November 1, 2012 7:00 PM Subscribe
My semi-troubled sibling finally pulled the "I want to live with dad!" card. What should my mom do? How can I support her?
posted by anonymous to human relations (16 answers total)
Background: my father abruptly left my family many years ago. I've had no contact with him since; my brother has visited him during the summers. I'm older and living away from home already.
Brother and Mom have had a constant back-and-forth battle since middle school over grades. My brother just doesn't care about school: it's not that he can't focus, it's not that he doesn't understand the work, he just doesn't care. He either doesn't do or doesn't turn in his homework. He's had to go to summer school multiple times. He lies about having done homework or projects or what his current grade is. He lies, even knowing that his report card is going to come and bust him. My mom isn't asking for straight A's - she just wants him to not fail. He has just barely managed to scrape not having to repeat a grade. She's yelled, punished, talked seriously about "what are you going to do after high school?" Nothing gets through.
He's also doing some community service right now because of some nonviolent but still Definitely Uncool and Illegal behavior. This is the first time he's been in trouble of that sort. He'll graduate high school soon (if he scrapes by) and then what? As far as we know, he hasn't been involved with drinking or drugs. He won't even look for an after-school job. He hasn't taken driver's ed because Mom told him he has to either get better grades or look for a job before she'll pay for it.
They've also had fights over other typical teenager stuff, but it's mostly the schoolwork and the lying that is a constant, frustrating battle. My mom is a single parent and simply doesn't have the time or energy to know every single thing that's due for a high schooler, for pete's sake. She loves him, and I know he loves her, it's just a terrible cycle.
So finally, my brother has come out with "I want to go live with my dad"; he wants to "try something different", though I suspect it's more "Dad won't nag me and get in fights with me so much". My mom is so sick of fighting and trying to get him to take some responsibility for his life or future, that she's about ready to just let him do it. And of course, she's angry and sad that she's put in a decade of doing 99% of the parenting alone and this is what she gets. She has tried so hard for YEARS to get him to think about how his decisions are going to impact his ability to get a post-high school education or a job or anything, and it just doesn't stick. She has told him he's definitely not living rent-free with Mom; doesn't stick. My mom has some health problems and it would be very difficult to afford family therapy, if her insurance even covered it at all.
Frankly, I think my dad is Not Interested in being a full-time parent, and my brother might actually get a bit of a surprise when dad has some excuse about why he shouldn't live with him. (FWIW, outside of their summer visits, dad rarely talks with brother and is generally unaware of what goes on in his life 11 months of the year).
I feel terrible for my mom. She wants to know if she should just let him go, the status quo clearly hasn't worked so far. I don't know what to tell her: part of me thinks it'd almost work out better for her if she let him go, so he won't see her as the villain. I don't think my father is a completely neglectful parent, but I highly doubt he will put in the effort my mom has to try to get my brother to shape up.
Because of our age difference, I've never bugged him too much about it because I think I already sometimes have kind of a "second mom" dynamic with him and I don't want to be another adult who gets on him.
I'm turning to MF in the hopes that other people have dealt with this family situation and have advice based on how it turned out...
1) What should I advise her to do when she asks? Just let him go and learn from his mistakes? Or keep trying to keep him at home?
2) What is the best way to take care of her from afar while she deals with this? I am often not the greatest at keeping in touch or being emotionally supportive, but I want to be.