By Jackson, An Adopt4Life Community Parent
That is what we do, my son and I. We dance. We dance around so many things in our lives. It is a dance learned from the extreme trauma and loss my son experienced in his early life. It is a dance I learned instinctively in what I now know to be therapeutic parenting. It is a dance for our survival, individually and together. And it continues today, unchanged, even though my son is 21 years old.
I am a separated father. My son lives with me full-time along with our four Dachshund “wiener” doggies in a noisy and busy household.
When my son was 16 years old, he asked if he could go to a friend’s party. I replied yes, but I want to speak to your friend’s parents first. Which friend of yours? A new friend. Can I call his parents? I don’t have their names or telephone number. It is a new friend of Peter’s. Okay, then who is going with you? Oh, Peter and John and me. Alright let me speak to Peter’s mom. Oh no, she doesn’t know about this party. ALARM BELL! I need to know more about this party. Okay it is posted on Facebook.
Please show it to me. Okay, I see it says: “Great party. Bring lots of booze Saturday Night”... Of course, I nixed that in the bud. However, thinking more about what happened, I realized that my son knew somehow in his brain that he should not go to this party. He knew if he showed me the Facebook invitation, I would say no. He needed a way out and I could be the blame for his friends. I happily accept the fall-guy position, the awful father. I’ll buy that. Okay, good dance.
My son likes to stay up late at night—what youth do not? He knows that I will wake him up in the morning. He needs to negotiate with me about what time to go to bed, as if without this negotiation, there is no structure. Somehow, somewhere, he knows that he needs this structure even though he fights for later bed times, and still at his age today. Done. Next dance.
For years I have been driving him to and from school and work. Many have criticized me as spoiling and sheltering him. I do know that he uses the subway and bus system easily and happily to visit friends. However, I have done this to minimize any chance that he might consider skipping a class or work. Such structure allows him to use his brain power fully for the tasks of work and classes and to avoid overloading the brain beforehand with less significant choices and possibilities like navigating the TTC, texting and perhaps being late or going to a friend, as he often used to do. Another great dance.
I wake up my son in the mornings. Yes, he should learn to take responsibility for this. There is still plenty of time for him to learn whereas his college and work take priority for now for him to succeed in life. I wake him up (sometimes three times) and he is angry at me and mumbling under his breath on the way to the bathroom and I hear “stupid” this and “stupid” that. Okay. That is my role to receive these mumblings as his dance partner.
When his pay-cheque arrives, I organize the money showing him what to pay, what to save and what he can spend on weekends as fun money. “It’s my money that I work hard for. I should be able to spend it all if I want” he complains. Deep down he knows that he is better off with my dividing up his money. However, some more arguing allows us to complete this dance and then he releases the money to me for his protection.
May I have the next dance?