about how he felt and what he wanted me to do.
Recently, I discovered evidence that Casanova is dabbling in a certain herbal plant that has a few medical properties. I decided to deal with it like I dealt with finding the evidence that Casanova is sexually active. I was calm about it, because I refuse to make him feel shame, and if all I do is shout without listening, he’ll hesitate to ask for help when he needs it most. We sat down and I explained that the herb, (despite the government’s inflated classification), was much like alcohol: occasional recreational use by adults is fine. The herb even has legitimate medicinal uses, unlike alcohol. However, consumption by anyone under 21 has serious effects on the brain, because it’s still developing. Use of these substances can cause permanent damage to the impulse control sections of the brain, as well as the sections that handle executive function. It’s a case of play now, pay later – except you could be paying all your life.
When DH and I sat down to discuss how we should handle the situation, we agreed we wanted to limit the time Casanova would run around town under the influence. He does this with a cousin, and some unsavory friends, who all drive. Next thing I know, DH has taken this to mean we’re going to supply the house and the product for parties. I was ready to slap him silly! I told him to stop trying to be Casanova’s best buddy. He’s a cool grandpa, he doesn’t have to prove it. I had to explain that keeping him safe, does not mean making it easy. I swear, it was like explaining the rules to the pool to a 12 year old. I hope at least one of them listened to me.
When we first took on Casanova, the social worker and a Psychologist both warned me that his emotional and behavior problems were only partially caused by the ADHD. Most of the problems we would encounter were due to the fact that his mother had lost all control of Casanova, in fact, he rules their home. It’s one thing to hear that, and it’s another to see it in action and have only a split second to formulate an effective response.
It started small. Casanova, at 15, is spreading his wings and battling for independence. I’ve made it clear that if he wants to be treated like an adult, he has to behave like an adult. And I explained that being an adult is an all-or-nothing deal, he had to accept the responsibilities along with the benefits. I admit, he does try to be good about his chores. He’s been staying out of major trouble, and keeping up on his school work (we have to be more accepting of lower grades, as long as he’s putting in the effort and is learning something), so he was doing pretty good with his responsibilities.
One night, I made spaghetti and meat sauce for dinner. It’s yummy, and Casanova liked it every time I’ve made it in the past. This particular night, Casanova announced that he wasn’t in the mood for spaghetti, he would rather have bangers and mash. I said that was fine with me. I served spaghetti for myself and DH, and we sat down to eat. Casanova had the nerve to ask me when I was going to make his dinner. I told him he could make it himself. He didn’t call me earlier in the day to tell me what he wanted for dinner, so I chose to make spaghetti. He wants to be an adult, he can wrangle his own dinner, if he doesn’t want what the rest of us were having. He’s not helpless. The look on his face was priceless. His big blue eyes opened wide in shock, his mouth gaped like a fish. No one had ever told him he had to eat what everyone else was eating, or fend for himself. His mother always jumped up and cooked an entire dinner just for him, if he said he didn’t want what she’d made. His grandmother did the same thing, but I’m sure that’s because she has a pathological need to be liked. Anyway, DH told him that if he was truly hungry, he’d eat the spaghetti. Otherwise, he knew his way around the kitchen. Lordy, but he pouted all night long. He ate spaghetti and pouted, but HE ATE THE SPAGHETTI.
It was obviously an example of the dynamic he has with his mother. He decides he’s not in the mood for whatever she cooks for dinner, so he refuses to eat it, and she jumps up and cooks anything he wants, letting her own dinner get cold.
In the first few weeks we had Casanova, we dealt with some behavior issues stemming from all the turmoil. That all ended after just a few weeks, but the social worker warned us that Casanova would eventually try on us, the tricks that work on his mother to get him his own way.
Things were nice and quiet for a while. There were a couple of minor incidents of Casanova going back and forth between the two of us, when he didn’t like the answer one of us had given. DH and I managed to catch him and call him out. Then it escalated. There were a few incidents of Casanova ‘telling’ us he was going somewhere with certain people, rather than asking permission. That created tension, and resulted in his not being allowed to do a few things he wanted to do. Casanova escalated things again. He introduced a tactic that I just KNOW was successful with his mother. He came in and announced to me he was leaving with a couple of friends, he had no idea when he’d be home. My reply was, no, you’re staying home. He shouted something to me from the front room, pretending he didn’t hear me, and walked out the front door. I shouted for DH to stop him from leaving as I sprinted through the house. DH was at the front door when I reached the front room. He pulled the door open for me to run through. I knew when I caught Casanova in the driveway that no one had ever enforced anything before. He stared at me, dumbfounded. When I took his arm and led him back toward the house, he didn’t resist. I told DH to go tell the friends to leave, Casanova was staying home tonight (and DH obeyed immediately). A few days later, he tried something similar. I put myself in his path and towered over him, ordering him back into the house. I got a little more resistance this time, but ultimately he complied.
I know I’m only going to be bigger than he is, for about another year. Casanova is going to be at least as tall as I am, so I need condition his behavior now, while I’m still intimidating. I don’t plan on still having him in a year, but his mother is so unpredictable. She doesn’t seem to be able to keep from sabotaging herself, just before we get to the point of Reunification.
Casanova doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to go back to his mother, either. He doesn’t resist going to visit her, but he seems eager and relieved when he comes back home. He’s also fascinated by me, in spite of himself. He doesn’t know anyone else like me. I have more education, I’ve traveled extensively outside of the U.S., I have a great number of things in my life that have nothing to do with raising children, I don’t live in the same city in which I was born and graduated from high school. I read books, I enjoy all those geeky movies and TV, and I can explain the deeper themes and extended story arcs. I can defend my opinions using history, facts, and figures. I don’t form my opinions based on what the media, or other people, tell me to think. When I explained how the bible was assembled by men, not God, during the Council of Nicea, and told him about some of the texts they REJECTED because they were trying to control the population thoughts and actions, he got this horrified look on his face. He talked to DH about it later on, and I guess what I did was on par with breaking the truth about Santa to an older child. I felt bad, but he’s 15 and all of this is in the historical record.
Anyway, the guys are all out in the harbor, lobster fishing, and I need to sort through my GRL packing, to thin it out just a little more. I should probably reduce the number of pairs of shoes I’m bringing. That’s always the hardest part.
I’m going to try to write another chapter in Strength of the Warrior tonight. I had to pause and chart a timeline for my novels, along with real-life incidents, so that I have accurate passages of time. SotW has some very brief overlap with SotP, SotW, and SotM. A couple of scenes are seen from T’s POV this time. Also, there are times when T wasn’t ‘on screen’ that we now get to see what he was doing when others were just talking about him. Also, he and Dawson have a couple of babysitting fiascos early on. They got the hang of it, eventually.
So, I’m off to do some packing and some writing!