December 18, 2016 2:43 PM   Subscribe

I am live-in girlfriend of 2+ years. Adolescent son of SO is very much into guns, showing some disturbing behavioral signs, and is eager to join the armed forces. Mother of son is encouraging the guns and military. SO is unhappy but very passive. I have completely lost my state of zen. Help.

Mom is a sweetheart in a zillion different ways. She and I have a very friendly relationship, but I've noticed that if I mention her son in some completely casual way she sort of shuts down.

Today she came over and mentioned the adolescent is *very* gung ho about joining the military and how she was supportive of this, whoo-hoo.

I raised the issue of *uh Trump is about to bomb everything* and she said, *yes, everything is terrible and son really likes guns* and that was the end of the discussion.

I have come to the conclusion, which I would like to float past the hive mind, is that I need to have a talk with mom for the following reasons:

Son has exhibited disturbing behavior which might be classified as sadism (seeking out videos of animals and people dying is most graphic example)
Son has expressed a wish to self-harm
Son has expressed sexism in a number of forms (rape jokes, PMS jokes)
Son's interests are mostly confined to video games and actual guns
SO is conflict avoidant and is not addressing these issues.

Son is living with us maybe 1/4 of the time for school reasons. We hope as soon as next year he will be with us more or most of the time.

I am working with my therapist on my own coping strategies in dealing with SO's conflict avoidance and my own horror/despair at the kid's fascination with killing. The SO knows that if his son's behavior becomes more troubling and is not addressed, I may need to leave.

TLDR: Should a new step-momish figure address the above issues with mom when dad is avoiding doing the same?
posted by IwishIwasFordMaddoxFord to Human Relations (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you're asking me? None of this is fixable. None of this is any of your business (IMO). And none of this is anything I'd stick around for to be part of the shitshow. There's a whole world out there. Surround yourself with people less on the opposite side of the spectrum from you.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:48 PM on December 18, 2016 [42 favorites]

Should a new step-momish figure address the above issues with mom ... ?


IMO, no good can come of this. You can try to engage stepson, you can try to get his dad to step up, but I cannot imagine going to the biomom working well for anyone.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:50 PM on December 18, 2016 [10 favorites]

Encourage the military, if anything. There's the question of US foreign policy in general, but in this specific case the military is often good at straightening kids like this out.
posted by rhizome at 2:54 PM on December 18, 2016 [30 favorites]

the dynamic of a troubled boy who is angry with women having a primary parent who's his mother and a secondary parent who's his stepmother, because his father can't be bothered or isn't interested in engaging with him --

just from the little you've said, I don't see how more concern and caretaking from adult women is going to fix what is or might be wrong with the boy. & even if she made contributing mistakes when he was littler, I don't know what his mother can do to make him stop hating women when he's as old as he is. His father might or might not be able to help if he tried, but he has the best chance. You shouldn't have to ask either parent to do a better job, but the only one you can expect to listen to you is your partner.

I've noticed that if I mention her son in some completely casual way she sort of shuts down.

well yeah, what's she going to say? This sounds less like a problem with you as interfering stepmom and more like the natural reaction of a woman with a terrible problem and no solution in sight.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:55 PM on December 18, 2016 [13 favorites]

I disagree with everyone else here.

"Son has exhibited disturbing behavior which might be classified as sadism (seeking out videos of animals and people dying is most graphic example)"

This is a huge red flag that this kid needs help, immediately. The military is not going to help.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:00 PM on December 18, 2016 [57 favorites]

To be honest, video games, PMS jokes, and petty animal cruelty sound like pretty typical teenage boys. Nothing really sticks out to me as concerning. He'll grow out of the animal stuff before long, and the anti-woman jokes will probably stop once he starts interacting with actual women. Video games, alas, you're probably stuck with.

Frankly, I think the military might be a really good option for a kid like this. There's an ethic in the military that looks down on casual violence and the sense that guns are toys. Yes, they'll teach you how to shoot and kill, but they'll also teach you that you about the responsibility that comes with knowing how to kill (and they dwell on that part). Serving in the military could give him the discipline and direction to put his interests and skills to productive use. Yes, there's the chance he'll be deployed in a shooting war, but for as much as the media reports on casualties, they're not actually very likely. And he can always join the Navy or Air Force, where casualties are rare.
posted by kevinbelt at 3:02 PM on December 18, 2016 [10 favorites]

I have some doubt as to the trustworthiness of your narration, because the title of your post suggests that you might be anti-military in general (which would be ok, but would probably not make you the best judge of this kid's situation, interests, and desires).

But if you are reliably narrating, and if you are correct in your clear implication that the kid is a time bomb, then you need to give your SO a serious ultimatum to get involved and get the kid intensive help.
posted by sheldman at 3:04 PM on December 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

If this horrifies you to the point where you may leave, I would expect that your SO's unwillingness to parent when his son is expressing thoughts of self-harm to be even more horrifying to you. Are you sure you want to be in this relationship?
posted by metasarah at 3:11 PM on December 18, 2016 [32 favorites]

If you are really concerned about these things, I would try it but flip around who you talk to, etc.:

- Try to set an appointment with a family therapist. Both you and your partner go in together the first time and bring up problems you think are problematic in your step son .Do this as a united unit. The mental health professional might say it is normal, a problem, an assessment might be helpful, but that let this be your guide. It *might* help if you can determine what behaviors are normal or not.

- Later go in as a family (you, partner, child). If the mental health professional wants to discuss this further (i.e. suicide ideation), let the therapist drive it, not you. I would not be the messenger to the mother.

Also, although I am anti-military myself, try to have an open conversation with your stepson. What are his goals? What does he envision for the future? If you can, support this as best you can, maybe with the idea that he is trying to achieve his goals.

Best of luck.
posted by Wolfster at 3:13 PM on December 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

Nthing roomthreeseventeen....has this progressed to hurting animals?
posted by brujita at 3:14 PM on December 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't know what it says about humanity, but /r/watchpeopledie and Guro in general are highly popular and I don't think they indicate the specifically darker behaviors. In fact I remember perusing the newsstand at a Mexican grocery store 25+ years ago and seeing tabloids devoted to this kind of thing, so this drive is not new.
posted by rhizome at 3:20 PM on December 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Note on the animals:
He hasn't harmed any.

It's been explained to me that empathy is a challenging emotion for him and this relates to his placement on the autism spectrum. The main thing that freaked me out was that he denied feeling any emotions other than curiosity w/r/t the execution videos.

Post this revelation with the execution videos, I insisted that the kid get some therapy. He's in therapy now.
posted by IwishIwasFordMaddoxFord at 3:21 PM on December 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

are you able to talk to his school? In UK, schools are responsible for child mental health etc. You'll probably pick him up or send homework if he's young, bit useless if older
posted by maiamaia at 3:24 PM on December 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

The definition of Guro is essentially gore disconnected from emotion, so he would seem to fit that subculture well.
posted by rhizome at 3:25 PM on December 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm going to offer a suggestion. Disengage with the gun talk and military stuff, and engage with your stepson as a positive influence. Does he like music? Does he like food? Teach him to cook. Find out about his interests.

Forget about the other adults, and think of him as a child, which he still is in many ways, and yes, my son did like knives and the thought of guns for a while, but then he got into music and cooking, and after a really awkward period as a late teen and young adult, he's past all of that now.

Some of my best memories as a teen were of a motherly woman sitting me down, in her kitchen, and teaching me how to bake fancy cookies. One thing that I did with my son, on his birthday, was make a fancy cheesecake. He eventually took a cooking class in high school, it was called food technology or something (i.e. not Home Ec, as it used to be) and he proudly showed me how to cook a good burger the precise way, Mom.

I think you have to relate to young people on their level. I know it's hard, it was hard for me when my son was all into Grand Theft Auto and had sketchy friends, but one day, I sent him a cheesecake on his birthday, and it sort of lifted him out of that. It really did. When he had gotten to a point where he just wanted to sit around and play video games all day and no one could lift him out of his doldrums, take him away from the sketchy friends and stuff, it was food, in the end, and music.

He finally saw that his other friends were getting jobs (and girlfriends, as a result) and he went to work. Granted, he's not going to college, yet, but he has an older sister who is encouraging him to do so, as she, also a late bloomer, has gone back to school, so know she who knew everything at 18 is being the adult who influences him. "Look! School is great!" Whereas if I said it, or his Dad said it, it was a drag. Now he's realizing that he can only get a job at places like Walmart, without a trade or other education. He's finally becoming empathetic, and growing up, at age 24.

I think the best thing you can do is to engage with your stepson, on anything you can find a commonality with, like I said, food and/or cooking, his favorite music, taking him to a concert, etc. I know all of Eminem's songs by heart, btw, LOL. I know who Linkin Park is, not by choice, but by deliberately engaging with my son.

My husband knows about knife fighting, and he taught my son how to do knife fighting, with rubber knives. Cold Steel has a lot of videos on this. It's not the end of the world to learn about guns and knives, and in the process, safety regarding these things. My son never had access to guns, but we did get him a BB gun and sit in the basement with a trap and shoot at targets. I sat there and shot with him. The kind with the C02 cartridge. It was fun, actually.

I agree that teenage boys go through some stuff, my son did, and you just have to roll with it, and if he goes into the military eventually, encourage Navy, maybe? My niece was in the Navy for 7 years, and she learned about nuclear engineering, and now makes a ton of money working at a nuke plant. YMMV.

I wish you luck, but first, step back, and realize teenage and young adult life is very fluid, and it can change, and your best bet is to be a friend, rather than try to interfere with Mom and Dad's parenting.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:19 PM on December 18, 2016 [32 favorites]

Not to invalidate your concern- I would find this very creepy and distressing to live with, and I'd have serious doubts about a partner who did not intervene more if their son showed these traits as well as validate my reaction toward it as someone who has never had a "gun phase". I just also want to note that while this behaviour is as good as any cry for good, structured parenting from his parents it is also pretty common and does not mean that you are living with a future murderer.

Popular gore websites receive tens of thousands of unique visitors from the US alone per day: (these are links to the web stats on two of the websites, not the websites themselves!)

A lot of youth hold violence-supporting attitudes towards women. For example in the Australian study (all I could find with a quick google- google "Young Australians’ attitudes to violence against women" to find it) nearly a quarter (24%) of young people agree that partner violence can be excused if the person is so angry they lose control. . I've overheard young boys (across the socio-economic spectrum) make sexual and degrading jokes about women. It's sadly common.

Anecdote time: a friend I met through (very mainstream and bureaucratic) political activism and who is now a passionate advocate for refugee rights and a great step dad once admitted to me that he was active on violence-themed chatrooms as an early teen and fantasised about mass violence. My cousin who is now a great person and a feminist as a kid taught me how to gratuitously murder the stripper characters in his favourite video game and would read up on DIY weapon making online.

This does not dismiss it in anyway, but just to point out the "grey" and people's capacities to change, and the dark depths of each of our psyches as well as our culture that is particularly difficult to navigate as a kid. A large amount of youth who do these things can and do grow up to change their attitudes. What your role in that is is another question (the one you asked..!) and without a fully supportive partner I don't see how you can be satisfied and comforted in this situation.
posted by hotcoroner at 4:22 PM on December 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

If I were you, I would notify his school and break-up with my boyfriend + enter a Buddhist monastery because I am so totally a pacifist and I think the violence in our culture is a shameful tragedy for our children. But that's me. Don't be me. Yet.

The good news is this boy has a diagnosis of autism which means he receives support services at his school, yes? Great! Because you are going to get your SO to get his son extra support for this issue. In school and out of school.

And honestly? Your SO is not exactly a keeper. He's not advocating for his son's wellbeing. I think you should rethink your commitment to this man. It's not a recipe for success or happiness, what you are describing. You deserve more out of life.
posted by jbenben at 4:25 PM on December 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

"anti-woman jokes will probably stop once he starts interacting with actual women"

You must not hang around with many adult men? Or consume any pop culture from the US? These things are ingrained into our culture--and our men.

Anyway, OP, the kid needs help, but that doesn't mean you can make that happen. And it doesn't mean you should have to put up with it. I'd get out.
posted by ElizaDolots at 4:37 PM on December 18, 2016 [27 favorites]

I think it's pretty normal to have curiousity about death and murder. I looked at some very very graphic and horrible videos when I was a teen with little more then a casual desensitized interest. Now I get queasy at the idea of someone getting a bad cut, let alone ran over or executed. I didn't harm animals, I didn't go on to kill anyone myself.

My separated dad really encouraged my siblings and I to go into the military, albeit via some pretty heavy handed manipulation, and it was a huge turnoff once I realized that I wouldn't get a reaction from my anti-military mother.

More then anything, this kid needs love and attention. Take him out. Just you or you and dad and show him you love him. Tell him. He's (probably) not weird, he's (probably) not a sadist, he's just a kid with a fractured family and poor coping skills.
posted by Marinara at 4:37 PM on December 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

Unfortunately, since this is not your son, this is not your issue to address directly. Voice your concerns to your partner, help him strategize and think about things to do, if he is receptive, but, at the end of the day, the parenting is up to his primary parents. Now, this is going to smart and feel very unfair, but, since you are not officially his stepmom, you have even less of a say in his parenting. You can model good behavior, ask him questions, listen, perhaps gently provide alternate points of view and interests, but ultimately you have to leave the parenting to his primary parents. I strongly advise against approaching his Mom. Her stance about her son and your role in his life is pretty clear. If you need to get out for your own well being, do so. Your SO is aware that might happen & indicates that he will choose the path of least resistance when it comes to parenting. It will hurt a lot to think he agrees with you but is choosing passivity over your relationship & his son, but that's a strong indicator of potential future issues in your relationship with your SO that have nothing to do with his son. Best of luck to you all.
posted by katemcd at 4:37 PM on December 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

I used to look at and stuff like that (I'm female) at that age and I grew up to be a relatively normal person. You can't call the school guidance counselor just because a kid makes PMS jokes and thinks the military is cool. He kind of just sounds like an average teenage boy, in some ways.

I agree that the best thing you could do is, like someone already suggested, just try to be a supportive, cool adult in his life right now. Do not hassle his mother on how she's raising the kid that spends the vast majority of time being her responsibility and not the responsibility of the kid's father and the father's new girlfriend.
posted by cakelite at 4:44 PM on December 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

Do you feel safe in this situation? I trust your gut more than a litany of all the ways this behavior may be normal. (Is it normal all together? Really? All of this together? How do you tell the kids who "grow out of it" from the ones who do something terrible? How much fear and distress is she supposed to live with because boys will be boys?)

Actually that last parenthetical is kind of it -- if you're afraid or always stressed out because of this situation (I would be), and your SO literally refuses to deal with his child that is frightening you, what are you doing in this relationship?

I mean I know there must be reasons that are pretty great. But for me, the way fear and stress at home colors my entire life, my experience of every gd moment -- and particularly this kind of fear -- and the way it does so slowly, insidiously...

I honestly can't think of ways it could be a good enough to compensate for this. Feeling safe, protected (not in the gendered sense), and cared for is a like the bare minimum prequisite for chosen family for me.

On top of all I had a stepparent, and I cannot conceive of a way that this intervention goes well. And if the kid has anger issues already...Jesus Christ. This probably isn't going to make him less angry or scary.

Why are you still in this situation?
posted by schadenfrau at 5:37 PM on December 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

Thank you all for essentially calming me the fuck down. I've been twitchy since the election, and his interest in enrolling came as a big surprise that, in light of the other things I mentioned, I really didn't process very well.

Agreed, upon reflection, that interacting with his mom regarding this issues would probably not be constructive.
posted by IwishIwasFordMaddoxFord at 5:38 PM on December 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I grew up in a time/place/culture that was neutral-to-anti gun and kind of looked down on the people of the nation's military.

Thankfully, I left that particular bubble, because some of the best men I know are military vets, and I have reason to believe that it was the military that made them the men they are.

So, I will nth that the military may be a good thing for stepson. And, I would suggest that you actually try to meet some vets of the recent/current wars.

Everything else that you've described about this teenager sounds, well, like a teenager. And not even just "teenage boy"... My high school years ticked a lot of your boxes-of-doom, and might have ticked more, if there had been more Internet in the 90s.

I mean, I can only imagine the eye rolling snarky answer that I would have given to some not-my-real mom whose heart was bleeding all over some weird videos that I found fun to watch. I know that when I was having fun adding all sorts of rape-and-murder to my creative writing assignments, being pulled aside by my teacher about it just convinced me that she just wasn't someone to be trusted.

So, you should back off of this kid. Because it's not your place to fix him, and if it were your place, you might realize that he doesn't need fixing.
posted by sparklemotion at 5:45 PM on December 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

My stepson had the same obsession. His mother bought him something to do with his collection that was so over the top he saw light on how crazy it all was. I had a similar military thing. It's a common act-out. He may want more discipline. The military is a nuclear family, and that in mind I suggest you look at playing Warhammer 40,000 on the table with the figures. Painting them will be a whole day but I am sure he will enjoy it.
posted by parmanparman at 5:56 PM on December 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

My stepson is younger, but I've also had anxiety about his love of weaponry, his mother's unflinching support of his love of weaponry ("Guess what I got for my birthday? Two new sets of throwing knives!") and his attraction to YouTube personalities and "pranks."

I'm not all the way comfortable with everything yet, but it helps to remember that this is kind of just how the Internet is right now for boys. Weird machismo on display, and video games, and forums where they take out their confusion on women. Then it leaks into their IRL interactions, and we have problems. So the entry point for me has been to try to relate to him where he's getting his information about the world. And to take certain interests and try to nurture the better sides of them. For example, knives = cutting things = masculinity = carpentry! Or acting like a punk = spray paint = art!

Your stepson might be too old to accept much in the way of influence, but if you're going to stay in this relationship, it would probably be good to meet him where he is and gently set boundaries. It sounds like his life experiences are few, and his perspective is narrow. If you think there's any hope, I would start there and work on his exposure to different areas of life.

And do pay attention to how his dad responds when you voice your concerns. If he's completely unwilling to get help or to change his behavior or communication with the son, that's not a great sign that you'll all be able to make this work. I don't think you're likely to make any progress working with his mom, but it wouldn't hurt to maintain a decent relationship with her.

PS: I was so freaked out at one point that I read the Lionel Shriver book We Need to Talk About Kevin, and while the book was completely horrifying, I came away relieved. It might be something to check out for the sake of perspective.
posted by witchen at 6:17 PM on December 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Agree fully that:

-- some extent of looking at internet gore is normal. The internet became relatively accessible to students, at least, when I was in my late teens. We all spent the hour waiting for the interlaced gif of utter filth to download from the Netherlands back then. We were all normal, pacifist-lefty sorts; we were just curious.

-- you've mentioned it to Mom; she didn't pursue the conversation -- that angle is not useful. It might be a huge locus of stress for her that she finds difficult to discuss. She may also figure that not arguing the gun issue with him is a pick-your-battles thing and the less "guns are bad" pushback he gets, the less allure guns may have, which is not a totally unreasonable tack.

-- I admit I would fully freak if my kid wanted to be a soldier, but, they are hardly all warmongering meatheads. My grandfather was a doctor in the RAF; for all my disdain for war, that's a thing I can respect. I'd push him towards postsecondary education first, though...

-- as an only parent with a putative step in the picture, I would not blame my partner for taking off, or at least taking a break, if my kid was having serious behaviour problems and I was not doing much of anything. He has two jobs he is failing at here, viz: being more pro-active about a miserable-sounding self-harming kid, and, being more pro-active about keeping your environment reasonably safe. I can be a bit conflict-averse but misandrist yuks around the SO would not be kosher, full stop. Admittedly at times there is only so much one can do with a kid, but, it sounds like your primary problem is dad, not mom or the stepson.

Stepparenting is very, very tricky business and requires high-level parenting skills on the part of the bio parent, and I feel like you're not getting what you need there from your partner (and neither is the kid). If there is a disengaged parent out there who has managed to build a successful stepfamily, it's not a story I've ever heard about (I spend time on stepparenting forums to try to get a better understanding of the whole deal). Extra tut-tutting on my part if he was quick to want to move you in -- there's a not insubstantial number of single parents out there (it seems to be especially fathers, but that could just be bias from the forums I've checked out) who really do want to get a SO moved in quickly so they can get somebody else to do the heavy lifting.

Which is not to suggest you shouldn't be involved -- but especially relatively early on, your primary parenting job as a newish kinda-step is mostly 'get on with kid, support the parent in their parenting.' If he's not parenting, that puts you in a very unfair and difficult spot. "The SO knows that if his son's behavior becomes more troubling and is not addressed, I may need to leave" -- okay -- is he doing anything about this? If his kid is not a priority and you are not a priority...I don't know what to think. The charitable answer might be depression, or a paralyzing anxiety over the whole thing. But it's still not kosher to just do nothing. Why is he not seeing a counselor to try to figure out his to-do list in all this? (Forgive me if he is and I missed that part.)

Probably a little late for extra Xmas presents, but -- Joe Sacco has done a number of excellent (non-fiction) war reporting in graphic novel format. I would try to interest him in that, to give him some better perspective on: that's a real person, who had family and friends, who is dying in that video. There are quite a lot of war-related graphic novels that are not "rah rah guns" but stories, sometimes true, about the hell behind the scenes that might capture his interest and ideally give him some other perspectives to consider.
posted by kmennie at 11:41 PM on December 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

The self harm is a definite flag. The videos, not sure. (When I [female] was 17, I thought Texas Chainsaw Massacre was brilliant because of the cinematography. Lots of kids seek out heightened experience at that age because of boredom, inexperience, and lack of empathy, sure [ie inexperience]. Animals, though...) I don't know, the whole picture is important. If he's self harming, that's definitely no good.

I think adults do have responsibilities to the kids in their lives, even if they're not their parents. But the dynamics here are what they are. You've alerted his dad, gotten him into therapy... Other than that, if you can be a stable presence in his life, show him warmth and encouragement, that can have lasting effects.

A lot of kids who wouldn't have considered joining the army are doing so now, because the thought is (I'm hearing), wtf has getting a degree alone done for their elder sibs and cousins? What else can they do? Which is a fair point. (Though if I were a parent or step parent, I'd be terrified for kids joining the army at this moment in history.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:57 PM on December 18, 2016

Wow; this is a tough one.

Setting aside everything else, the wish to self-harm is the massive red flag here. Your SO needs to find out if the boy has already hurt himself. Is he suddenly wearing long sleeve shirts and pants? He needs to explain his concern to his son: "You've talked about wanting to hurt yourself. That's a very serious thing and something that can go very wrong very quickly. If you do want to hurt yourself, we can work together to help deal with those feelings. Have you tried hurting yourself? Can I see your arms and legs?"

Yes, this may feel terrible and invasive, but the parents need to know if he's cutting or burning himself because that requires a far higher level of treatment than weekly therapy.

As far as wanting to be in the military, that's not at all unusual for many teens, especially those on the spectrum. They see the video versions of warfare which give them a certain impression. Additionally the military can be appealing because they think it offers them a community where they're given directions, don't have to make decisions, and they get to play with really big guns. It seems like a fun game to them.

Unless he's close to 18 and about to enlist, I'd put the military talk on the backburner. Have dad and mom focus on the self-harm issue. Also, bear in mind that talk therapy is not always effective with teen boys (esp. those on the spectrum) because they lack insight and don't want to talk with people they don't know.

What you can do in the meanwhile is get to know this kid. Ensure your SO does fun things with him like science and art museums and geocaching and hiking and maybe getting a pet or volunteering together. Keep exposing him to the world outside of video games and continue to love and support him.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:36 AM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

This may be a wrong guess here, but is he being bullied at school? Feeling powerless can make violence in general seem pretty appealing.
posted by Chrysalis at 4:53 AM on December 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

O.P, why are you sticking around? S.O. does not have your back, and seems to disregard your opinions. That's a slap in your face, no matter how helpless he may seem in the situation.

Since the kid is not yours, I don't see a need to take on the responsibility of getting him therapy, etc. Why take on even more of this emotional burden.

Your best advice is your first advice, from humboldt32.
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:34 AM on December 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

I've noticed that if I mention her son in some completely casual way she sort of shuts down

My armchair take on this would be that she's worried herself but is processing how and what to do, and isn't comfortable discussing it (at all, with you, whatever.)

When the kid uses misogynist humor or whatever, go ahead and call that out. That doesn't need to fall under the exclusive category of parenting, that's just modeling good behavior and reacting as a human with feelings. So, not so much "don't talk like that in my house," instead go for "WTF, that's an ugly thing to say, it's terribly sexist and it offends me."
posted by desuetude at 8:50 AM on December 19, 2016 [7 favorites]

I was this kid.

I decided against joining the military (and I had high ASVAB scores, so they were after me) because I didn't trust the recruiters. I don't know what it's like now, but in my day they would tell you you can do an X year hitch (it was always up to six years at their discretion) or that you could serve in a certain area (also subject to their discretion.)

I recommend just dropping hints along those lines. What are they saying, versus what's really in the fine print.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:18 PM on December 19, 2016

Keep in mind there is a chance that, if he really is a troubled youth, that the Army will figure it out and not take him.
posted by SemiSalt at 2:32 PM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

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