Transitions are never easy. There have been many changes in my son’s life over the last twelve months. Donald is 18 and so has acquired adult status, in years anyway. He now sports a cool stubble and his bedside drawer reveals a box of condoms. He has a girlfriend (Daisy) and other female friends, at least one of whom would like to be a little more than that. At least I can see that she would like this, but it doesn’t quite seem to have registered on his horizon.
Daisy has turned his life upside-down over this year. She is very needy and also very manipulative. She is used to clicking her fingers and for Donald and whoever else she requires, to come running. She frequently has emotional episodes which require hand holding, brow wiping and attendance, regardless of the time of day or night. Given the huge quantities of caffeinated drinks that she consumes, these episodes usually occur at night, meaning that Donald is frequently summonsed in the wee hours, with his absence discovered the following morning.
With so much nocturnal activity, Donald’s school work bit the dust last year and he only passed one subject of his final year of high school. Daisy dropped out just before the exams so she did not fare any better. They both have casual jobs and are supposedly studying again but I will be very surprised if they complete the academic year in their enrolments. Their entire focus is on partying.
Remember how when your children are toddlers, they love to help you around the house? Whatever you are doing, they want to do to. Sweeping, washing up, working in the garden and especially cooking. Helping mum is wonderful. Sigh. It doesn’t last. For a start, Donald sleeps for a greater part of the day because he is up all night. When I race out the door for work in the morning, I might leave a note asking him to hang out the washing or some such chore. I then need to ring him later in the day and tell him to read the note as I cannot assume that this will happen without prompting. When I get home, there will be damp clothing on the line, indicating that it has only just been hung up. Assuming that it has. Some days, it is still in the basket and I hear ‘Oops – I forgot!’
Doing something of his own volition just does not happen, although on odd occasions, (very odd) I will come home to find that a meal has been cooked. More likely though I will get a text message through the day asking me to pick up more milk or whatever on my way home because there is none left. (Yes, he has drunk it all.) He feels that he is being responsible in advising me that we are out of this item. The idea of actually stirring himself to go shopping would not occur to him. This sort of organisation does not rate as highly as continuing with the computer games that he plays most days, when he is not watching the latest series that he has downloaded from the internet.
You start to get the picture here that his life is all about rights and not at all about responsibilities. Daisy is even more strongly an adherent to this philosophy, and to a general extent, so are all of Donald’s mates. The mates are generally reasonable kids – just totally wrapped up in themselves and the lives that they want to live. I frequently wake up and find that one or more of them has stayed the night, with all concerned assuming that this is OK. In general, yes it is but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Usually though they have arrived in the early hours of the morning whilst I am fast asleep. If they happen to see me as they slip out the back door in the morning (the easiest route to and from Donald’s room) they chirp ‘thank you for having me!’ before dragging their dishevelled and red-eyed selves off home. I can’t complain about the amount of water that they use, as they rarely shower.
Donald and Daisy’s relationship has been turbulent, as he has gradually come to realise that she is not always honest, not always faithful, and uses people shamelessly. He has gradually met a number of her discarded friends who have been used and abused along the way and now choose not to get too close. She cannot manage money and so frequently spends his as well. Progressively Donald has become aware of her shortcomings and has experienced much in her company that has distressed and dismayed him. Consequently, he has broken up with her – several times.
Last Thursday evening was the last of those occasions and it was with an indication of relief that he told me that he was meeting her later that evening to tell her that it was over and to give her back her possessions that she had left at our house. The next morning he confirmed that there had been tears because she loves him, but she had accepted his decision and that they would stay just friends. Ha! I popped home at lunch time and found them both fast asleep in his bed and I believe that this is where they were for most of the day. Not sure how she talked him around again, but the pair of very sexy red and black knickers that I found on his bedroom floor probably had something to do with it. I still wonder what she wore home that day! Donald went off to work that evening (three days ago) and he hasn’t been home since. He is presumably staying with Daisy, but has not seen fit to let me know that, nor to answer my texts asking that he check in with me on a daily basis, as he is supposed to do.
For some time, I have been contemplating telling Donald that it is time he moved out of our house. The reasons will not be new to him – I am sick of being taken for granted, and also don’t like losing control of the house. It is time that he learnt to take responsibility for himself and to pay his way in life. I am not being treated with respect and I do not deserve that. The concerns that I have of course are those that would occur to any mother. He barely earns enough to support himself – how would he manage and would I be putting him in moral jeopardy? Would he keep up his current course of study or would this be the final straw that encouraged him to drop out? Would it be the start of a downward spiral into a boozy and perhaps drug-related lifestyle, which would be more restricted if he continued to live with me? He would have to rent a room somewhere and could not afford anything too comfortable. Should I give him a small allowance to ensure that he has enough on which to sustain himself when combined with his wage?
The alternative is to ask him to start and pay board, equivalent to 25% of his earnings or thereabouts. This would also help to reinforce the understanding that there is no such thing as a free lunch, although I know that in order to get this money I would have to set up a direct debit arrangement. The down side though is that he would probably feel that this payment absolved him of any further domestic responsibility, and still would not abide by domestic rules that have been put in place but are difficult to enforce without his cooperation.
Donald is still a nice kid, and others are always telling me that he is so pleasant, helpful (to them), sociable, etc. He is not a lost cause and in future years he will probably become a reasonable human being. Right now though he is selfish, lazy, feckless, self-centred and unreliable.
This transition in in Donald’s growing up is difficult. No doubt there are issues for him, insecurities, unknowns, etc. but it is also immensely difficult for me as his parent. It is especially hard given that I work 40+ hours on week days and so am not around through the day to monitor what is happening at home. When he is awake, I am asleep and vice versa. If we are both awake and at home, there are often other people around, making personal communication difficult. There are days when I so wish that I had a partner with whom to address these issues and who could talk about man stuff, and respect, and the meaning of life and all that. A decent role model would be brilliant, but we have never had one of those in our lives. I am just hoping that he is home when I get home from work tonight, or at least has the decency to contact me.