Monday, February 19, 2007

A Visit from the Temper Fairy

Oy vey! What a stressful weekend! I am ever so glad it's Monday! The week before last, J made the very hard decision to allow Boot to try living with his father. We thought that it would only be fair to allow him to try it out, especially since he is convinced he will get better grades there and will fail here. We don't think his father is a good parent or a good influence, but since he will be influenced by him no matter where he lives, we figured there would be little to lose in allowing a trial period. The longer he stays with us, the more bitter he becomes about not being with his father. He has been aching & longing to live with his father more than half of his life. We thought that if he had the chance, either he would be happier and thrive (good) or would realize we're not as horrid as he seems to think and come back, only with better behavior, more respect and less bullying of his brother (even better).

Ever since he returned from summer visitation with Dark Man, his behavior has been dreadful. His frequent temper outbursts and sucking up all the air in the room have made life at home stressful to the point that I was actually happy to be away all week last semester, even though I missed J like mad. In addition to the nightmarish outbursts, his speech has also become littered with misogyny and homophobia. Lovely. In the past couple of months, he began to refuse to sit down and eat with us, often either plowing through a huge amount of food close enough to dinner that he wasn't hungry when we ate or falling asleep just in time to miss dinner, then emerging after bedtime to take up his kitchen marauder role. During family activities, he would often just walk out if anything he didn't like happened. His paranoia about us trying to undermine him was on the rise, as well. Much of the time since his 14th birthday, family activities and dinner were just the three of us, with Boot mad because he thought we had stolen his money or whatever the angst du jour was.

So, while we love Boot and enjoy his company on the increasingly rare occasions when he's pleasant to us, it's been a huge relief to have him living elsewhere full-time. Pie has been able to relax into being himself, kissing us, telling us he loves us, cooking and watching jewelry HSN. It has felt like a normal family, with normal, appropriate emotions expressed regularly. Ahhhh! We've had such fun just being a relaxed family with Pie. We even made a trip to Dave & Buster's and had a blast Thursday night. Pie holds my hands while we watch movies, asks how our days were and was thrilled when the snow kept me from going to school this week when he had snow days. He and I piled up in our bed & watched cartoons all morning. The difference between when Boot is here and when it's just the three of us is like night and day.

Boot arrived for his first visitation with us Friday night and within minutes was angry. Pie wants to take down all Boot's football paraphernalia and make the room his own, at least until Boot returns at the end of the school year. This seems fair. The trial period is until then. If he does okay at his father's and his father actually communicates in a civil manner with us, he gets to stay. We are looking for improved grades, better behavior (especially respect toward us and lack of controlling behavior toward his brother when he visits, along with no blow-ups) and continued communication. So, Pie told us he wants to decorate the bedroom "Star Wars and nerdy." He wants Godzilla and Iron Man posters, too. He has been afraid to put his Iron Man bust out for fear of it getting destroyed in one of Boot's outbursts. His Millennium Falcon was nearly destroyed Christmas Eve. Now, he can have his room as he likes. So, Pie and I had taken some of Boot's football stuff down and stowed it where it would be safe. Boot was furious. This makes no sense to me, since he has chosen to go live with his father and has his own room there to decorate.

He got over it, though, when we went shopping for J's birthday gifts at Target. He joked around with me and consulted with me on which Burt's Bees products J would like most. He went far above what most teenage boys would have done to get hold of a little girl's accidentally released balloon and return it to her. I was so very proud of him for that. He was very plesant to us the rest of the night. He was very controlling and critical with Pie, though. He was furious with him for not taking the Dave & Buster's cards (which Boot had mailed him) when we went and for "wasting Grandma's money!" Pie had been sent a Valentine card and ten dollars by their paternal grandmother, with whom Boot now resides (yes, his father lives with his mother...just like Matthew McConaughey in Failure to Launch but not one iota as charming). Being a typical 12-year-old boy, he took the money along to Dave & Buster's and used it once the $25 card we bought him was all used up. He had fun with it, which I'm sure was the intent. Boot complained on and on about how irresponsible Pie is, how he never listens, how he's a "bad little kid" and a "retard." I probably had smoke coming out of my ears over his treatment of Pie. He seemed to look at us as allies, co-parents or something, all struggling with the same difficult child. The only problem with that is that he's no parent and Pie is not at all difficult. Aside from not wanting to take out the trash in the snow. Boot was okay for the rest of the night, as we ate spaghetti and watched cartoons, but he kept picking at & nagging his brother. Pie's response was, "But, Brother, I had fun at Dave & Buster's. I just had fun."

Things got worse Saturday. Boot refused breakfast, but did sit with us while we ate. He was perfectly pleasant. He did take and hide a pack of Pie's new gum, but I don't think he meant it to be mean, just prankish. We all went to see Ghost Rider and Boot seemed in a merry mood until Pie refused to take his crap anymore. Boot had continued riding him and it finally came to a head when Boot tried to get Pie to eat his glow stick. Pie told us later that he heard they were poison, so he didn't think he should eat it. Blows were exchanged during previews and Boot got up and stalked out. J ended up having to miss the opening scenes of the movie begging him to come back. He refused, so she came back in and we watched the movie. I wouldn't have bothered. He is a constant walk-out artist and I think it just feeds his ego if we beg him to be with us. The movie was great and all three of us were in a fine mood afterward. We expected Boot had gotten the management to let him in to the apartment and we were right. His feelings were hurt because he'd been excluded from the fun, so he was angry. Pie wisely decided to spend the afternoon hanging with us, watching Ice Age 2 and eating battered fish. We invited Boot, but he refused, choosing instead to brood in the bedroom.

After the movie, Pie couldn't play his new game because his brother was watching t.v. When he tried to use his computer, his brother was downloading i-Tunes. We don't know exactly what occurred, but we were making soup when we heard an argument break out. J investigated & found that Boot had thrown chewed bubble gum at Pie and had sprayed him & the bed with Easy Cheez. What a jerk. At that point, I would have given Boot a heavy-duty consequence. But, it was not up to me. J came back out after getting things calmed down. Shortly, though, we heard a loud thunk. Boot had gotten angry again and had hurled a jar of peanut butter, whacking it into the wall, where it exploded all over the bedroom. Crazy. Truly crazy. He told us he'd thrown it, then said Pie had, flip-flop, flip-flop. Pie told us in detail what had happened. Since Boot had flung a can of frosting, which exploded all over their room on impact, on Christmas Eve, we are fairly certain that he was the culprit Saturday night, as well. I am so damn sick of his drama and psycho behavior. I am also sick of J trying to cajole him into being part of the family by giving him no consequences and trying to appease him. I know she is just trying to hold the family together, but if he is not held accountable for his actions, that's not fair to him or to those he hurts now and in the future. She and Pie cleaned up the mess while Boot sat at my computer muttering about "calling my dad right now" and I seethed in the bedroom. He gets pissed because I say he is acting crazy, but I think actions seem pretty damn crazy. He told J that Pie and I are traitors because we think it's calmer when he's not here. UGH!

I was so mad by the time the soup was ready and Boot was sitting on the stairs saying he was never coming back (which, as far as I'm concerned, would be a blessing, at least until he gets it together) & would go to a foster home before coming back here that I was shaking. Rather than yell at him and get accused by J of escalating the situation, I removed myself to eat dinner and watch t.v. in the bedroom. I was too upset to read and had to get myself calmer before I could eat. I am SO GLAD he is not living with us full-time anymore. His weekend craziness after a week of calm and normalcy put the lunacy of our lives before he left into stark relief.

After J went to bed, I was working on an adult ed piece on the computer. Pie came out saying, "I'm hungry for bread!" Boot had actually sent him out to get root beer and bread, pretending it was for him, to sneak into the bedroom because Boot had refused to eat dinner, choosing instead to brood on the stairs. I told Pie that he would be in trouble if he took food in the bedroom because they are not allowed to have food in there. Boot managed to convince J & Pie that he needed to have it in there so he could calm down. It makes me SO MAD that he can just control the whole household and break any rules he wants...and manipulate things so that he actually gets permission to break this rule that has been in place since 2001. GRR! It actually caused a rare argument between me & J. About the only thing we ever argue about is parenting. I think she lets Boot especially, and both children, get away with way too much. She thinks I am too strict.

Sunday morning, J's 44th birthday, I slipped out of bed and went to the early service at church. It was snowing like mad, huge flakes coming down around me as I drove, snowbanks along the sides of the road. Simply GORGEOUS! And peaceful. There were only 8 of us for the early service and 3 for adult ed. It was a nice service, though, and a good class. We discussed the verse from Luke about Jesus allowing the children to come to him and how we should be as children. I wish my children could be as children. We also discussed some ideas for our next course of study. Then, I made some library returns and hit Starbucks. I wanted to get J a birthday latté and decided to try and make peace with Boot, with whom I was still very angry, by bringing hot chocolate to both kids. Boot's is still in our fridge, since he refused to drink it. They were still asleep, so J and I hung out in bed and watched Shaft. J had wanted to go to the art museum for her birthday, but (probably very wisely) amended her plan in light of the weather and Boot's temper. She decided she would open presents, then go to BW-3 for wings and trivia.

Boot sat with us while she opened her gifts, but said very little except when he was scolding Pie for nothing. Then, when we got ready to go to BW-3, he decided not to go. Nobody had done anything to him, but his mood had suddenly blackened. J asked him if he was going to cry because he looked so bad. He said, "I ain't gonna cry, but I am about to deck somebody!" No one had done or said ANYTHING to him that should have upset him. J tried to persuade him to come with us, but all it did was make her cry. I wanted to deck him for making her cry on her birthday. That is just flat-out cold-hearted. This is not the first time she has cried over him on her birthday. Before I met her, their father took them on her birthday, when she was supposed to have them. He did it simply to be mean and make her sad. He finally brought Pie back, but her birthday was ruined that year. Pie was happy to go to BW-3 and hang out with us. J cried all the way there, but was able to enjoy herself after all. We had a great time with Pie. I had been afraid Boot would trash the apartment while we were gone and Pie worried that he might burn it down, "with all the kitties inside!" (We should NOT have to be thinking this way and I certainly shouldn't have to feel like keeping a knife on my bedside table for protection in case Boot breaks the door down in the middle of the night. J thinks I'm paranoid & melodramatic. I don't. I have hung out with all kinds of wild punk-rock skinheaded & mohawked teenage boys. I dated a guy who was diagnosed psychotic-schizophrenic and carved "FUCK" on his chest with a stiletto for fun. I have had another boyfriend, who later tried to kill his wife, pull out a gun in the car when I was driving. I have been hit in the face by two people I've lived with. I've had a guy spend weeks screaming in my face every time he saw me because I wouldn't go out with him. I have never been so nervous of anyone as I am of Boot. It seems ridiculous for me to be afraid of him, but I trusted that those guys would not actually hurt me. I am not so sure with Boot and his hair-trigger temper. I have seen Heavenly Creatures & know it doesn't take much when you're dealing with someone irrational. I take precautions. I keep the phone with me. I sleep with the bedroom door locked. I am on my guard) When we got home, in fact, the scent of something that had been burned (not food and certainly not cigarettes or pot, but paper) was strong in the air. Boot was still sitting where we had left him, but he had been burning something. I don't know what it was, but it better not have been anything of mine.

My mom called to wish J a happy birthday and while I was on the phone with her, J took Boot shopping. When they got back, he was in a good mood, with a new blazer. I was relieved he was in a good mood for J's cake and the last part of the day, but I hate that he was rewarded for his awful behavior with new clothes. That doesn't make any sense to me. When they got home, it was just time to take J's cake from the oven. She had chosen a chocolate molten lava cake, made in a 6-cup muffin pan. We sang to her, she blew out her candle and we ate peaceably. I wish it could always be peaceful and normal when Boot's around. His dad arrived to pick him up shortly after the cake and he left, saying, "I love you guys." I was so, so, so happy and relieved to see him go. I will be having weekend class the next 2 weekends he is here, so I won't have to see him until Saturday night. Thank GOD!!! I worry about what will happen to Pie next weekend when he visits there. The consequences of "traitordom" will surely be harsh. But, there is little we can do.

I think we all breathed a big sigh of relief when he left. Pie played his new game and J and I watched The Gathering and then some t.v. We ordered Pizza Hut for dinner and Pie came to eat with us. More t.v., then bed. The return of normalcy. Hurrah!


Sonya said...

I just want to reach out and give you a gigantic hug. I can't immagine living like this and having little to no say in ways of correcting the behavior.

I cannot even imagine.


Kit said...

(((D)))) I just want to say after reading this that you are in no means paranoid or melodramatic. I spent some of my professional teaching career teaching behaviorally disturbed and emotionally disturbed children and what you present here with Boot has all the markings of an adolescent in deep trouble. If help on a professional level isn't given soon to this child by his father I fear a bleak future for him. As a single Mom who raised 3 boys I understand J's misplaced guilt and wanting to 'fix' things. However I had to learn the hard way, by doing tough love and having one of mine end up in jail for 6 mos at that age or 15, misplaced guilt leads to bad decisions. Fortunately for my
son, after he was released from jail for a class D felony, I had his probation moved to my home state from his father's (where he insisted on living) and got him the psycho. help he needed. Now a grown man with a lovely wife and three beautiful children, he has been an EMT and currently an Army Ranger serving overseas.

All this to say that I validate what you are thinking and feeling over this behavior. You as stepparent are in such a tenuious position as an 'observer' between your wife and her biological child. Perhaps you can encourage her to get into counseling over this situation and therefore hear from an objective professional that this behavior is dangerous and abberhant.

I love you D. And am sending good thoughts to you daily.