The Enemy Within
My son, 17, is the light of my life – and the bane of my existence. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder at six (after he attempted to jump out of my bedroom window and end it all), and Asperger’s at nine (we knew all of his behaviors couldn’t just be bipolar stuff), he’s led me on a wild ride through hospitalizations as well as into the juvenile justice system. He’s been kicked out of public and private schools. I have several folders filled with evaluations, IEPs, and all manner of documents describing his aberrant behaviors. But I also have documents that show that he’s smart and funny and filled with compassion for others. When his meds are working, and the planets are aligned just so, he’s an amazing fellow. I think that he’s worth saving… and I’ve been trying my damndest to do just that.
Since he was two years old, it was just the two of us, trying to figure out what the hell we’re doing and how to keep the kid safe and in school and not destroying shit.
Four years ago, I married my son’s worst enemy. Enter the stepfather.
My husband has grown to hate the kid – and the kid does nothing to foster a positive relationship. AT 17, my son is mean and surly and knows fucking everything. “I DON’T NEED YOUR HELP!” is what he yelled when we had several service providers to the house for a ‘mini-summit’ to figure out how to transition this kid from high school to life. His plan? Quit school, move to Louisiana with his online girlfriend and get married. With no job, no money, no car, no driver’s license… in short, no CLUE.
When the unrest starts at home, guess who’s stuck in the middle? Me.
They each take their turn, airing their grievances about the other. I am counselor, arbiter, judge and jury. Penalties are assessed, punishments are meted out. I fucking hate this job. I am so tired of the conspiratorial whispers, “If HE does one more thing, he’s OUT.”, like my son is a bulging tub of cottage cheese well past its expiration date, or a lamp with a huge crack – it still works, but it’s junk. Just put it out on the curb on garbage day, and wash your hands of the whole thing.
“I FUCKING HATE HIM! DIVORCE THE FAT BASTARD!” are some of my son’s constant commands. They try to avoid each other, my husband retiring to the bedroom; my son, near me in the living room. I feel like I’m the UN, and they’re the Koreas, launching counterattacks and issuing dire warnings – and I’m supposed to broker an uneasy truce while each side retreats to their respective bunkers, planning their next assaults.
Remember Scud bombs from the Iraq war? My husband will make a disparaging comment as he walks into the kitchen about my son’s voracious appetite, like, “I’ll have to hide these leftovers in the little fridge in our bedroom or HE’LL.EAT.ALL.OF.IT.IN.THE.MIDDLE.OF.THE.NIGHT. Target hit. As he retreats back to the bedroom, my son will rant and rave – at me. How the fuck is that fair?
These remarks are stored away in my son’s mind, and a counteroffensive is launched at some future time (most often when I make a request of his time). Like in July of this year, my request “Could you please unload the dishwasher?” was met with hostility and violence. With stealth and speed, he screams an ungodly screech and comes toward me. I am stabbed in the hand with a pen. My laptop and printer and lamp and any manner of expensive, fragile objects become projectiles. I’m watching the blood bubble up out of the hole on the back of my palm…it fucking hurts and I start to cry. What is my husband doing? He’s sitting in the bedroom calling the police. The same police who MACED my son and put him into detention instead of the hospital the last time the war was in full force (that time it was hormone-driven, thanks to the neighbor girls who thought it was “fun” to get him all hot and bothered and then laugh at him). Bitches.
I’m not a born-again Christian or even remotely religious – but I feel it was divine intervention that caused that phone not to function that July afternoon. Our other phone was out of commission – the wire ripped from the receiver during the skirmish in the living room. I was feverishly trying to get the kid to settle down enough to take him to the hospital – we’d been fucking with medications, and something was just not right with him. If my husband had his way, the kid would be in a juvenile facility, or, since he’s now 17, in an adult correction facility where he would totally lose his tenuous grip on his self-control and his sanity.
Frankly, I’d like to end my career as the family diplomat. There are days I wish they’d BOTH go away…but mostly, I’d like to knock their heads together (ala The Three Stooges), and knock some sense into them. I’m not sure how to resolve these problems, but I’m ready to wave a white flag and surrender as wife and mom.