Krissie: Kids

Okay, this is something terrible to admit. I hesitate to do so, but my kids aren’t going to go searching on the internet for me and I think I can get away with it.
I’ve been a helicopter parent, hovering, hovering. That’s my choice, my fault. In fact, the worst thing I did for my kids was not to set limits. I had such a wretched, painful childhood that I wanted to spare my kids that. I could always see things from their point of view, and I didn’t want them to hurt.
So of course I ended up with kids who always look to us to rescue them, who can’t survive without us supporting them. I feel like we can’t do anything for ourselves, when money’s so tight, because we have to make sure our kids are all right.
Then again, I have two wounded kids. My daughter, solid and funny and smart and hard-working, had what used to be called a nervous breakdown around the time she turned 18. She hasn’t been the same since. She’s fragile, unable to do more than two classes at a time in school, is easily crushed. She’s had some moments of independence — she figured out where she wanted to go to school, arranged financing, etc. I didn’t realize until it was too late that I had to co-sign the loans. But since I’d been paying her $1000 a month rent in Philadelphia it was cheaper, and she seemed focused. As it is now, she’s been in this school for 5 years (three years at other schools which I paid for out of pocket) and graduation isn’t in sight. If she can’t do more than two classes, how is she going to work full time (she’s never held a successful job). And several of her college loans are asking for money because she hasn’t had the financial aid office fill out the proper forms. She’ll be 100k in debt if and when she graduates, and I can’t envision her working.
And my son, who’s coming home for a week on Thursday (paid for by his ex). I’m really really annoyed with him, and I’ve never been angry with him in his life. All the totally fucked-up things he did, I would grieve for. The expensive schools, the opportunities, and he’d simply go back to his old ways.
Mind you, now he’s relatively clean and sober. Because his drugging and drinking was done at such a young age (starting at 12!) and he had a number of years at therapeutic schools (costing anywhere from three to six thousand dollars a month) his body was able to mature out of it. I don’t think adult addicts and alcoholics can return to using responsibly, but I do think it’s possible for kids whose brains hadn’t developed.
Anyway, as far as I know the weed and drinking aren’t the problem. His moods are. And he’d being a total asshole to Erin, who, poor soul, wants to get back together with him. And he’s holding her hostage, emotionally.
I finally wrote him and said he had to decide if he wanted to be free and unencumbered (which he thinks is what he wants right now) or have stability, which comes with responsibilities. And if he chooses freedom then he has to accept all the uncertainties, financial and otherwise, that go with it.
We’ve bought every car he’s ever owned (except for the $300 one) and I was about to co-sign a loan for a more expensive one when he didn’t even have a job. I’m insane. And we’ve been supporting him out in Detroit, simply because our life is simpler and calmer when he’s not here.
But enough is enough. I’m tired of him. I’m tired of his complaints, when he’s been given more than almost all of his friends and not really had to work for it. I’m tired of my daughter’s absolute inability to face the hard facts of life.
I want them all to go away. They’re not fun anymore.
Isn’t that a terrible thing to say? A horrible, wicked thing to admit? I’m tired of trying to fix them, particularly since it never works. They have to fix themselves. You’d think they’d want to, but both of them still expect to be rescued.
And God knows I still want to rescue them.
My son has severe learning disabilities and a screwed up body from a bad snowmobile accident during his druggy phase, making many many jobs unavailable. My daughter has severe emotional issues.
But he’s 25 and she’s 28. I won’t ever be able to cut the apron strings with my daughter, since we co-signed those damned loans that she’ll never be able to pay back. But we can tell my son that it’s time for him to grow up. Either be a man, find a job and accept the responsibility of his family, or stop asking us for money.
It’s no wonder I don’t want them around. All these problems I can’t fix, and they don’t seem to be trying to do anything to fix them themselves.
And it’s my fault for indulging them, fixing everything in the past. Or at least I share the blame.
Long, long rant. I love my children, would gladly die for them. I wish they were still the sweet babies who loved me, but then I’d have to go through all that hell again till they grew up. So no thanks.
It always seems like everyone else’s children have got it together. They hold jobs, they have families, the girls have boyfriends or girlfriends by the time they’re 28.
Long rant and I don’t know if I’ve come up with any answers. Except to let go and let god, something I always forget to do. The best step (for me) of the 12 steps is number three. Turn it over to my higher power. I can’t fix it this time.
And it kills me.

77 thoughts on “Krissie: Kids

  1. Rose says:

    Set the limits now – it’s not too late. Your kids are both adults. Think of it as a favor to them – allowing them to remain dependent on you and Richie is robbing them of the chance to learn how to become independent, the chance to make sacrifices to work towards their dreams, like you and Richie did. Every time you provide financial assitance you are reinforcing in them that they can’t make it alone. Nothing you can do about the loans you’ve already cosigned, but you can cut off the continued financial assistance, for their good and for yours.

    One of the things my mother taught me was never to cosign a loan for anybody. As a mortgage executive, she’d seen too many people whose credit was ruined by loans for which they had full resposibility, but no control over whether they were being paid back on time. She would take out the loan in her own name or not at all.

    And I say all of this as a person who has no kids, so I’m aware that when I say to just cut off financial assitance, to a parent it probably sounds like I’m suggesting you cut off your legs.

  2. Jen Wyatt says:

    This is sobering. My heart breaks for you because no matter what you do, it’s going to hurt.
    Take it from someone who’s married to a guy-who-never-grew-wings, cut them loose now. They’re more resilient than you think.
    No matter what, you know we refabbers have your back.

  3. Kieran says:

    Krissie, so you’re dealing with the pain of seeing them struggle…anger at them for screwing up…and guilt you have for not setting limits.

    That’s a lot to handle! It’s TOO MUCH.

    You shouldn’t be in that place, Krissie. You deserve better. This calls for you getting into survival mode. You have to save YOU, above all. And the irony is if you do that, you’re showing more love to your kids than any other back-up plan you have to save THEM.

    Your kids now have to save themselves, and the honest truth is, as parents we have to give them the dignity to fail or succeed on their own terms. I know I’ve brought that up before–the idea of dignity. But we all deserve that. That’s the best gift of love you can give them.

    So in the midst of all these tough emotions, you can feel GOOD about giving them their dignity–it involves your backing off *completely.*

    I recommend you box up all your worries about them and throw it in the Dumpster. The stuff in that box is pulling you AND them down.

    Give them freedom. Failure is endurable when it happens in that context, and success will only lift them up.

    Time is marching on. It’s Krissie-Richie time. I’m sorry you’re stuck with your daughter’s loans. But don’t let her think you’re going to pay them. She has to save herself, too. If she’s emotionally unhealthy, she needs to get help. If she doesn’t, Krissie, you can’t sacrifice your own happiness to go down with her. That sort of solidarity isn’t love–it’s despair and fear swallowing you whole.

    I’m in a similar situation with my son with Asperger’s. I’ve basically been carrying feelings of hopelessness, fear, and despair with me for about 18 years. But being a mother does NOT mean you sacrifice your life because you see tragedy in your child’s. I finally realized that, and now my son, at age 20, is on his own. It’s hell worrying, but I’ve LET GO. I don’t know what the future holds for him. Sadness happens. Tragedy happens. This is life. But we–my son and I–are going to march through this life on our own terms. And if we pass through walls of grief and pain, we’ll do it. And if it means one of us gets left behind…it may happen.

    But at least we will know we did the best we could–and that someone was cheering us on but not pulling us on a leash. Messing up is not the worst thing. Losing all your money, all your relationships is not the worst thing. The worst thing is not being free to leave your true mark on the world. All the messages we leave behind–some sad, some triumphant, some in between–are part of the truth, and truth is the only thing that matters.

  4. Naked Under My Clothes says:

    I’m not a parent, so I can’t comment on that part. But boy howdy I have experience with letting go and those 12 steps.

    Here’s the thing: I have found, in my experience (strength and hope) that it’s not a one-time deal. You let go, and before you know it, you’ve picked them up again, so when you’re aware of it, you let go again.

    Like anything meaningful, it’s an everyday, daily — sometimes hourly, sometimes from moment to moment — thing. Like exhaling: let go.

    Here I’m talking about the mentality of worrying, getting yourself into a lather about their wrongs, their future, their possibilities, their impossibilities.

    As far as what specifically to do goes: Any course of action you choose has pain. (Even not choosing, not acting. Maybe even especially that.) Why not pick the action that eventually leads to healing?

    Also: sometimes the most loving answer is NO.

  5. Ro says:

    Krissie, you were being the best parent you knew how to be. Unfortunately, kids don’t come with an instruction manual. Even if they did, it probably wouldn’t make much difference. I don’t have kids (the responsibility scared the bejeebers out of me), but I look at my siblings and wonder how we turned out so different when we had the same parents. We run the gamut from practical and straightforward, through victim of the world.
    You’ve done the best you knew how.
    Remember the pre-flight safety instructions – take care of yourself first.

  6. My ex is pushing 40 and has no ability to stand on his own or take care of himself. Believes life owes him something, everything should be handed to him, incapable of taking responsibility for anything, including his own actions. His parents created the man he’s become, boy really, and they’re suffering for it.

    Cut those strings now. I know it’s got to be the hardest thing in the world, but looking back I realize my parents hands-off, you-sink-or-swim-on-your-own style prepared me better for adulthood than anything else ever could. Ironically, they treated my siblings differently with the excuse “They can’t do what you can do.” And those siblings struggle to find their footing. I’ll never get why they didn’t treat us all the same. The others are just as capable as I am.

  7. This has been a long time coming. I think the important part isn’t whether you can or should cut them off completely, it’s that you’re finally saying, “I don’t like this. I love them but I don’t like the way they’re behaving. Other children their ages are independent and even supportive of their parents, and it’s time mine are, too.” If they’re ever in desperate trouble, of course you’d be there for them. But they’re not. It’s going to be tough on them, but it was tough on all of us when we were finally out on our own, no matter what age that was. They’re both so needy that I’m not sure I’d say, “They’ll both thank you for this in the long run,” but if you don’t cut them off and make them responsible for their own lives, they’ll never have their own lives, they’ll be tied to you forever and when you and Richie die (a hundred years from now, of course) they’ll be lost and helpless.
    The whole parent/adult-child thing is such a minefield, but the only way that dynamic works is if both sides are independent and able to negotiate a new relationship as adults. I think parents owe their adult children love and emotional support, but they don’t owe them financial support and they sure as hell don’t have to put up with the emotional abuse your kids have put you through. There was a reason Lani and I took the phone away from you while you were staying here; they were sucking the life out of you. They call and catch you unawares and make you feel guilty with the attacks out of nowhere and they never have to answer for their selfishness. Your parents emotionally abused you when you were little and now your children are emotionally abusing you as you age. I shudder to think what they’ll do to you when you and Richie really do get old and there are decisions to be made about your care.
    Make the break and save everybody.

  8. Danielle says:

    What everyone else said.

    No really, I think they’ve nailed it. If you don’t let your kids try and fail, they will never know independence. You will be wiping their proverbial asses when they’re 60.

    And that’s really depressing. Time to cut the cord. You’ve allowed them to take advantage of you long enough.

  9. Ylva Hedin says:

    Oh I was going to write a long text… then I saw what Jenny wrote and I agree… You have to do this now. Do not feel regret for what you havent done in the past… Do it and do it now!!

    Im sure they will thank you in the end… even if its not right now or even next year.

    You are doing the right thing!

  10. Krissie – as an adult who had a less-than-stellar childhood (abusive father, financial issues, etc), I understand completly about wanting to give your children a different upbringing. As a parent of a child who has multiple challenges, I totally get that you wanted to smooth life’s edges out for your kids and help them out financially. My son has really struggled with making friends, largely in part because his behaviour is sometimes so extreme that our children are either afraid of him or just want to avoid him all together. I find this incredibly painful to watch and it is tempting to rationalize his behaviour and avoid dealing with some of the tough issues.

    There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. Clearly, you and Ritchie did your best. Who’s to say that if you had been a tougher parent, the outcomes would have been different? There are so many elements that come to play in terms of our personal development that it is likely impossible to say that parenting alone is the reason why your children are the way they are.

    I agree that you do need to set limits. Less for them, than for you and Ritchie. Sounds like you aren’t happy with the status quo and since they are both adults, you are totally within your right to redefine the boundaries.
    Probably won’t be easy – change is rarely ever pleasant or pretty.

    I recall that you see a therapist. Is this something he or she could help you with? Maybe draw up an “action plan” or a list of things you want to change? It’s a hard thing to do on your own and a third-party can often be more dispassionate and realistic than our friends and family.

    I hope this doesn’t come across as a lecture. My heart broke when I read your post this morning because I see it from both sides. If you do nothing else, please try to let go of your guilt. Being a loving, but imperfect parent is way better than the alternative.

  11. JenniferNennifer says:

    Thank you for honoring us with your confidences.

    Everyone else’s children do not have it together, by the way. We all do the best we can, and it comes out how it comes out.

    Sending supportive thoughts.

  12. Tricia Halliday says:

    Sit them down and say ‘enough is enough, this is what is happening from now on’. Just have to stick to it. That is my problem I always give in because I want them to be happy. Good Luck.

  13. Redwood Kim says:

    You want them to be happy, but happiness has to come from within ourselves. Self esteem comes from achieving things we perceive as difficult. As parents we can do and do and give and give, but there is always going to be able to something else that the child wants.
    My mom always says that people will do what can get away with, and I think there’s a lot of truth in that. They’ve been getting away with a lot for years, time for them to develop some fabulous of their own.

  14. Denisetwin says:

    <> This. Rose hit the nail on the head. If you keep reinforcing that they cannot live without your emotional and financial support, they never WILL live without your emotional and financial support until you die. And that will make the next few decades very very miserable for all of you. Make the break now, and when it gets tough and it will, remember, you are giving them the gift of learning to live on their own. Much better they learn it now while they are relatively young than when you and Richie are not there anymore. Let them learn this so they CAN have normal loving, caring, supportive relationships with other people. They have to learn it now or they never will. Do this for Erin, and your daughter’s future significant other, do it for you and Richie, do it for them.

  15. Barbara Cameron says:

    My daughter once said that she was grateful that her parents had not always been able or willing to be there for her — especially financially. She said some of her friends whose parents had helped them a lot had had a really hard time learning how to care for themselves as adults.

    Yeah, she really said that, and in her mid-twenties no less. I was a single parent who went back to school to finish my degree when my kids entered college so my son, daughter, and I had to pay our own way. We were all stronger for it. Now that I’ve taught college for about twelve years, I have seen students learn to live on their own. Some stumble and fall — not once but a number of times. But they are all doing better for it. I vividly remember a student coming to talk to me. He’d been irresponsible, he said, and not done everything he could to do well in school and now had to go home and tell his mother he’d messed up. I asked if he wanted me to call and talk to her or help in any other way. I remember how once he admitted what he’d done to me he squared his shoulders and really seemed stronger for it.

    I really believe that we make a choice about what kind of person we are no matter what kind of parent we’ve had. You were a hovering parent? Like Jenny and others said, you were the best parent you knew how to be. At some point, your kids need to decide that leaning on that kind of parent is not good for anyone. And when they don’t, you need to be the one who makes them stand on their own two feet. Everyone will be alright — actually, they will be BETTER for it.

    As a side, practical note: President Obama was able to get a bill passed that makes it possible for people to pay a percentage of their income (I think 10 percent but check on this) to repay their loan. The loan payments that can often be more than a mortgage payment are now shrunk to a more affordable level. (Always get the loans consolidated into one.)

    It’s hard to be a parent, especially when our children are hurting. My son was here yesterday and he’s really suffering — his wife and kids moved to the other side of the state (3 hrs away) and after years of an up and down marriage there’s real doubt he will be joining them. It was hard to see him leave to stay with a friend but I know I can’t — and shouldn’t — try to save him. I’ll be here to help as I can but in the end, the solutions he finds for himself will be the best ones for him.

  16. Your children will never know what they are capable of accomplishing until you give them no choice but to try it out and see. It will likely be a rough transition for you all, but you really will be doing them a favor in the long run whether they realize it or not.

    And you will be doing you and Ritchie a favor NOW.

  17. oneoftheotherjennifers says:

    What Jenny said.

    Also, thank you so much for sharing this, now. I’ve been struggling with this on the early side- my daughter just turned 13 a few months ago.

    There are things she should be taking responsibility for herself now, and she is not. I can’t, don’t want, to be hovering over her for her entire life, urging, encouraging, reminding. So while the things I expect her to do are nothing compared to what you are dealing with, isn’t this the time I should start stepping back? When the things aren’t as vital? I think so.

    If it weren’t for this post, I might have convinced myself to keep “helping” her for “just a couple more years.” Thank you.

  18. I was a clingy, needy kid and teen and I didn’t want to leave my mother. She made me keep going back to college. She made me come up with my own solutions. She made me have to develop independence and self-reliance. She still helped financially from time to time, but mostly it was loans that I paid back. I was still very dependent on her emotionally when she died and that has made her loss even tougher to bear, but I cannot imagine where I would be if she hadn’t forced me to be independent. After I hit about my late 20s or early 30s, I began thanking her for it. It was not natural to me but it was what I needed. And it’s enabling me to survive without her and, hopefully, to thrive again eventually.

    That’s all I have to contribute other than that I can feel your hurt, Krissie and I wish I could help you. But I think you have finally come to the point where you will be able to take care of yourself and do what you need to do. You have our support, you have your sisters and your mini-you. You have Richie. It’s going to be okay, somehow, eventually. It just might be painful and dark before you get to the other side. *hugs*

  19. Jessie says:

    Do you really think your son should get back with his girl friend? At this point in his life he doesn’t sound like someone you should want around your grandson. Drugging and drinking are always a problem and may be the basis of his mood swings. Whether usage is out of control now or not, based on previous posts from you it sounds as though he is using more than he should be as a supposedly recovering user. But at this point in his life, usage is his decision. Although if you are supporting him, you are also supporting his usage.

    This sounds really harsh to me but someone has to be more concerned about that little boy then they are about your son. And while Erin is not your daughter, you might ask her whether she has thought this through.

  20. Kieran said it beautifully as usual, so I have nothing to add, except, Krissie, you’ve been doing such a great job of taking care of yourself, don’t stop now. Maintain all the great emotional health and model an mature, responsible adult to your kids. Let them go and make their own mistakes and learn from then as you have. Cling tight to Richie and dump your stuff here–we’re all here to listen and offer what advice we can. Keep being good to yourself…you’ve earned it.

  21. First off, “everybody else’s kids” don’t have it together nearly as much as you might think. Sure, some do, but you’re not the only parent in the world who looks at her not-yet-functioning-as-they-should kids and wonders where she went wrong. Except…IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT! I don’t know why, as parents, we take all this crap on ourselves, blaming ourselves for our children’s foibles when the fact is they have every bit as much choice as we do about how to handle their lives. And, yeah, it’s hard to let go, to not want to make it better, but…we usually can’t. And, as has been said, letting them suck US dry isn’t going to help them.

    Hubby and I had five sons, now ranging in age from almost-18 to almost-33. Oldest kid had learning issues, never let them derail him, went off to join the Marines at 18, put himself through college (double degree!), has always kept moving forward, even when things looked dark. Just married the most wonderful young woman, making me a very proud mama.


    Discounting the youngest, who still has a little wiggle room, the others are ALL still “finding themselves.” Some still live with me who, by rights, shouldn’t. And believe me, I was not a helicopter parent (although my husband, bless his heart, would have been more so if I hadn’t put the kibbosh on his over-protective tendencies ). Not that we kicked them out the front door at six and said, “You’re on your own,” but I guess because I was such an independent cuss from the get-go (only child syndrome, maybe?)we expected them to figure things out on their own. For some, it more or less worked; for others, not so much.

    And it hurts like hell to watch them stumble and fall, over and over, to see *them* hurt. And heaven knows I’m not completely immune to those puppy dog eyes. But at some point I realized if I didn’t shove them out of the emotional/financial nest, I was going to end up living in a box under the bridge at 80. But my point is…no matter what one’s parenting style, kids sometimes screw up. Make rotten choices. It happens. Humans are very complicated creatures, and cause and effect isn’t nearly as easy to peg as the logical parts of our brains would have us believe.

    So, yeah, cut yourself loose. Not from them, but from the guilt that *you* “caused” this. Not to mention the burden of thinking you’re responsible for fixing them. Because that way lies madness…which you know.

    Much love winging across the continent to you…

  22. Your kids need to understand that you and Richie are moving toward your retirement years. You need to explain to them that whatever resources you have, and are currently building, are for your future. That there will be no more financial handouts. Threaten them with the fact that if they don’t comply, you’ll need to rely on them for both emotional and financial support in future years.

  23. Caryn says:

    Be strong — you matter, you already did your parenting, now it’s time to toss the little birds from the nest (or at least think about it seriously, which is where I am at). My son is applying, studying, and (fingers crossed) may hear this week that he got a job he made it through the second interview for. My daughter is borrowing from me, but I refused to co-sign (she’s sometime good, sometimes feckless) her own loan because I don’t trust her that much with my life and happiness. You matter. It’s not too late to put you first.

    But no, it’s not easy. (Change your telephone number and don’t give it to them?)

  24. I meant to say this too. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you have the only struggling children. Not by a long shot. Mine is only 13 and we’ve already hit some tough bumps.

  25. Maria says:

    “But at least we will know we did the best we could–and that someone was cheering us on but not pulling us on a leash. Messing up is not the worst thing. Losing all your money, all your relationships is not the worst thing. The worst thing is not being free to leave your true mark on the world. All the messages we leave behind–some sad, some triumphant, some in between–are part of the truth, and truth is the only thing that matters.”


  26. What everyone has said. Totally. Don’t beat yourself up, look after you and Richie. Your kids are grown ups now. It’s time for them to look after themselves, face their own hurdles, meet the challenges they have set for themselves.

    If they are draining you, make it plain that you will always love them but that you are not a bottomless well from which they can draw. You deserve better, and you need to protect you and Richie.


  27. Evelyn says:

    I usually lurk but I really wanted to comment today and thank you for this beautiful entry. You’ve given so much happiness to your readers as a novelist but with this blog, you’re doing something even more profound. You make us feel like we’re not alone. Like we all matter, and we’re going through similar things. And yes, it can be very hard but it is cyclical.

    I really am grateful to you from the bottom of my heart for creating this blog and establishing a human connection. Your pain is wretched but poetic and the stuff history is made of. You are essentially documenting the human existence for generations to come and confirming the tales of bards past.

    Thank you, really.

    If my advice will be of any help, it is that maybe you should sit down with your kids (or write them a letter, whatever the best medium is) and tell them you really need their help. Being needed is a great catalyst for change. If you were to tell them how much trouble you’re in, well, there is a good chance they will come and want to rescue you. I only say this because like most immigrant children, I’ve been saddled with too many family responsibilities. And yet, how can you say no when your parents have given up so much for you? You’ve certainly sacrificed a lot for your children.

  28. Maria says:

    My mom went to my niece’s 6th Grade – middle school – Orientation just last week. My sister-in-law had to work and my brother went for part of it, but couldn’t stay for the whole thing. The thing that impressed her was the Principal’s speech to the parents.

    1. Ask your children if they’ve done their homework and then let it go. It is their homework and it is better to figure out how to manage time in middle school than high school or college.

    2. If your child forgets something at home, then don’t bring it to school for them. Again, let them figure it out on their own.

    3. Your child will get into high school and if they want to go to college will get into college, too. Let them worry about their grades. It is better for them to figure their own stuff out now than in high school or college.

    4. The number one predictor of success in college is adversity in childhood. A child who has had to learn and overcome things, who has failed and then got themselves up again, who has suffered and moved forward by themselves with cheerleaders only, has a higher possibility of succeeding because stumbling blocks happen throughout life to everyone and it is the successful overcoming of them that creates success minded people.

    Here’s the thing, as far as I can tell, everyone had issues in childhood. Some worse than others. All of us have had things happen to us or made choices that cost us. Pain is a fact of life. It is pain that teaches us to not touch fire. It is pain that teaches us eventually to wear shoes when riding bikes. It is failure that teaches us resilience. It is in over coming our own weaknesses, in finally seeing our own stupidity, that we become better people.

    Cut the strings. Cry when they fail. Pray. Give them over to the higher power – over and over and over again. Shoot them out into the world and watch them fly. Yes, they will get nicked and scarred. We all do. It is what being human is about. The old saying is right, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” It is time for your children to be stronger.

    And as an aside, watching them f**k up their lives over and over and over again, sucks. However, it is their lives to f**k up. Sigh. This does become a mantra by the way, “It is her/his life to f**k up.”

  29. Barbara Cameron says:

    Maria, what a fabulous speech that principall gave! I particularly liked # 4 and then what you said in the next paragraph.

  30. Cindy says:

    Krissie, I have a teenager with a chronic illness, and I know I’ll have to be there for her to support her. I know that college will take her longer than it would a healthy person, and I know that it’ll cost us more because of that. BUT I’m also preparing her in other ways to take care of herself. I’m trying to prepare her to be her own advocate. I won’t be there for her forever.

    Your “kids” need to grow up, and take responsibility for themselves. They need to take responsibility for their lives. And you need to quit feeling guilty, and don’t let them play you. Cut the strings. Be there for them when they truly need you, but don’t be there holding them back from growing up. I think as long as you’re there making things easy for them, they can keep blaming you when things go wrong, and not taking responsibility.

    I hope you get to enjoy your own life soon.


  31. Hey Krissie, I haven’t read the other comments yet, so maybe I’m repeating? I hadn’t had a relationship last longer than a year until I was in my thirties. I was anxious and needy and I don’t know how I kept any friends at all. There is hope she will grow up. And your son too.

    Don’t cosign any more loans. Don’t they have to be signed fresh every year? Enough is enough. Why pay for expensive education when she won’t be able to hold a job to repay the loans?

    My suggestion is twelve step programs and counselling for both of them, if they’ll go.

    Stand up for yourself. No more money to the kids. It’s your turn.

  32. As for letting go — they call it the 12 Step Waltz. One, two, three, one two three. We don’t get past three because we keep taking it back and then have to start all over again. Aaargh!

  33. Jessie — no, I’m definitely more concerned about my grandson. I told Tim that in a perfect world I’d want them back together but not the way they were before, with his temper and abuse (I put it a little more tactfully). I’m not pushing either way. I want him to fucking grow up and be the man he could, take care of that little boy who loves him to pieces and thinks he’s his father.
    But the most important person in all this is Alex.

  34. Hi,
    I know it’s really hard. But we also have people in our family in their 40s, even 50s who are still a mess financially and still looking to be bailed out by relatives.
    This will go on as long as you let it.

  35. Bravo, and I would add for anyone getting read to send kids to college, my best advice for you is to give them a clear stake in the costs.
    Pick an amount you’re willing to contribute and stick to it. And I would make it contingent on their doing their part.
    Make them get loans up front to cover the costs. If they maintain a certain GPA you set, you reimburse them the amount you agreed upon per semester.
    If they really want to go to that expensive school, you still pay the same amount. They need to want it enough to pay extra. If they lose their scholarship, they pay extra. You don’t.
    You will save yourself a lot of money and your kids will either do better or drop out, I predict.

  36. Kathryn says:

    Saw this quote from Ann Landers recently.
    “It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”

  37. That dance is dreadful. But once you do the gut wrenching work of the 4th step, miracles happen. I learned a new dance and it became much much easier to take care of myself.

  38. Naked Under My Clothes says:

    And you know what the 4th step is…it’s turning your attention away from the loved one (booze, food, drugs, partner, kid) to look at yourself.

    In the 4th step, you say (in effect, this is not the words of the step) “I am responsible for me and my behavior” — sure, your past (which is what the step looks at in the inventory), but also what you do today.

    You can’t change your kids, but you can change your own behavior, one day at a time, one action at a time, one decision at a time.

  39. Krissie, big hugs. I think it’s way past time for you to stop blaming yourself for your kids’ problems and to stop trying to solve them at detriment to you and Richie.

    In the long run, resetting the boundaries and sticking to them so that your offspring learn what they must do to stand on their own and be their own major source of support, is the best thing that you can do for everyone involved.

  40. YAY!!! DING DING DING DING!!!!!!!

    You are NOT horrible, it is NOT awful to think or decide those things, and there’s NO WAY IN HELL you’re a terrible person or parent for drawing a line and getting sick of your kids’ bullshit. Because that’s exactly what it is. I guaran-damned-tee you that if you draw the line with your daughter as well, she’ll hup to and figure her shit out. If you keep patting her on the hand by enabling her as you’ve done, she’ll keep riding the free train.

    Dignity is important. You’re reclaiming yours by walking away from helicopter parenting, and you’re allowing your kids to claim theirs by no longer wiping their asses for them.

    I am so proud of you!!!!

  41. Precisely. You did your absolute best to be a fabulous parent to your kids and to take care of them in ways you were never taken care of. Your kids, as all human beings do, also had a responsibility to grow the hell up and start turning that help down, not to stay mewling piles of waaah counting on the ‘rents to always fix things. I don’t mean any insult to either of them, but I do see their behavior toward you as abominable. At some point, how we act is no longer our parents’ fault – it’s our own choice to be amazing or be assholes. That age is about 10-12 for most kids.

  42. Hey, growing up – yourself or someone else – is a pain in the ass. We all try to fix our childhoods one way or another, and being a parent is the most dangerous job in the world. I really doubt most of the people with troubled kids EVER tried to do any less than their best for their children. Stuff happens, and past a certain point, it’s no longer up to the parents how their kids choose to live their lives. In some extreme cases, it’s not even up to the kids. That doesn’t mean the parent failed, it just means that’s what happened.

  43. jinx says:

    I’ve been watching all the ex-teenage sparrows this summer go through the hard knocks stage of their upbringing. They’ll be standing in the middle of a patch of seeds, ignoring all that food, and doing the bend-and-flutter dance in front of the frazzled-looking parent sparrows, who seem to have had it up to here with these hulking, adult-sized needy mouths to feed.

    Likewise, my former cats were a mother and son pair, very attached until he got to the size of his father and STILL wanted her to wash his head and hang out with him and bring him some more milk instead of going about her own life.

    In both cases, the adults had apparently reached the point where the formerly tender nurturant feelings had turned to irritation. They just KNEW that the point had been reached where this dependence had to stop.

    I think it sounds like you’ve reached that point and you just KNOW.

  44. So much good advice here. It’s useful for me to hear because my husband and I have definitely helped too much at times. And it has cost us emotionally and financially. We are, gratefully, at a moment of peace where both kids are doing well. But it has certainly not always been the case.

    There was a time I used to feel that I had really failed my children and had been a terrible parent or they would have much better success launching themselves as adults. What a burden of guilt. I looked at other parents and thought they had managed it all so much better. I felt both shame and failure.

    But one of the (many) gifts of a quilt group I belong to is that we’ve seen each other’s children and grand-children do really dumb things, make tragic mistakes. Some have rebounded, some are still in the midst of bad decisions. And I look at those other women I admire who are all wonderful, normal women and mothers and realized that most of us are just in here doing the best we can.

    You are not alone in having children who struggle or misbehave or need too much. You are not alone in feeling overwhelmed and deeply pained. You are not alone in wanting it all to just STOP.

    Lots of others here are giving really wonderful advice. I just want to say that you’re not alone.

  45. Reb says:

    What everyone else said.

    At 28, I was hanging round varsity, not finishing my degree and generally being fragile and making a mess of my life. It wasn’t my parents’ fault. I’m not sure whose fault it was (umm, mine?). My parents didn’t bail me out. 15 years later, I’ve got the degree, A+ grades in a relevant postgrad qualification, a job that I do well and enjoy, a husband I love, a leadership position in my church, and I’m financially doing fine. I greatly regret the mess I made of my 20s, but I’m evidence that people can find their feet.

    Your adults (they’re not children any more) may surprise you if you let them. Or may not, but that’s their choice. Please let them make it.

    Print out the comments that’ll harden your resolve the most and stick them by your phone.

  46. Before you do anything and definitely before you talk to either kid, I strongly recommend you work with a therapist on defining where your limits really are. I’ve been watching my father and my ex-in-laws deal with these questions for years and years (re: my sister and my ex-husband, now in their late 40s and early 50s, respectively) so I’m really familiar with the problem, but with a somewhat different point of view. And an awful lot of experience in watching those limits get pushed.

    Here’s what you need to know: If your daughter has another breakdown and ends up in the hospital, are you going to help her? What about if she gets a diagnosis — say bi-polar disorder and is medically disabled? If she says she’s going to kill herself because of her despair over her financial problems? If she actually makes a suicide attempt?

    If your son says he’s found a great job, but he’s got to have reliable transportation to get there, are you going to help him? If he winds up homeless and living on the street, will you help him? If so, how? Money? A place to live? Picking him up at the shelter or the park and giving him an occasional restaurant meal? Encouraging phone calls only?

    You *absolutely* must know the answers to these questions before you try to set limits. And you need to know, inside yourself, that your limits are real and you’ll be able to follow them.

    My parents struggled — well, I’ll skip the details. But this past year my dad finally went to a therapist and worked out with the therapist that he is unwilling to set the limits that my sister needs. He can’t do it. It’s not in him. He can’t let her wind up homeless, or in the hospital, or threatening to kill herself, not just for her sake, but for his sake. So he continues to support her, with the knowledge that the money’s going to run out and that it’s no sort of long-term solution (and I’ve pointed out to him, rather grimly, that the problem he’s leaving behind is going to most likely fall on her son, poor kid) but at least the endless agonizing over what to do and how to fix her is done for a while.

    And it’s a trade-off for him — he has to worry a lot more about money than he ought to, but he doesn’t have to worry about whether she has a roof over her head or food in her refrigerator or reliable transportation. And he gets a loving, calm (albeit sometimes frustrating) relationship with her and his grandkids.

    If you don’t know what your limits are — exactly — and what you’re able to live with, your kids are going to find the limits the hard way, and it’ll be a hard way for you, too. My parents set limits so many times. So many, many times, it was “no more money, ever”. And then there’d be a hospitalization. Or a crisis. And not all the tragedies were of my sister’s making. When your child’s husband has been hit by a car and hospitalized and suddenly she has to survive on his disability pay with a baby on the way — can you say no, then? Because to make the limits stick, you really have to be able to say no all the time, even then.

    My parents couldn’t. I wish they had. I wish my sister had wound up homeless and living out of a car. I wish she’d had to declare bankruptcy. I wish she’d had some experience, somehow, something, that could have helped her become the adult that she should have been. So I’m not trying in any way to discourage you from setting limits with your kids — but working with a therapist to help define those limits with absolute clarity would be a really good first step.

  47. Marilyn says:

    If your son has a terrible temper and is abusive (whether emotionally or physically), do you want Alex to be reared by him? Better for you to lose Alex than for Alex to live walking on eggshells to keep his “dad” pacified. I worked with domestic violence perpetrators for years. Sometimes they have to reach the very bottom, losing everything and everyone, before they wake up and take care of business. Sorry if that seems harsh, but so is living with an angry father.

  48. Sharon says:

    Look, I know you love your children-every mother loves her own children but the goal of a parent is to make them functioning adults who are loved and respected by other people. From the sound of things, these adults couldn’t and refuse to function and are not liked by anyone. You and Richie are in a real mess financially, your house is full of clutter, you are attempting to lose weight and eat right. Sit down with Richie and make a plan on how to deal with these non-functioning adults.You DO NOT have any money to give them. You must make this clear-no matter how much they whine, rant and throw things. They will continue to demand until you stand united and tell them that from now on these two people get emotional and loving support ONLY. You and Richie need to work on your relationship, home and life. It is not about them any more.

  49. mimi says:

    HALLEJULAH !!!! it is about time to cut this whiney kids loose…sink or swim, that’s what i did and wish every day i did it 15 years ago. peace reign’s at my home FINALLY …STAY FIRM they are ADULTS and parent’s or future parent’s need to set limits…. that’s why e are adults and they are children…

  50. G and T says:

    So here’s a thing to think about that’s been touched on here a bit: you can’t really change the past, and neither can your kids. What’s done is done. I chose meditation over therapy and I worked on that one a long time because I am muller and brooder. I mull and brood myself into inaction. I still work at letting go the injustices of the world because how can I do what I want today if I can’t let go of insults and disasters of 10 years ago? So now I work hard to figure out what’s happening today. And I think about tomorrow. My best wish for you is to be able to take care of you and Richie. Love your kids and if you can show them how to move on, you will have done a great thing.

  51. Micki says:

    You could take this even farther, and ask them to start chipping in $25 a month “for the home” in a special, designated account. Just to keep it in their minds.

    Maybe that’s too far. But really, you guys need to put your own oxygen masks on first. Nursing homes are no joke, and you don’t want to run out of money when you’re 88 and unable to do much. My grandmother may not be eligible for gov’t monies when she runs out of her money . . . which is coming up very soon. They had to move her to a nursing home in a different state with different rules. Really hard on everyone . . . .

    Don’t let this scare you. If it doesn’t motivate you, then just put this out of your mind completely, because what you need now is the motivation to make a plan, and stick with it. NOT a bunch of fear and guilt.

  52. Micki says:

    Oh, I think I need to send this to my daughter! She’s been chafing about parental control, and we’ve been trying to let go . . . .

  53. Micki says:

    I love Sarah’s advice about setting limits (with consultation), and sticking to them. You love your kids! You should tell them that! And there’s ways to show them that without throwing money at them.

    I was talking to a guy with a brand-new teenager, and he said something that really struck me. I asked him how it was going, and he said, “She’s a teenager, you know? But I told her, ‘Daddy is not an ATM. You need to talk to me other times besides when you need something.'”

    Wow. That’s so simple, and yet so true. The giving needs to be a two-way street, and loving words and actions are so much more important than money . . . .

  54. I’m not even sure that with the cost of college today that it is practical for parents to pay for the entire amount if you also factor in that everyone is expected to save up for their retirement years as well. I’d like to think I could help a little, but frankly I had to work nearly full time at a retail job while also going to school full time and it made me appreciate it all more as well as helped me hone some awesome time management skills.

  55. My kids are 22 and 19, and they’re both still at home. In college, but not working. I’m finally – FINALLY – pushing them to get jobs. Shoving applications down their throats, and demanding they go out and at least try.

    It’s working. Slowly. They know that money is beyond tight and they’re good in that they never ASK for money. But sheesh, I wish they’d just grow up already.

    And in the next breath, I’m grateful they’re home, clean, polite, and witty at the dinner table. I know that won’t last forever, but I’m enjoying it while they’re here.

    So, Krissie, not everyone’s kids have it together. In fact, I’m willing to bet there are more parents out there with adult children who have major issues than ever before. It might not be a comfort, but at least you aren’t alone.

    Sending love and hugs.

  56. romney says:

    Speaking as a parent with oh just about 4 years of parenting behind her…I agree. What if (heaven forfend) something was to happen to the two of you – would your kids be able to look after themselves? I’m worried that you’re equating taking on responsibilities, family with a financial reward to your son. Making money provisional on whether you like his decisions or not? Thats an unpleasant dynamic to have in a relationship. Get the two unrelated if you can.

    Take my advice with a pinch of salt though, I do only live a few miles from my own parents after all, and they do plenty to help me. But I’m always looking for a way that they don’t have to – it sounds like your two haven’t learnt that yet.

  57. romney says:

    I wish I could add many more “likes” on this one!

    Its never too late. Imagine if your Mum had tried to fix your relationship when she was the age you are now. I mean, really fix major things. How much better could things have been for all those years? Now you’re in that position and have the opportunity to make a choice.

  58. romney says:

    I can’t think of a good way to say this, and I don’t know a damn thing about therapy but perhaps it is a good time to switch to discussing relationships with live people. The other sort are beyond salvage and their ability to hurt you any more is somewhat limited. When you’re dealing with kids in their 20s its still possible to change the pattern of the whole relationship – on both sides.

  59. romney says:

    It doesn’t sounds like he is that well suited to “family life”. Perhaps worth reconsidering your goals for Tim? Because 1. he should have his own goals, and it sounds like this isn’t something he really wants. And 2. don’t confuse your goals with his. What is best for him, what does he want, not what forms a neat family unit that you aspire to yourself? That way of life is not for everyone. Easy trap to fall into – once married with kids, its easy to think that should be everyone’s goal because that was yours and made you happy.

  60. romney says:

    Perhaps I say that because my dad was a bank manager? I was taught a lot of lessons about saving, lending, compound interest etc at an early age!

  61. Maria says:

    This is so, so true. No kid comes with a manual and no matter what you always feel like you did the wrong thing. I have to stop myself constantly from the “if onlys” game that I play when the kid calls to vent about the a$$-hat who fathered her children. When she calls to complain about the crappy job she has to work because NOT going to college showed me. Sigh.

    “It’s her life to f**k up.”

  62. Maria says:

    Preach it, sister! And my the way sometimes I wonder if I am that kid to my mother. Although she says no and our relationship is oddly complicated and convoluted. Always has been.

  63. Anne says:

    The hardest thing you will ever say to your kids is “No”. But it will get easier… If something were to happen to you and your husband (like winning the lottery and going on a trip around the world), then your kids would have to figure it out for themselves… Start saying no… let them figure out how to get out of the pool on their own.

  64. Cissa says:

    My daughter’s 28, and just barely making it on her own.

    We did not pay for her college, or co-sign it, because she’d proven for years that she wasn’t willing to do assignments in public schools. We did offer to reimburse her for college classes she took at which she get at least a B grade, verified by her transcript. She never did.

    I guess in some ways we were lucky, because she started to blatantly fall apart at around 12, and we were able to get various state and school district services for her. I’d read up on how a mentally ill kid could bankrupt her family, and preventing that was one of my priorities. It’s not like that advice is easy to find, though! and there’s SO much pressure to SACRIFICE.

    Is there any way you can get out of the co-signing?

    It’s miserable enough with only 1 kid; it’s gotta be worse with 2. You have my heartfelt sympathies.

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