Am I too hard on my adult son
October 16, 2016 1:38 AM   Subscribe

I'm worried about my 24 year old son slipping back into a rut and it's led to me badgering him and being tough on him, for his own good I feel. However I do wonder if I'm being too hard.

My 24 year old son has lived with me for 18 months after his mum kicked him out. He also has an identical twin brother who lives with his girlfriend.
When he moved in he was in a rut. He was jobless, smoked a lot of weed, played x box all day, didn't pay much attention to personal hygiene and only really socialised with his brother. Added to that he has always had a bed wetting problem. I was determined to drag him out of this rut and whilst living with me he has:

Sought help for bedwetting and it had improved a lot.

Stated and successfully completed an apprenticeship in gardening and is now a qualified gardener.

Started going to the gym regularly and looks great.

Passed his driving test.

He's also much cleaner and his general moods and outlook have improved.
However, in the last two weeks he has started to slip back into his old ways since his job contract came to and end and I'm worried about him going back to that dark place. We've had a chat and he tells me not to worry but:
His bedwetting has come back and he's not managing it properly
He's on his X box all the time
I suspect he's smoking more weed
I don't think he's looking hard for work

I've had a couple of arguments with him and have been tough in my approach telling him that if he's not even looking for work I'll not let him live with me. I don't allow the weed smoking in my home and he knows how I feel about it and how I disapprove but I feel powerless to stop it. I've even set him up with a gardening job which i don't think he followed up.
The problem is I can't kick him out whilst he has the bed wetting problem as I'd be too worried about him doing it if he stays with someone and how that would affect him. So my threats about kicking him out if he slides are hollow.
I've blown up at him a few times and I wonder if I'm part of the problem? It's just that I worry.
I don't want him to work to give me money and never took money from him when he was an apprentice. I just want him working for his own well being. He can be a moody sod but he's Sensitive and kind hearted.
I suspect he may, or may have suffered from depression and have spoken with him about seeing someone, which I think he did but he didn't follow that up either.
Is there another way I can play this ?
posted by blokefromipanema to Human Relations (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What your son needs is confidence - self-confidence. It is not a matter of being "hard" or "soft". You can be too "hard" on him and undermine his self-confidence or too "soft" on him and undermine his self-confidence. Yelling at him is going to undermine his confidence but so will micro-managing his life for him.

It strikes me that you seem to view your son's life very much as reflection on you and you give yourself the credit for his successes ("I was determined to drag him..." "Whilst living with me...") but give him the credit for his failures (him not managing bedwetting, hasn't followed up on gardening job/depression).

Think about things you can do to build his confidence. Spend time with him doing things he's good at and enjoys. Ask him for his opinions and advice on thing he is more expert on than you. Engage with him in ways that will make him feel good about himself.

I see you've a few previous questions about fitness and booze consumption and you mention your son smokes weed but has been going to the gym regularly. Could you undertake some kind of healthy living mini-challenge together? Cooking? Running?
posted by bimbam at 3:23 AM on October 16, 2016 [23 favorites]

I think the first step is to stop making threats you won't follow up on and that he knows you won't follow up on. If you're not going to kick him out no matter what, then stop saying it. (Note: I'm not trying to say that you should kick him out!). All that does is make both of you feel bad and making your relationship more fraught without any noticeable benefits.

Is he looking for work or are you just assuming he isn't because he's playing video games all the time? Have you talked to him about that without accusing him of anything first? If he is not looking for work, then he may be putting it off for various reasons: because he doesn't know where to look for a new job, because he's intimidated by the process, because he's getting depressed again and that makes everything harder. I think you need to figure out the reasons behind his actions before you can help him take some steps forward, and in order to do that, you need to be able to have some calm conversations with him.
posted by colfax at 5:26 AM on October 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Bedwetting is a red herring. He had a handle on that when he was employed and in a good place, he'll do that again once he regains his confidence.

It is not unreasonable to expect an adult child to live independently and to actively work towards that goal if they are living with you. So it is perfectly fine to sit down with him and explain that you have been and continue to want to be supportive. At the same time he will need to find his own two feet and stand on them eventually. Work out what is stopping that from happening. That will require you to make a good faith effort asking open minded questions, listening and understanding.

My father has this horrendous habit of communicating in a way that makes everything he says sound critical. It immediately puts my brother and me on the defensive. My father means well but it is a really difficult dynamic and it prevents any kind of open communication or understanding. If you have a tendency to come across as judgemental please try to stop yourself. Don't feel you have to respond immediately or problem solve for him. Just listen, even if you don't understand at first. It is ok to have some quiet moments and consider your response.

It seems that he's now been out of work for a couple of weeks and used that time as a 'break'. Or at least that's what i looked like to you. So if it helps frame it as that - it's nice to have a break and human to use this situation to get one.

But he's now had time to decompress. What is stopping him from looking for work now? You don't say if he contributes to your joint household in any way. If not he needs to start - what would be reasonable financial and/or practical contributions for him to make whilst living with you? What financial cushion and income would he need to be able to move into a shared house or a place of his own?

Agree specific actions and a timelines. But you have to approach this with good faith. He can actively search for work and have time to play xbox, hit the gym, contribute to the household etc.

If he is not expected to make a financial contribution that's fine. But he'll need to contribute to your joint household. And he does need some kind of part-time job to get his own spending money.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:33 AM on October 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

It's the work thing. Looking for work without an existing network is gruesomely hard and scary and confidence-shaking. I don't think you're seeing him "decompressing"; I think you're seeing him stalling and scared and avoidant because job hunting is the worst and the prospect of failure is terrifying. You saw how work provided him the framework for self-respect; now it's gone and you see the backsliding. Anything you can do to help him find his next job is going to be worth it. Ideally, not a contract -- the best thing would be a gig that if he does a good job he can just stay in.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:31 AM on October 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have not tried this myself, but have you heard about Super Better? As I understand it, it is designed to make habit formation feel like a game or a quest. Since your son enjoys videogames, he might like this.

I may be off base but I am interpreting your question as asking us for other perspectives that might help you keep your composure since you find losing your temper distressing. It might help to see your son's current relaxation choices as habits. Habits can be changed and don't say something about the intrinsic qualities of the person. It's ok to have relaxation habits. You just have to develop "up and at 'em" habits alongside those.

Best of luck!
posted by CMcG at 6:46 AM on October 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

The problem is I can't kick him out whilst he has the bed wetting problem as I'd be too worried about him doing it if he stays with someone and how that would affect him. So my threats about kicking him out if he slides are hollow.

When I was in second grade, my father had a meeting with my new school principal. Years later, I learned that the principal had reassured my father that no matter what I did when I grew up, I would be fine.

It's the best advice anyone could have given my father.

If your son moves out, they'll be fine. I would be shocked to learn that a parent wasn't worried about their child when they grew up and moved out. At 24, your son is an adult. When you set reasonable boundaries (I will kick you out if you don't follow through on these three specific things), the responsible (and respectful!) thing to do for your son is to follow through on those boundaries.
posted by aniola at 8:07 AM on October 16, 2016

The bedwetting is, as koahiatamadl said, a red herring.

Why did his mother kick him out 18 months ago? Was it because he never contributed to the household, just sat and played and expected his mother to support him indefinitely? How is he continuing to buy weed, if he doesn't have a job? That's money he could and should be contributing to whatever household he lives in. Playing Xbox and smoking weed are fine for someone who is also employed and paying for their own food and rent; they're only a problem here because your son is paying for his Xbox and weed instead of food and rent.

This may sound harsh, but I think it's time to get really tough on your son and stop enabling this kind of behavior --- after all, right now, why should he get a job: he knows he's got a free home, free food, free internet and electricity for his Xbox! Give him a deadline, say in three months (February 1st), after which he either pays you a defined room & board or moves out, his choice. No money, he's out, just like any other renter who doesn't pay the landlord.

(And by 'defined room & board', I'm not talking pocket change: I'm suggesting you figure out exactly how much additional money you've been spending monthly on food since he moved in plus how much additional utilities cost, and charge him that plus say 1/3 your own rent. And then stick to it: you're not helping him become the adult he should already be by letting him act like a 14-year-old instead of a 24-year-old.)
posted by easily confused at 8:11 AM on October 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

It might also help to take a look at the distinction between "threats" and "boundaries."

Threat: a statement saying you will be harmed if you do not do what someone wants you to do

Boundaries: limits that define acceptable behavior

It might be empowering for you both to reframe the situation.
posted by aniola at 8:16 AM on October 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

When I was about that age my mom was on me about responsibility issues all the time. It built up until I finally blew up at her and we ended up not speaking to each other for about 10 years.

posted by humboldt32 at 8:34 AM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

When young master flabdablet behaved that way for any length of time, the wifi password would mysteriously change and stay changed until he'd got back in the habit of coming out of his cave and interacting with the rest of us face to face again.

telling him that if he's not even looking for work I'll not let him live with me

is fine if you mean it. If you don't, it's just a waste of time and angst for both of you.

I don't allow the weed smoking in my home and he knows how I feel about it and how I disapprove but I feel powerless to stop it.

"I'm over this. Here's the deal. If I come home and I smell weed smoke again, then you're out, your stuff is in the street, and the locks are changed" - and be prepared to follow through.

If he's smoking weed in places other than your home, that's totally not your issue. He's an adult; he can choose to do that.

If his at-home behaviour is unacceptable and you suspect that this is because he's smoking weed elsewhere: again, the weed is not your issue. The unacceptable behaviour is, and setting boundaries on unacceptable behaviour is something you need to take seriously.

The problem is I can't kick him out whilst he has the bed wetting problem as I'd be too worried about him doing it if he stays with someone and how that would affect him. So my threats about kicking him out if he slides are hollow.

At 24 years old, assuming he isn't actually intellectually disabled the bedwetting is his problem, not yours.

You are absolutely not required to put up with other people's bullshit just because they want you to. That applies every bit as much to your adult son as it did to your former (oh please tell me she is former) partner.
posted by flabdablet at 8:38 AM on October 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

60 something father here...I wish I had a time machine so I could send back to my younger self this one sentence: "You can't push string". When you try to make an adult offspring do particular things you are pushing the string. When you make resources available to them under specific non-negotiable conditions, they have a foundation which they may or may not take advantage of. It then (eventually, in your home or not) becomes clear that anything they expect to happen in their life is up to them. I think this is just a capsule summary of what others have said above.

It may or may not amuse you to know that this advice would have been valuable to myself in college in the 70s (as guidance to myself), plus to myself again in the 00s (as guidance to how I dealt with and my son and daughter).
posted by forthright at 9:39 AM on October 16, 2016 [13 favorites]

Is it possible he suffers from some form of depression or anxiety? Has he considered seeing a professional for some help? These aren't necessarily problems that are easy to solve on ones own and some outside help might be beneficial.
posted by nalyd at 9:42 AM on October 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Of course you can kick him out while he has the bed-wetting problem.

Look, the guy's 24, not 4. He can drive, he can work, he is capable of managing his life when he is in a mentally healthy place.

It is your job as the home-owner to:

1. Lay out expectations for sharing the house, particularly in regard to the money you expect him to pay, the state in which you expect his living quarters to be kept, the rules about substance consumption (e.g. no pot smoking in the house ever) and the consequences for not meeting these standards.

2. Keep in the loop in regard to his ability to perform #1.

3. Make contingency plans in case you do need to give him the boot.

These things are not your job:

1. Getting involved in your adult son's personal hygiene, except as it affects the quality of his Iiving space (i.e. He doesn't get to trash his room or attract a bug investation or let the place stink like pee)

2. Cure his bedwetting (I mean wtf)

3. Monitor his job search except as it pertains to his paying his agreed-upon share, so that you can feel confident that he's not engaging in illegal activities that would get you in trouble for having it on the premises

If he gets kicked out and has to couch-surf, look for a job and go into radical deal-with-it mode because his pals are not going to be anywhere close to understanding if he turns into a non-bathing, couch-surfing, no-job-having troll who wets the bed, then so be it. He's 24. He should be there already. You are not doing him any favors by letting him slowly decide which parts of adulthood are optional for him while you cover the rest. He will never grow up that way. And I'm not saying something like "wetting the bed is something a child would do" but if he were diabetic or whatever and had to manage any other kind of chronic condition, you would expect him to learn how to do it, right? You wouldn't be like "Come home every day so I can administer your insulin for you, because otherwise you won't do it and I worry." Some people will let others carry their weight for as long as it's allowed.

By all means, lend him assistance in finding the resources he needs to be on his own. But there's a big difference between, "How can I help you find an apartment/screen therapists for your whatever/drop off applications for jobs while you're interviewing" and congratulating a grown man for accomplishing things that seem like way below the bar. Like, is the kid actually disabled? Is that why you consider having good hygiene and passing his driver's test and finishing a gardening apprenticeship to be, like, accomplishments? Because if he is disabled, then okay, but if he's a normal dude then why are both he and you treating him like he's 12? (Okay, people don't take the driver's test at 12.)

And since he's not 12, then give him 3 months to find a job and then look for an apartment or a roommate situation, pack his bags and give him a hug and send him off to adulthood. You can provide assistance and be a mentor to him without making him into a child again. He not only doesn't need that, he needs the opposite of that.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:52 AM on October 16, 2016 [12 favorites]

Your son is an adult. Almost everything you mention here, including the bed wetting, is his problem to solve and not yours. To an extent I get "my roof, my rules", but you can't mold him into the person you want him to be. And nor should doing so be a condition of him being allowed to move out and get his own place.

I don't think you should "kick him out" per se, but I think you should tell him, "You are 24 years old. You have a job*. It's time for you to leave the nest." Give him advice about how to save up the deposit, find roommates, etc. And let him deal. The rest is on him.

As a young person, I would have appreciated meaningful advice from my parents which gave me the tools to handle adult life on my own terms. I did not appreciate it when my parents berated me for not already knowing these things.

(For what it's worth, I spent about 20 years in various types of living arrangements with roommates, and I never would have known if any of them wet the bed. That's their problem.)

*Or possibly "You have the training to get a job", it's not clear here whether he followed through on the apprenticeship and actually got a gardening job or not.
posted by Sara C. at 9:57 AM on October 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: He's now a qualified gardener. With regards the bed wetting it's gone on all his life. He's been to see his doctor about it, a son he has done in the past. Can you imagine how it must feel to have a problem like that ? I just feel so sorry for him and the effect it must have on his self esteem. He has nowhere to go. His mother is unsympathetic and selfish so he can't stay with her ( We're divorced)
posted by blokefromipanema at 10:48 AM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I totally disagree that the bed wetting is a red herring and think that's the first thing that needs to be solved. That would be my mom's first priority with my young adult brother if he was having this issue. I know you said he saw a doctor but can you help him get a second (or third or nth if necessary) opinion? See a specialist? It must be very infantilizing for him and I can see how that could spread to other areas of his life. Sure, technically everything is "his problem to solve" the moment he turns 18 but that's a pretty harsh attitude to take.

Beyond the bed wetting, I do think establishing boundaries will be helpful to you and him and will prevent him from spiraling down further. How about creating a plan together for him to begin adult life? E.g., getting a job --> saving money --> moving out as a primary goal.

You sound like a good dad and he's lucky to have you.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 10:58 AM on October 16, 2016 [13 favorites]

I really am confused. Does your son suffer from some kind of mental or physical illness or disability such that he literally is incapable of independent living? If not, why are you treating him as if he does? You are directing his life as if he was a young teenager, not 24. He will have somewhere to go when he pays for his own living space with his own money that he earns from his gardening job. It's that simple. Millions of nondisabled adults manage to handle this every day.

I'm sure the bedwetting is terribly mortifying. But do you know how you deal with bedwetting on a day-to-day basis? Put a rubber cover over the mattress and do the laundry. Tasks a normal thirteen-year-old could handle. I literally am at a loss as to how his bedwetting requires him to live at your house (while flouting your rules).
posted by praemunire at 11:22 AM on October 16, 2016 [10 favorites]

With regards the bed wetting it's gone on all his life. He's been to see his doctor about it, a son he has done in the past. Can you imagine how it must feel to have a problem like that ? I just feel so sorry for him and the effect it must have on his self esteem.

He's had 24 years of it. At this point, I would expect that other people reducing his agency by reacting to a manageable issue as if it were an insuperable barrier to independence would be worse for his self esteem than the actual bed wetting is.

There are countless people leading fully independent lives with much worse things to deal with than that.
posted by flabdablet at 11:25 AM on October 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Feeling sorry for him will not help him gain confidence. It will just reinforce his feelings of incompetence.

1. Stop threatening him.
2. Decide for yourself what your boundaries are. May require you to see a therapist.
3. Set those boundaries without making threats.
4. Let him learn to become an adult. He will most likely fail a few times. So what. He is not learning to dust himself off right now because you pity him too much. It is not helping him.
5. This can happen with him living with you or with other people. Doesn't matter.
6. When he finds out he can function as adult he will most likely move. Most people do not want to live with their parents forever.

You sound like a devoted parent. The form your devotion is taking is the bigger problem to solve. If you start making changes his reluctance to grow up may escalate for a bit till he realizes you are not making threats anymore.
Good luck to both of you. It is hard but doable.
posted by cairnoflore at 11:27 AM on October 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

.Can you imagine how it must feel to have a problem like that ? I just feel so sorry for him and the effect it must have on his self esteem.

If you really believe that the emotional effects of his bed wetting are so crippling that your son cannot function as an adult then help him get therapy.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:38 AM on October 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

I would take the bedwetting out of your decision-making process, because I honestly don't see how bedwetting factors in. Buy him a waterproof mattress liner and two sets of sheets. It is up to him to wash and dry the sheets every morning and make a fresh bed for himself. He's not a child. But I agree that if you think it is such crippling problem that he shouldn't be expected to behave by adult standards, then yes - therapy is necessary.
posted by egeanin at 12:03 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Your son has wet the bed his whole life -- have either you or your (ex?)wife ever considered the possibility that he may have been molested as a child?

This is my two cents so take it for what it's worth, but having been an abuse victim and also the sibling of a brother who was also an abuse victim... if you're leaving ugly stuff in the shadows for your son to deal with on his own, no wonder he doesn't seem terribly motivated by anything you or his mom says. He doesn't seem like he expects much happiness to come in his future, and your actions as a parent are probably continuously reinforcing that happiness meaningful to him will never happen.

Btw, a diminished sense of future is a symptom of trauma. Btw, even with a one-time event of abuse, if the abuser threatened bodily harm to someone your son cared about, that would have been more than sufficient to "shut him up". FYI.

I might be way off base, but you know, a lot more boys and men are abused than society gives credit. The damage it does for boys who grow up to become wounded men can manifest itself in alcohol and substance misuse -- probably because no one cares enough in their life to listen to what's actually happened to them. Your son is 24 and wets his bed in his parent's home? I don't know. How does that not sound like a sad, scared, and lonely cry for help -- manifesting in behaviors instead of words, because he's already leaned that words don't work (not if you're a male trying to talk to your parents about it!).

You're the parent here. I'd suggest you buck up and spend time actively listening to your son, no matter how painful it is (I'll be honest; this is totally what I wish my parents would have done for me and my siblings... but alcoholism is so much more socially acceptable, you know). Show him that part of being an adult is identifying the obstacles and working in solidarity to resolve them. Show him you're capable of hearing what's been causing his suffering -- suffering he may be stuffing down through gaming and weed, because those are the only things working for him right now. If they weren't working to help something, he wouldn't be doing it so devotedly. (and kudos to your son, btw, for choosing weed over drinking and drinking)

I'd also recommend for yourself to spend time with a parenting expert or therapist and practice actively listening. Practice it with a friend, and ask them afterwards if they felt that you were really listening. I really think there's something that you and your ex have overlooked in your son here, and that this isn't just a case of having produced a defective child. Good luck.
posted by human ecologist at 12:03 PM on October 16, 2016 [9 favorites]

It's fine to sympathize with your son, empathize with your son, or use all your mirror neurons to understand him and relate to him, but please stop pitying him. Pity is very corrosive to whatever self esteem he has.
posted by puddledork at 12:10 PM on October 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

There's a psychology textbook concept I've come across called locus of control, which Wikipedia is defining as
the degree to which people believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control
In the course of some brief reading about psychological development in adolescents it was introduced and it seemed relevant to some of my problems as an adult.

My thought was, if the bedwetting has a physical cause and thus is an involuntary thing he has experienced his whole life, maybe it has contributed to him tending to perceive everything as out of his control and thus engendered hopelessness about overcoming the issues you talk about.

So, maybe reading more about that subject by you or him could help.
posted by Sockpuppet Liberation Front at 12:19 PM on October 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

He has nowhere to go. His mother is unsympathetic and selfish so he can't stay with her

I'm sorry, but why is his mother 'unsympathetic and selfish'? Because she got fed up that he never held a job, just sat around smoking weed and playing with his Xbox? Perhaps she decided to hold tight to her boundaries and insisted he grow up.
posted by easily confused at 1:18 PM on October 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

Not to sound cold-hearted, but learning to deal with one's personal flaws and foibles is part of growing up. We all have things going on with us that are not great. He has bed-wetting; well, guess what, they make Depends and Poise pads. If it weren't that, it could be everything from erectile dysfunction to heart disease to cystic acne to bi-polar disorder to MS.

You can't just say, "Well, he wets the bed so he'll never be a fully self-actualized adult until he stops doing it." The two are not mutually exclusive. That's what managing a condition is about--dealing with the cards you got AND living as full a life as you can.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:21 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd also point out that job searching in 2016 looks like a lot of goofing off, because it only takes an afternoon to update your resume and upload it to the job search sites, and then an hour or so a day to look at job listings and hit "Apply" and respond to emails. Then you pretty much have the rest of the day to twiddle your thumbs and wait for someone to call. It's not like anyone is literally pounding pavement anymore, or for that matter, looking favorably on pavement-pounding as an employer. He may very well have all his candidate info optimized and be at the email-checking stage. But if not, then maybe tell him to spend an afternoon tweaking resumes for different industries, or suggesting a skills-building site like Codecademy, where he can try his hand at some new stuff in the meantime.

Even a question like, "As long as you have me at your disposal, what adulting skill would you like to know about for future reference?" Anything from application-filling, to navigating the ACA exchange, to how to tell when a prospective apartment is or isn't a shithole, to changing the oil on the car to save $30, whatever. Hell, one of the most useful skills a young adult can learn is how to find information. Need a plumber? How long can lunch meat last in the fridge before you have to toss it? What's the best way to clean a toilet? Developing a collection of references where one can get the answers they need is really the first step to being able to handle whatever crap comes up.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:40 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm an abuse victim and I agree that therapy may be in order...but with people over about 22, I think my principle would be along the lines of don't help them more than they are willing to help themselves. I had to take charge of my own problems in order to start solving them. So talk to him about his goals and offer help, or set boundaries like he needs to start paying rent in 3 months or whatever. But don't be the chief solution maker. That's him. You be the support.

In the case of the bed wetting, it sounds like there is a solution he was able to manage before (plus he can just do laundry) so this is totally not a reason to pity him or change your approach. It's a medical issue.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:50 PM on October 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

I work in gardening contracts. If your son wants to give me a call, I would be happy to connect him with other gardening contractors in his area. The problem with his industry is it's very seasonal. So unless he learns more skills, he's very much going to find himself in these situations for years to come. There are a few options. He could learn facility management, which is definitely full time. Her could do another kind of engineering, perhaps guttering and power washing, which is more year round. Or, he could get into bidding for gardening contracts during the off season, with payment up-front for scheduled work in the future.
posted by parmanparman at 4:48 PM on October 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

I just feel so sorry for him

As puddledork mentioned above, that's pity. Pity: a strong feeling of sadness or sympathy for someone or something. I think what you want for your son to have is more confidence. Confidence: a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something. This is why puddledork is saying that pity erodes self esteem.

This is very much a fake it til you make it scenario. You want a son who can go out into the world and take care of themself? Trust your son. You know he's got this. Let him go. Show confidence in him. Believe in your son.
posted by aniola at 9:55 PM on October 16, 2016

I'm going to go against the grain here and say that the bedwetting may play a much bigger role in his (possible) depression than you - or others here - realize. I mean, maybe he's as casual and unconcerned with it as you make it sound. Or perhaps it's a source of burning shame and hopelessness for him.

I've known young adults for whom even seemingly much less stigmatizing issues (such as minor speech impediments, acne, etc) have felt like unsurmountable obstacles in life, not least because they felt like those things stood in the way of them ever being able to form romantic relationships. How are you ever going to find a girl/boyfriend if you worry they'll wake up in a puddle the first time you sleep together? And for many young people, if the possibility of a romantic (and/or sexual) partnership seems unattainable, their whole future may feel like, well, not quite worth it. And even if that's not an issue for him, a problem as awkward as that may be just sucking his will to live.

So honestly, I'd start with tackling the bedwetting. (And proceed from there, one issue at a time.) I don't know what kind of treatment he's received. Has he seen a doctor, is he on medication? It exists. If he is and it's not working, find a better solution, one that works reliably. Consult a specialist, if necessary. Even if your son may pretend to be unconcerned with the whole thing, assume it's touchier than it looks like and approach the topic with sensitivity.

Also, I'd try warmth and openly showing concern and caring in stead of empty threats. Especially since he's a good kid, like you say. I don't know if that requires you to budge a bit from your own comfort zone in how you relate to him, but then again as parents we all need to do that from time to time. Good luck!
posted by sively at 5:23 AM on October 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Honestly, I think more involvement in his life is the way to go here. Being smothered by dad 24/7 is a pretty powerful motivator to get your own place. I would start asking for rent, or better yet, start asking to see his bank account statements under the premise that he needs to be saving up enough to move out. My dad merely threatened this and it lit a fire under my ass. Also, plan a bunch of family stuff alllll the time. Family dinner. Have a "family calender" where you write down what days he is responsible for taking the trash out and cooking. I'm not just talking out of my butt here, my dad actually did this with me and it actually helped me a ton, mostly just because it was so annoying it made me want to get my own place. I think too many parents go the route of "total disengagement and respect for adult autonomy but would neeevvvver throw Junior out" or - there is a happy medium where you ascend to the perfect level of annoyance yet accommodation. Aim to be at least as annoying as a random Craigslist roommate. Seriously. Ask him probing questions about his life. Go sit next to him while he plays video games and ask questions about the game and ask if you can play. Get tickets to stuff he has to leave the house for with dear old dad. Be invasive, in a mostly harmless and buffoonish way. Hug him lots and talk about how much you looooooovveee him.

This will get him out far, far faster than threats.
posted by stockpuppet at 8:28 AM on October 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm on the "The Bedwetting Is A Bigger Deal Than You Think" side of this discussion. I can fully imagine that his bedwetting has very major implications on his life, especially his social life and dating life. ESPECIALLY his dating life. How do you have a partner sleep over when you're terrified you're going to wet the bed and have them wake up, wet with urine, disgusted with you? Whether or not that is actually what would happen, I can absolutely see why that would be a horrible possibility to face, and that would keep me from people too. And if that is what he is feeling, he is probably ALSO feeling like he will never find someone, never get married, be alone forever, etc. You'd learn to dread hotel trips, having to stay overnight ANYWHERE... Rather than having to make up lies and excuses to avoid those situations, I could totally see the option of just withdrawing from socializing as an easier path.

Also, I'm trying not to project since I suffer from depression, but when you're depressed your subconscious can find some pretty epic ways for keeping you isolated and feeling separate from others. I have no idea if your son is depressed, but if he is I wouldn't be surprised if that was part of it, both as a possible cause/trigger for depression and also a symptom of depression.

Does he need therapy for it? Maybe. Probably. There needs to be some discussion around this.

As for the job/xbox/etc, I think you don't need to kick him out, but you do need to create a situation where he has to be self-sufficient and take on some adult responsibilities. You should absolutely be charging him rent. It doesn't have to be a huge amount, maybe 150$ a week or something. You can frame it as "I have no desire to kick you out, but I also have no desire to see you coast because I'm making things so easy for you. So you can ABSOLUTELY continue to live here with me, I am happy to have you stay, but I will need you to pay rent. You're 24, you're a capable bright young man. I am doing you a disservice by not treating you as though you aren't capable of all this.". I would have clearly written out and agreed upon rules around what happens if he fails to pay rent. How long can he go without paying rent before he will have to move out? If he cannot pay rent are there things he can do to EARN his rent? Household repairs? Volunteer 20 hours? Apply for 15 jobs? Your call if you want to include "earn your rent" clauses. Regardless.... You need to be prepared to actually enforce this as well. And make it very clear to him that you will be following through. Acknowledge that previous threats were pretty hollow and that you both knew that, but this time you WILL be following through.

If I were you I would sock all of the money he pays in rent away in a separate savings account. Then when he gets to a point in his life where he is comfortable and able to move out, give the money back to him as a housewarming gift.

See, all of this comes down to his choices. He can choose to continue to live with you, but he has to pay rent. If he chooses to not pay rent then HE is making the choice to move out. Empower him. Force him to understand that his life is about HIS choices. Everything is a choice.

Similarly he is choosing to not do what was apparently working to help fix the bed wetting. He is choosing to allow this to continue. Why did he stop whatever treatment he was in? As much as I absolutely see how the bedwetting could be negatively impacting his life, it is hard to feel too terrible bad for him if he has a treatment plan that was working but he is just choosing not to continue with it.

So if he chooses to not pay rent and get a job then he is choosing to move out. If he is comfortable making that choice then you need to just be hands off and allow him the respect to make that choice. I get that you're worried about him moving out because of the bed wetting, but he could solve that if he had to. Rubber sheets, whatever. Whatever he does NOW when he wets the bed he can just do where ever he moves to.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:00 AM on October 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

Also, you seriously SERIOUSLY need to stop pitying him and acting as though the bedwetting (and whatever else) makes him incapable of living a normal adult life. The more you pity him, make this all out to be a big deal, the more HE is going to feel like it is this big horrible deal. This whole "He can't move out because he wets the bed" nonsense (and that is nonsense) he has no doubt picked up on, and it has probably made him feel very broken and made him feel like he truly can't. I don't understand how this has turned into a "HE CANNOT LIVE ALONE!" thing in your mind and probably in his mind. Of COURSE he can live alone. He is 24 and (I'm gathering) otherwise healthy normal man.

I compare this to when my son hurts himself. He very often comes in with cuts and scraped knees. If I react with "Oh My God! Are you okay! Can you walk? Oh god is that blood!? You're bleeding! You poor thing!! That must hurt so much!!" he is going to understand his scraped knee is a big fucking deal and start reacting accordingly. He will cry and freak out, spend the rest of the day limping dramatically and going on to everyone how he suffered this HORRIFIC fall and oh my god the pain. However, if I react with a fairly chilled out "Another scraped knee, huh? That sucks but you're a tough cookie, and you've definitely had worse. Lets get you a bandaid." he will react with a LOT less emotion, the scraped knee won't be a big deal to him, and after a quick clean and bandaid application he will be back outside playing as though nothing happened.

So while the bed wetting is a big deal, quit acting and treating him as though it is this huge enormous roadblock that is making it utterly and completely impossible to lead a normal life. Does it matter? Yup. but you SERIOUSLY need to stop making this a definitive aspect of his life. Because it really doesn't need to be. At the very least, it should have exactly ZERO impact on his ability to hold a job and live on his own.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:14 AM on October 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

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