Krissie: As Ye Reap So Shall Ye Sow

Photo on 5-28-13 at 9.15 AM #2 I can’t complain. The things we do in life have consequences. The way we were raised can cause deep scars, and those scars affect how we turn around and raise our own kids.
With distance I’m recognizing my mother’s mental illness. Funny how that got lost along the way. She was relatively sane and as happy as she could be for the last almost forty years of her life, once my father died. Add remembering my father’s alcoholism, plus my brother’s, and it’s easy to forget the constant, screaming rages. Locking myself in the bathroom while she tried to batter it down with a firepoker. Chasing my sister into the neighbor’s kitchen with a knife. Her times in mental hospitals. The period, when I was sent away to live with my aunt and uncle (my extremely bi-polar aunt) when she had daily shock treatments. I visited her in the hospital once and she had scorch marks on her temples. My father was in the same hospital … oh, shit, you don’t need the deets. But I’d forgotten how sick she was. It puts things in perspective.
But it made me a lousy mother. I did everything I could to protect my kids, to rescue them, to save them, to bail them out, to rationalize what they did, to go with the flow. On top of that my baby boy was wounded. He has severe learning differences, though they don’t show, and a lifelong series of abandonments. And I kept wanting to fix things.
All the other little boys in my life died. Obviously I was the little mother in my family, and my father was my little boy. So was my brother. So was my nephew, while my sister, his mother, went through all her messes. And they all died. Young.
Which made me even more protective.
I didn’t lose it till this December, when something snapped. And he’s been so much better. Or had been. But he can’t find a job, he has no money, no car, no place to go. And yet he makes my life a living hell. Richie’s too. Richie’s heart was racing on Sunday night, he was so anxious. And it’s our fault. We made him the way he is. We kicked him out once, and it was the most painful thing I’ve ever done. I can’t do it again. Not when I was abandoned on every single level.
But if I won’t do what’s right I can’t complain. So I’m not going to whine, or give you details, or fuss. We’ll figure it out. I’m hiding out in the bedroom, working. But if he starts berating Richie again I’m going to have to do something. Because I won’t let him kill Richie from the stress of dealing with him.
But I digress.
Because I can complain about the snow. Most definitely. Latest snow on record up here, and certain areas got a whopper. They had to close the road to Smuggler’s Notch, big fat flakes came down all day, and it was still on the ground on Sunday when Richie and I went shopping.
IMG_0853 Note the apple blossoms.
It got into the 50s yesterday, with some sunshine.
Damn, I need the weather to get better. I need things with my son to get better. I need to close my eyes and listen to “Co-Dependent No More” except I don’t like Melody Beattie’s writing (I feel guilty that I don’t — how’s that for co-depency?).
I think I gotta concentrate on one day at a time. I can’t look ahead to the end of the week with dread — I’ll probably enjoy it. Or shudder at the thought of that long drive so soon after making it. Or angst about the work I want to be doing. Or the fact that I don’t feel I have a home any more.
We’ll talk about that tomorrow.
In the meantime,  I said I couldn’t complain but I actually did. Mea culpa. Oh, my god, mea maxima culpa. I didn’t think guilt was my thing. But I’d rather feel guilty than think my son is a total shit.
Okay, enough. I got books to write, worlds to save. I’ll get it right eventually.

57 thoughts on “Krissie: As Ye Reap So Shall Ye Sow

  1. There comes a point in everyone’s life when we need to decide if we are going to pull our big girl/boy panties on, or go on blaming our parents for our misery.

    Not you, Krissie, you clearly have your big girl pants on, but your son. I’m sorry he’s losing the calm he had for a while there. And yeah, maybe he was dealt a lousy hand, but Jesus, God, there are many, many people who were dealt lousy hands and they are conquering the world.

    I know you are trying to save him, Krissie, but maybe he needs to save himself? Give him a place to stay, feed him, but continue to require that he treat you with respect. And maybe he should make a fucking plan.

    I don’t like that you feel like you don’t have a home anymore. It makes me vrry vrry unhappy.

  2. Kieran says:


    This is what you need to talk to your counselor about. Or Jenny. Or someone in your life who is a truth speaker.

    Basically, the way I read this is that you’d like to work out your wishes for your own HEA on your son. You want for him what you didn’t get. You don’t want him to feel abandoned.

    But ennabling him *is* “abandoning” him. It’s giving up on believing he can take care of himself. Even if he can’t thrive, even if he fails miserably, he needs to try because this is the definition of being an adult: trying. If he ever wants to grow, he must try.

    So you’re not abandoning him by getting him to leave. You’re supporting him. You’re saying, “I believe you have the right to behave the way an adult should.” That’s a salute to who he is.

    If he fails, he fails as an adult.

    You can’t ask for more than that, to be an adult who tries. That’s the ultimate expression of who we are. Gift him with believing he can be an adult. Throw him out. Kindly but firmly.

    I know it’s hard, but keep it simple–remember that ennabling is abandoning, and don’t do it anymore. Because when you ennable, you’re abandoning Richie, too. And yourself.

    Big hugs!!!

  3. Kieran says:

    In the quotation marks, I was referencing this passage from your post:

    “We kicked him out once, and it was the most painful thing I’ve ever done. I can’t do it again. Not when I was abandoned on every single level.”

  4. Redwood Kim says:

    That sounds so hard, Krissie. I think Kieran’s got some great advice. I also think that you get to figure out what your own personal boundaries are – you don’t need to do things by the book, any book, but you do need to be comfortable in your home.

  5. Redwood Kim says:

    Whoops, I guess I had more to say. That title is a Bad Wolf feast. This is neither your fault, not a life sentence. Maybe you did overcompensate. You did so out of the belief that you were doing the best thing. You did the best you could at the time. You do the best you can, now. That’s all anyone can ask of us, Krissie. If it isn’t enough for him, he has to figure out how to fill the gap. Because the gap belongs to him.Not you.

  6. Sometimes just spitting it all out and then looking at what you’ve written is helpful. I hope it is so for you. I understand your stress and your pain and I’m glad you’re able to talk about it instead of repressing the memories. Try to remember and accept the past as it was, and focus on moving forward.
    Become a builder in your mind. Place your thoughts, as much as possible, on the retirement future you’re creating for yourself and Richie. Big hugs.

  7. I like the back-ass-ward-ness of the title.
    You reaped the neglect and abuse of your mother, so you sowed the over-protectiveness and enabling of your son.

    He’s in his twenties and he’s torturing his father, one of the best men I know, who has a heart condition.

    Kick him out.

    If he can’t behave with respect to his father, if he deliberately takes out his frustrations on a man he knows has a damaged heart, then you’re not enabling him by letting him stay, you’re helping him hurt Richie.

    Richie doesn’t have the heart, literally, to kick him out. You want to save somebody, put Tim’s stuff on the doorstep and change the locks before he gives his father another heart attack in the middle of nowhere. Tim’s not going to change until you give him no choice but to change. This isn’t another desertion, this is just desserts.

    You can’t live like this.

    Oh, and if you can’t face the drive, wait to come later. You know you can come any time. Just give me a head’s up so I can change the sheets and clear a path . . .

  8. Krissie,there’s a whole bunch of judgmental stuff going on in this post. You call yourself a lousy mother, say that your son is a total shit. Honestly, girlfriend, ease up. You did the best that you could, based on a complex series of behaviors and experiences that started in your youth.

    Your son is a total of his experiences.

    As adults, each of you is now responsible for your own behavior and not responsible for fixing someone else. The only thing that you’re responsible for is if you continue to let your son’s behavior negatively impact/affect your lives to the point where you are at risk mentally, emotionally and physically. It’s up to you to define boundaries for appropriate treatment of yourself and then stick to those boundaries,

    Your son is responsible for acting appropriately and reasonably and respecting the boundaries. If he knows the boundaries and continues to ignore them, that is on him. Not you. Him.

    As adults, there comes a time when blaming our past for our present or thinking that what happened in the past justifies or excuses our own bad behavior has to stop. If we don’t try to stop, we don’t grow and heal.

  9. I just wrote 500 words in reply and then erased it because I was getting bossy and preachy. The situation sucks, and I’m so sorry you’re going through it. I hope it gets better soon. *hug*

    I do have a couple of things to say: It’s obvious that you’re afraid of losing Tim–if not to death, then just driving him away–but I think that the fact that you lost your shit at him in December and things got BETTER is indicative that you’re not going to drive him away, so you should feel safer about making your issues known.

    I’d also like to point out that if you reap what you sow, then you should be reaping some pretty wonderful stuff. “to protect my kids, to rescue them, to save them, to bail them out, to rationalize what they did, to go with the flow. On top of that my baby boy was wounded… and a lifelong series of abandonments.” You should now expect someone to protect YOU, to rescue you, to save you, to bail you out, to rationalize what you do, to go with the flow, because YOU were wounded, and had a lifelong series of abandonments.

    Just remember your rules of parallel construction and apply them to your relationships. If there isn’t an equitable back and forth of emotional support, it isn’t a solid construction. Edit it and move on. 😉 (That isn’t to say you should move on from Tim… just that you should give him what he gives you. Parallel construction.)

    Dammit, I did it again. Well, it’s long, but at least this time it wasn’t so preachy. 😛

  10. Therese says:

    I think that when we become parents, it is our chance to do for our children what we wanted to have done for us when we were children. Unfortunately, our children are not ourselves – they are different individuals with different needs, wishes, and dreams.

    I’ve been a long time coming to this realization, myself. What I needed to give my son is not, necessarily, what he needed. What I needed to give my son, I really need to give to my self!

    >assvice onassvice off<

  11. Everyone has said things I would have said, so I’m just going to say this: you and Richie need to take care of yourselves first and foremost. Tim needs to take care of himself and not make life worse for the people who care for him most. It’s more than acceptable to call him to task and have a come to Goddess talk with him. Again.

    But you and Richie need to take care of yourselves and each other. First.

    Be well.

  12. I want to be brilliant and erudite, but all I can think to say “What Kieran said.” Thanks for being brilliant and erudite, Kieran.

    We all want to rescue our kids,baby. When Son calls and tells me how overwhelmed he is with the doctoral program and work and family stuff and homeowner stuff, so bad I want to rush out there and fix it all. Smack a few heads together and make his life a smooth and easy path of sunshine and unicorns. But I can’t…and I wouldn’t if I could. This is his life and he needs to live it…with all the attending joy and sorrow. Same for your boy, Krissie…you’re cheating him if you keep rescuing him. Maybe I’m lucky because Son is so far away–I can’t watch his everyday life. But I talk to him often and I’m learning to simply say, “Gee, I’m really sorry things are tough right now. I hope they get better soon. I love you.”

  13. Carol says:

    Krissie my sweet, if Tim were still a helpless child, I could (almost) understand your willingness to let him kill your husband, but now that he’s a grown-up (and he is, despite whatever memory you have of your dear baby boy), I can’t, I just can’t. I’d love to see you protect Richie with the same ferocity that you’re wasting on Tim, who not only doesn’t appreciate it but is throwing it back in your face. You and Richie have the right to live at peace in your own home. It’s that simple.

  14. Barbara Cameron says:

    So many of us try to do better than our parents and then give ourselves such grief when we fail to be perfect. I took care of my younger sister because my parents were neglectful and at one point thought about adopting her. As I sat by her hospital bed yesterday I wished I had been able to take care of her better–and to rescue her when she developed multiple schlerosis (MS) as an adult. I feel I failed her too often as well. I KNOW on some level I had to take care of myself and my family and I did the best I could but she’s leaving us at too young an age and I just wish I could do more. I wish the best we could do–you and me and so many of us–felt like enough.

  15. Deb says:

    I enjoyed the snow this weekend. The lunacy of waiting for the snow to melt so I can mow my lawn appeals to me.

    No advice to add….just sending good vibes your way and please stop beating yourself up.

    Best wishes to you. Remember you have places to hide and people to run to if you need a sanity break.

  16. Dnelle says:

    This is going to sound harsh, and I’m sorry for that, but it needs to be said. Tim is not wounded. He’s a spoiled brat who’s used to using his anger to control the people around him. Whatever his life was before you got him you more than made up for it and it’s time for him to realize that whatever difficulties he’s had in life he’s got it pretty damn good. How are you going to feel if he causes Ritchie to have a heart attack and he dies because you want to coddle your son? That’s a very real possibility. As long as you reward his tantrums he’s going to continue.

  17. romney says:

    “…it’s our fault. We made him the way he is.”

    Nope. You can affect people up to a point, but once they reach a certain age its up to them which way they go from there, what they choose to do. Its not really your problem to solve, and as much as you might want to its not possible to “fix” other people unless they’re already doing most of the work.

  18. julianna says:

    You are assigning yourself 100% blame because your son is irretrievably broken. Instead of arguing over whether you deserve 100% (doubt it) or 5% (or 0!), I’d like to point out that he’s NOT irretrievably broken.

    He’s got some big issues. Some of them he can work on fixing, and some he will have to learn to live with. But what will help him most of all is knowing that his mother has faith that he can overcome his problems. And you can communicate that faith by having clear expectations for certain standards of behavior. Including treating you and Richie with respect.

    Now, on a selfish note. I wanted to thank everyone for your good wishes yesterday and let you know that I had my ultrasound today and there was no heartbeat. I also got my bloodwork back from last week and found out there’s apparently something wrong with my liver. And DH started his new job today and found out that even though his insurance is supposed to start today, we won’t be put into the system until sometime next week. I’m having a really crappy day.

  19. This isn’t something I could ever click “like” about, but I’m here, I hear your pain, and I’m so so sorry. I hope the very best for you and your husband coming out of this. *hug* Hang in there and I’m sure the rest of the folks here will join in with me sending good vibes to keep the wolves at bay.

  20. Caryn says:

    Research I was part of showed that nature vs nurture was about 50/50 depending on the trait. At most 80/20 in one area (I don’t remember which). So I’d say you can allow that’s he’s 50% a total shit and can get away with only 50% guilt. And since the real measure is whether you did better than your own parents (no question!!), I’d say you’re at least 90% good.

    (Twin research, comparing identicals with fraternals.)


  21. Cath G says:

    I agree with Mary Stella.

    Taking responsibility for our actions is the basic definition of an adult. Many of us had difficult childhoods. But at some point we must leave childhood behind, decide that our parents were not trying to hurt us, forgive them, and get on with our lives.

    It is not your responsibility to take care of someone who doesn’t respect your home and actively tries to hurt his parents.

    You can love him forever, but you can’t live his life for him.

    Sending you lots of hugs, and many kind thoughts.

  22. Therese says:

    Oh, Julianna,
    Condolences on your loss! I’m sending more positive vibes for you & your family’s health & happiness.

  23. Micki says:

    Oh, Krissie. So sorry you guys are having to go-around again.

    I think you should ask your son to fix some things. If he’s good at woodworking, maybe he could get out of the house and make something. At the very least, he needs to fix his attitude towards his father.

    Maybe if he felt better about being able to “fix” something (I’d say leave it mostly up to him what he fixes), he’ll feel better about other things.

    It’s too bad he can’t move into your White Elephant for the summer and help fix it up. But I suppose there are good reasons why that can’t happen. He’d still have to find a different place for the winter . . . .

  24. It was my mom’s opinion that you can cripple a child by doing too much for them as easily as doing too little. Of course, finding the balance can be the challenge of a lifetime.

    One way in which she dealt with my brother – who sounds a lot like your son – is by demanding that he act like an adult and treat her and my dad with basic consideration and decency, whether he wanted to at any given moment or not. She had a one-strike-and-you’re-out policy about that kind of thing, too: disobey the house rules and your stuff would be tossed out to the curb, no discussion, no appeals, no negotiations.

    I could add a lot of details and advice, but really, such comments from someone who knows so little of the whole picture is likely useless.

    Still, I agree with my mom in thinking that demanding that your adult son act like an adult is the bare minimum of what you should (very reasonably) expect and it’s nothing to feel guilty about, regardless of his upbringing or any mistakes you believe you’ve made.

    Your comment that you’re “hiding out in the bedroom” implies that your son is running your household – or at least has a disproportionate amount of power in it – and I hope for your whole family’s sake that you’re able to work something out soon that allows a more reasonable and equitable balance, not to mention some peace of mind all around.

    Best wishes as you navigate this difficult landscape.

  25. Oh, Julianna, so very sorry things are so crappy right now. Hold tight, baby–it’ll get better and I’ll send lots of good energy your way. {{Hugs}}

  26. Hugs to you. I hope something levels out, solutions are found, and you find your happy place.

    But I also have to say MOVE. Snow on Memorial Day weekend is wrong on many many levels. You need sunshine, especially when life is like this. Seriously. For your sanity, please move.

    Julianna – I’m thinking about you. Lots of love and support for you here.

  27. Laura says:

    We have a kid like Tim. Stop playing the victim game. Let him go. We did. It turned his life around. Settled. Independent. Stand up to him. Live your own life.

  28. Kieran says:

    Dear Julianna,

    Big hugs to you during this very rough time. I’m so sorry!!! Please know we’re thinking about you and wishing you lots of peace and healing.

    Love, Kieran XOXO

  29. Terrie says:

    No advice, just sympathy. I’ve had times where it was really hard to parent, dealing with a child in difficult times. So, no advice, just a hug, knowing how hard it is.

  30. Ha! I didn’t even notice I had the quotation backwards. Freudian slip, absolutely.
    You’re all right. It’s time. But, like a divorce, this takes a lot of false starts and determination and planning. Because unlike a divorce, this isn’t ending a relationship. It’s really doing the best for all of us.

  31. Kieran says:

    So I hear, Barbara. My sister juices, and it’s time consuming. Bleh! But I’m super motivated because my son’s allergies are worsening. I want to turn that ship around. So I’m going to try it!!

  32. Oh, Julianna, I’m so so sorry. That really sucks, big time. I hope you didn’t get into too much debt before the insurance kicked in. But hey (Pollyanna here) maybe the liver issue is something easily fixed and is interfering with your being able to carry a baby to term. Infertility, including secondary infertility, is a lifelong sorrow. Another one of those holes in a swiss cheese heart.

  33. Krissie, I usually lurk, but this subject is close to my heart. My daughter has decided her father and I are the cause of all her problems. My grandson is 7 and he’s never spent a night with us. It’s hard and we’ve tried everything to make things better, but have come to the conclusion that at 41, she has to control her own life.
    Print out this article with the third paragraph of Tamsin’s circled in red and give it to your son. All the advice is great but that says it all for both you and Richie. Then kick him out.

  34. I followed your link to your blog, Kieran, but it wouldn’t let me post there–I got stuck in some nightmarish WordPress loop that required a password and all kinds of things, so I hope it’s okay that I’m replying here.

    I eat a plant based diet. Took a long time to make the transition, a couple of years. Actually longer, because I gave up red meat about 15 years ago when I noticed beef made my PMS even worse and not eating it meant I could be only a half-lunatic rather than full blown psychotic.

    I flirted with vegetarian eating for a long time, eating many days without meat, then finally took a Vegetarian Times 28-day-challenge two years ago and it stuck. It really hasn’t been that difficult, aside from travel and eating out with editors/readers/business ppl. I hate being picky, abhor causing trouble, and for the first year, when I ate out, I’d allow crab if there was nothing else. After awhile, though, meat starts to make you feel pretty gross if you haven’t eaten it, so I had to stop that.

    Four months ago, after a trust crisis with the CSA I was using for eggs, I took the next step and gave up all dairy and eggs. Again, I thought it would be really hard, but aside from missing cheese, it’s not at all difficult unless I’m traveling. What I didn’t expect is that the eczema on my hands, which has plagued me for DECADES would clear up completely. Or that my skin would look so radiant. I’m not entirely pure–chocolate is a vegetable, and I do not examine the list of ingredients in baked goods if I’m traveling (I really LIKE them!). When I travel, I allow some cheese, just as I allowed some crab. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

    Sorry to go on so long! It’s just not something I’ve talked about a lot in public yet. People get freaked out if you say “vegan.”

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