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Another New Poster with Son Issues

Started by Dirty Martini, December 14, 2014, 01:01:26 pm

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Dirty Martini

Another first time poster; thanks for listening to my story.  I've read the required pre-reading before posting, thanks for the forum and the opportunity to express myself.

On one hand, comparatively speaking -- I'm lucky in a lot of ways and I'm grateful for the positives, which are as follows:  My 21 year old son (my only child)  is a senior at a top liberal arts colleges in California.  (We are from Texas).  No known drug usage, and he barely drinks (he says he doesn't really like the taste).   He has never been in any trouble beyond a single speeding ticket.   He's brilliant.   He  has an IQ of 140, he speaks four languages and is majoring in linguistics and cognitive science.   On paper, it's all good.

The problem?  Despite speaking four languages, he can't be bothered to speak or interact with his family.  At all.  He just plain won't speak with us.   He'll answer direct questions using as few words as possible and sharing nothing of any real significance.   He ought to work for the CIA because getting information out of him is impossible!   When he is home, he pretty much stays up all night on the computer, and then sleeps all day.    So that way he avoids interaction with me and my husband (not his dad).    He acts the same way at his dad's house.      Every 3-4 nights he will go out with "friends"  (can't be bothered to tell us who they are) and stay out all pm.  He'll tell us he plans on spending the night out so we won't worry, but we have no idea where he is or who he is with.     He spends so much of his life on the internet , thru internet sleuthing, I find out more about him than he would tell me.  Nothing dramatic was learned,  but he felt like I was "stalking" so he basically blocked me as much as he could (facebook, twitter, etc.)    I told him repeatedly two things:  1) If he puts it on the internet with his name,  he has no rights of real privacy as anyone can read it and 2) if he would share more himself with me, I wouldn't have to resort to sleuthing.    My internet sleuthing did create something of a wedge between us, but the reality is we couldn't be that much more distant anyway.  We also got crosswise this summer when he had a HIV scare.  That's a long story but it involved an entire week of waiting on test  results--I was totally freaking out (he was showing troubling symptoms but the test was ultimately negative, thank goodness).  He seemed blaise the whole time saying the likelihood was quite low--but he admitted a risky behavior to his doctor that precipitated the test.    That's another story--but my "overreaction" (according to him) was yet another wedge between us.  But again--we couldn't be that much farther apart, it just gave him an excuse to be distant vs. being distant without one.

The family background:  His dad and I divorced when he was quite young (2ish), although we shared him 50/50 and were true coparents in his upbringing.   Somewhere around 11 or 12 is when he turned so away from any emotional connection with his family.  So this isn't anything new since college, its been going on for years.   (Yes he is the same way with his dad and his half brother through his dad).    I assumed it had to do with grappling with his sexuality (he is gay, which I have known since he was 6, likely before he knew it)...but he's been "out" since he's 17 and nothing has changed.  He just seems to want to have nothing to do with us.        He isn't disrespectful.  He just doesn't participate at all.  He will do as he is asked  around the house (but nothing more and nothing without direction to do so).  He volunteers nothing.    He doesn't spontaneously call or text.   Yes if its a birthday he'll text and send a present (although someone has always prompted him so he won't forget, for example my husband will text him and say "don't forget your mom's birthday is such and such").

My SIL / her husband came for Thanksgiving dinner.  He was polite to them in terms of answering questions--but other than that, he won't participate in conversation, doesn't ask anyone about themselves, etc.  It feels like he is an emotional and social zygote instead of a brilliant young man. 

His dad and I have both tried so talk to him about this multiple times over the last few years, but it doesn't really change.  He just looks away while we talk to a stone wall, says something like "there's nothing to say", and then just clams up all the more.   THe odd thing is...yes, he has friends.  He is something of a "leader" at school (both in HS and in college).  His grades are always outstanding.  He just seems to want to have nothing to do with his parents and his family.   

Of course going to college half the country away combined with his international summer travels (school sponsored research), makes him physically far away too.    While he's gone, if I text him anything (a picture of the cat doing something funny, a picture of the Christmas tree)--I get no response.  If I text a question, I'll get an answer 2-3 days later.  If I ask him to call me or Skype with me, he generally will, but I'm carrying the conversation 100%.  I ask, he answers--quickly, briefly and without any real information.  If I don't ask him to call, he won't do it on his own spontaneously and I wont hear from him.

It's so hard to have a son you want to have a relationship with and no matter what you put out there--you get absolutely nothing back in emotional response or availability.      He'll be home the week before Christmas and he'll be here in Texas until the middle of January when he goes back to school in Cali.  I am so looking forward to seeing him in theory, but I know that when he gets here, I'll be so frustrated by his distance and lack of engagement that I'll eventually blow a gasket, which will just ensure he stays distant.  But not calling him out on it doesn't get any different response, and at least I feel better getting it off my chest.

Truthfully I feel used.  He has been given everything in life and he's wanted for nothing.  (He also is low maintenance and doesn't ask for anything either.  Which makes it so easy to voluntarily give him things.)  He has no reason to be distant.  His dad and I have bothbeen there for him.  He went to a great private school for 12 years.  I am personally carrying the financial load of that high end liberal college and it isn't cheap.  I'm doing it because of how gifted he is, how important his education is, and it is my responsibility (It's also his dad in my opinion, but dad can't afford it, I can, and because I can--I pay.  Its the type of college that doesn't give scholastic scholarships unless there is financial need--which I'm blessed to not qualify for).    No one thanks me.  Not him, not his dad, etc.  I don't get it.  How can someone who has been so blessed be so oblivious to the basics of family responsibility?   

After working so hard, giving him everything, etc. I always envisioned that I would have a grateful, loving relationship with my son and I simply don't.  I know it could be so much worse and there could be real drama and real problems (drugs, theft, alcohol, abuse, etc.)  There isn't.  I'm grateful that this seems like a "first world problem".   

But this sure isn't how I envisioned my relationship with my son, and I have no idea what to do about it.  I've been a driven executive all my life, someone who can fix problems (and did).  But this is something that I can't seem to change.

Thanks for letting me vent.


Welcome, D. For a long time, I was locked in a game, of sorts, with my elder son. I don't know if that is what's going on with you or not. What I finally realized was that two were playing it. I felt my son 'should' this and 'should' that and just didn't get that it was up to him to address his feelings and behavior...or not. I was tripping over my expectations and holding him responsible for fulfilling them. Letting go took me through some victim having to deal with it wasn't fair and I deserved better. In the end what freed me, was keeping up my end of things and expecting nothing. It took ages but I got out of his life and back into my own...knowing I had done my best and still was. He never did change but I see that as his choice. I'd made mine and found my own kind of peace...sans gameboard. Sending hugs...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

Dirty Martini

Wise words indeed.   Trying to give myself that same pep talk, thanks for the reinforcing view.   


DM, welcome. You came to the right place for your rant, lol. I sympathize and send (((hugs.))) He's been through a lot, as have you, and maybe down the road he'll open up a little more. One of my dear friends just told me that her DS (who is similar to yours, but just turned 27) interacted with his family and extended family this past Thanksgiving for the first time! 26-27 seems to be a magic age for guys. That's when my DS finally thanked us for paying his way through college.
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb

Dirty Martini

Thanks, Pen, you gave me hope!  I can handle "no expectations" this Christmas break and even  on an occurrence by occurrence basis (living in the moment, one day at a time where he is concerned). 

But I have to admit it -- right now giving up having hopes and expectations for something better for the rest of my life is just too depressing to contemplate.  I'll hope that 26 or 27 brings a different relationship. ;)


Welcome.  From just the outside looking in on your post, I would say he's being pretty normal for that age.  Combine that with I'm sure he has his own struggles when it comes to his sexuality, he's probably sorting through a lot in his life.  I know that's no comfort to you when you want more, but really, he's doing great in school and he is at least keeping in touch.  Maybe not in the way you want, but he still is.

Also, no one at age 21 wants their Mom snooping into all their social accounts.  That is nothing personal against you, but I'm assuming, you brought things up to him that you saw on this pages?  That's how he knew you were sleuthing around?  Let's face it.  No child or young Adult wants their Mom having that much access to their comings and goings.  My 25 year old Son will post something that just makes my teeth hurt, and I ignore it and don't say a word about it.  He's an adult and although I wouldn't have posted it, that's his business.

I'm not picking at you, but you had a sentence in your post that caught my eye.   "How can someone who has been so blessed be so oblivious to the basics of family responsibility?"  We all had hopes and wishes that our children would remain in our families as they got older.  We knew we wouldn't be the center of attention, just hoped for some inclusion.  That is our expectations not theirs and one of the big hang-ups we all get caught in.  We don't understand how they can just be so blasé about family because most of us weren't or we believed our children would never be.  Our expectations are one thing we have to learn to let go of.

Have you tried giving him some space and not texting or calling him?
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell

Dirty Martini

Pooh, thanks for your thoughts and you certainly raise good points.  They resonate most with me for the "here and now" and into the future as he is 21 and will graduate from college in 5 months.   He is now an adult--but just barely.    But he is an adult and it is time for me to let the reins go now and let him choose as he chooses without my expectations.  THank you for the reinforcement of that.   

As it relates to my post,  much of the content of my (needed) rant referenced his teenage years and not the now officially adult one.  (He only just turned 21 a few months ago).    And so, I would like to provide some explanation and context.

Yes I looked at his social media from his age of 14 until last year.  When you have a son who is quiet, withdraw, and incredibly to himself and not willfully disclosing anything to his worry.    And if he's gay, you worry a lot.  The rates of gay teen suicide are not insignificant.  Combine that with a medical hypothyroidism issue -- which potentially has  a side effect of depression, although my son has not been diagnosed with that -- you watch and you worry and you pay attention for changes and yes, you look for warning signs.     You could choose to do nothing, bury your head in the sand and hope it turns out OK.    Likely it will.

But then you hear of things like Adam Lanza (the Sandy Hook mass murderer)....and you learn that he had a mother who just didn't intercede and question.  ANd people scream "how could she not have known?  why didn't she care enough to investigate?"         Or James Holmes, in Aurora CO, a brilliant young man with demons that also seemed to have gone unchecked.     I am likely sounding melodramatic, and perhaps hyperbolic to make a point.....if you don' t intercede to find out what is going on, you may miss something very important.     But if you do intercede to find out what's going on, then you risk being accused of stalking, interfering and so on.    SO you make your best choice weighting the pros/cons/risks etc.

And yes, in doing so, I did learn he was engaged in an  on line activity when he ws 19 that was foolish (involving the reposting of porn) and came with some unintended risk (you know nothing about the sources of the pictures, and what if it happens to be an underage individual?).  I made the correct parenting decision to a) tell him I knew; b) tell him how I knew and c) insist he stop.     At 19 he could be held liable as an adult for very serious issues, and I feared he wasn't thinking this one thorugh very well.  He professes he took corrective action as a result.  I hope he did.

WIth this explanation, I hope you understand why I have no parental regrets on doing what I did in these years.  I fully get it saying what I did, it comes with second guessing and  no worries about that -- I did come here looking for advice.   ;D 


Ok, thanks for clarifying.  I didn't understand from your original post that we were talking when he was young. 

Yes, that is totally different, IMO, when you are talking about a child that is under your roof.  Both of my children were allowed to have Facebook when they were teenagers, with the rule they had to friend me and could put no restrictions on what I saw, and had to turn over their passwords.  I did monitor their page for inappropriateness back then, as I believe all parents should do.  What they post as children, it can not only be dangerous for their wellbeing but also hurt them later in life as nothing truly ever "goes away" when it comes to the internet. 

Unfortunately, that does come with they get to make the decision to block you or unfriend you when they do become an adult.  I wouldn't have regretted it either had they ever give me a reason to confront them over something. 
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell