Parenting: Pity Fest

It’s been a pity-fest at my house this week.

Biding Time

The boys survived their punishment. Actually, MK is off groundness (is that a word?) today – GD still has another full week of no video games or computer. I’m sure I’ll be forced to endure yet another few days of heavy sighs and stubborn silence from the boy as he’ll be so jealous of his little brother having his privileges back that he won’t be able to keep his eye on the ball of reality.

In case you’re just stumbling into my block of cyberspace – we had a pretty ugly scene at my house last Sunday. The boys not only tested their boundaries, they erected a tent and tried to camp out on the other side of “let’s see how far we can piss mom off before something bad happens.” I won’t go into the sordid details again, you can read about it if you wish, but suffice it to say, this past week … sucked.

Both boys watched more TV this past week than I think they have in the past year. My boys are not into TV, at all. They LIVE for their video games and online interaction with their “friends.” So, when they do something unacceptable such as, oh, I don’t know, hit me or curse in my face, then you bet we’re going to step in and take their precious LIVES away from them.


The first few days after the incident, and they realized their punishment, were torture. None of us spoke to each other. We were all walking on pins and needles – GD was nearly impossible to be around. He sent me so many hate looks that I’m surprised I’m not a walking, smoking skeleton. Which I don’t quite understand considering he was the one who disrespected me and who, in my opinion, got off pretty light with only being grounded two weeks. And at first, I felt pretty guilty about my participation in the ugliness. I’m a fair person, I absolutely take responsibility for my part, in anything I screw up in.

But enough is enough. Stop with the pouting and stop acting like a spoiled brat. What happened, happened. You can’t take it back, we can only learn from that bitter experiment (and I’m including myself in on that hard lesson learned, too), and move forward.

It’s our fault, really. We’ve spoiled our boys. They have everything they could possibly want. They get nearly everything they want, either from gifts (birthday or Christmas, we rarely buy them anything any other time), or with their own money they’ve saved up from their grandmas’ generosity. They are content, and believe it or not, happy, most of the time. And we’ve told them that we’re happy to spoil them as long as they follow the rules, do well in school, and just BE good people, step outside those guidelines and all bets are off.

But we’re in the teenage years. And even though I hate labeling or making excuses for irrational behavior, it is what it is. GD is trying to push out of the box that I’ve had him trapped in for most of his life. I know this, I get this. I WANT him to exert his independence and I’m trying really hard to give him a little rope, but to be THIS pissed off, to be THIS bored and refusing to even TRY to take an interest in anything BUT his games/computer, has me a little worried. No, scratch that, I’m worried. Is it healthy to be THAT focused (as the hubs calls it – I prefer OBSESSED) on just one thing in your life? Shouldn’t he have other interests? Shouldn’t he CARE about anything – something – other than one aspect of his life?

But GD has always been this way. Even as a baby, I couldn’t get him interested in ANYTHING outside of trains. The boy was positively obsessed with trains. It seriously worried me. But what can you do? The boy liked his choo-choos. Finally, he outgrew trains only to divert his obsession to Pokemon/Drazon Ball Z/Yu-Gi-Oh.

This phase lasted for another handful of years. He collected cards, he had every game, he dressed up as a Dragon Ball Z character for Halloween, he went to Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments and “battled” other kids. It was insane. I tried to get him interested in other things. In fact, a few summers, I MADE the boy take breaks and tried to interest him in paint-by-numbers, reading, or doing something physical, like shooting hoops or going swimming.

And though GD would do these things, he only did them because I made him. He had one eye trained on the clock the entire time, just biding his time until he could back to what really interested him.


MK likes his video games, but he’s more diverse. He at least makes an ATTEMPT to enjoy other things. In fact, give the boy a stick and a rubber band and he can entertain himself for hours. Not so with GD. The boy is focused. The hubs keeps reassuring me that this is a good trait, I’m not quite so sure, if you want the truth. There’s being a perfectionist, then there’s irrationally obsessive. It’s all or nothing for GD.

When GD and I talked about “the incident”, I apologized for my role in the theatrics. I opened my heart to him and told him things I’ve never told him before. GD now understands me a bit better. He now realizes that I’m weak in so many ways and that I’m not only human, I get hurt and am hurt by the way he acts sometimes.

Instead of being compassionate, which is normally his reaction, he’s been cold and rude. I think he sees my confession as a sign of weakness. I think he thinks that he can now walk all over me and is looking for ways to take advantage of me at every turn.

Does this boy never learn? I can’t believe he still doesn’t know me well enough to know that that will NEVER happen. I’m fair, but I’m stubborn. I’m still his mom and he still has to live by our rules. We may negotiate and re-evaluate those rules as he gets older, but the bottom line? They are our rules and he must respect that, take it or lump it.

I’m all about tough love, baby. I’m all about teaching my boys respect, courtesy and getting along with people. Even if that means they hate me for a while until they learn those lessons.

*sigh* Is it time for school to start yet?

*Update: To add insult to injury, GD went and had his elastics put on his teeth today. He’s about three months shy of having his braces removed and apparently, elastics are the final stage. As a result of these rubber bands being in his mouth? He’s TERRIBLY self-conscious. So, to say the boy is cranky would be putting it mildly. AARGH!


10 thoughts on “Parenting: Pity Fest”

  1. Thanks again, Chel. We are certainly hanging in there. 😀 He’s a good kid, he just drives me nuts because he’s so much like me!

  2. We tease that if my 10-year-old was any more laid-back, he’d be prone. 🙂 We worry about him, too, because he isn’t all that motivated.

    However… my husband’s brother took seven years to get his bachelor’s degree and is now the head of his city’s parks department. My brother only moved out of my parents house when he graduated from college, and then he moved around the block. He’s now an independent contractor for a Fortune 500 company.

    Sometimes, motivation takes time. Some people don’t find their heart’s passion until later in life. Hang in there.

  3. Thanks for the feedback, Janie.

    That is exactly the question I’ve asked myself hundreds of times – WHY is staying up so late in the summer such a big deal again?

    The answer? It’s not. I need to chill. And I appreciate your input – I wish my son was as motivated as yours.

    But he’s not. He’s a slacker and EXTREMELY lazy. Even if he has a chance for a reward, he’ll do what is absolutely necessary, and nothing more, to get that reward. I’m afraid he’ll be one of those employees who will drive their co-workers crazy because he only pulls his weight (maybe) and is not interested in doing anything more. I hope I’m wrong.

    If I let my son keep to his own schedule, he would stay up all night (think 3:00 to 4:00 a.m.) and sleep until noon or 1:00 p.m. That is unacceptable because 1. it would be HELL to try and get him back on a normal schedule when school starts again and 2. I just think it’s a bad pattern to fall into to begin with. Unless he gets a night job, we’re doing more harm than good by not “training” him that the real world doesn’t work like that. We tentatively tried that “sleep when you want to” route last summer and even during last school year, (because he insisted he was old enough to handle it), he fell asleep in class, several times, which put him behind in his grades. Again, unacceptable.

    Also, my husband and I have been talking about this – WHY exactly does he need to stay up that late anyway? There’s really no reason to stay up that late when all he’s going to do is to be online, unsupervised, and talking to God knows who. I used to be addicted to chatting, so I know first hand the sort of people who hang out online after a certain time period. He doesn’t need to be exposed to those types of people. He’s too insecure and way too naive not to fall for something.

    GD is the sort of kid we have to push to do anything. Sometimes it’s a small push, sometimes it’s a pretty hard push, but if we don’t push this kid, he won’t DO anything. I’m afraid he’ll be one of these kids that are still living at home with mom and dad when he’s 30 simply because he was too lazy/immature to get out on his own.

    Believe me when I say, I’ve tried several parenting “techniques” with GD. Though I’m obviously still grabbling with what works, I know this kid pretty well. He may look like a young MAN, but emotionally? He’s still terribly immature.

    I know it’s hard not to judge other people’s parenting styles. I don’t know how many times the husband has said, “I did that when I was that age, or I didn’t do that when I was that age” and I’m constantly having to tell him, “Well, not everyone is like you, honey.”

    GD requires boundaries. Granted, my boundaries still apply to an 11-year old, I’m working on that. But giving this kid free reign just wouldn’t work for him. Not right now at least. We’re trying to give him a little more space, bit by bit, and if he does well with that, proves he’s responsible enough to handle it, then he gets a bit more freedom. That’s just the way this kid rolls.

    As far as me? I’m fighting my own demons and insecurities. In a lot of ways, I’m glad this happened over the summer – we have time to heal and cope with these changes. One good thing has come out of all of this; we’ve done more talking, REAL talking, than we have in a long time.

  4. Karen: I have been reading these posts with decidedly mixed emotions, too lengthy to post here.

    The bottom line is that we obviously have very different parenting styles.

    The first thing I said to myself when I saw that the “incident” started because you were enforcing a bed time during the summer was, “Why?”

    You may think I’m too lenient, but I have never imposed a bed time on my kids during school breaks because I expect them to learn to regulate their own behavior — and that has worked. They need some freedom and independence & the summers are a great time to let them chill out, relax, and not worry about rules and regulations. They stay up late if they want and sleep late the next morning. I don’t care because when school starts, they will get back into the routine and work their butts off.

    At my house, it is all about rewards for achievement. So, for instance, Matthew had a certain goal he had to achieve for a specific reward. The report card came a week or so ago and he met the goal, so tomorrow he is getting a reward. I don’t keep reminding them over and over, either. They know the drill and what has to be done in order to get the thing they are working toward.

    Poor Bob is back working nights because business is down and a whole shift of folks got laid off. Since he is #1 on the seniority list, we have no worries except that, when business is not good, his hours tend to suck.

    The last two nights, the kids have been camped out in the family room with the dogs because everyone’s routine is upset and, believe it or not, the dogs take it harder than any of the people. So they have been in there, curled up with the dogs after Dad leaves for work, in an effort to reassure them. Buddy, in particular, just stood in the living room the first night and looked at me as if to say, “Mom, this is SO not right!” He wouldn’t settle down and kept gazing at the door and then back to me, waiting for Dad to come back. I had to get the boys to take him with them to snuggle and reassure him.

    They have perfectly lovely rooms, but what’s the harm if they stay up late and camp in the family room for a few nights? What’s it hurt if they play their games a little too long? What’s the harm in letting them slack a bit? They’re only going to be kids once.

    Besides, my sister and I used to camp out on the patio. Yup. Right here in this house. We used to sleep out there at night. We stayed up late and slept late, and my mother used to bring us breakfast at the picnic table which included fresh peaches from the tree a few steps away. Lovely memories of days long gone made right here in this home.

    My kids will fondly remember camping in the family room with the dogs . . .

    Hitting you? Whole ‘nother story. One of my kids once threatened it. I threatened to drop him off at the juvenile justice facility (he didn’t know that you can’t just do that). I even drove him halfway there before he finally decided to comply (I can’t remember the issue any more). Tried to tell me I would get in trouble, but luckily for me, I knew the judge and told him I would meet him in the court the following morning, but if he got there first to give Judge _____ my regards. Hehehehehe . . . no more threatened physical harm.

    You have to raise ’em the way that works best for you. I’m just offering my perspective.

    It’s not easy, that’s for sure. But we do get through it. When I think of the stuff I pulled with my parents in the glorious ’70’s (the age of disco & parties), it’s a wonder any of us lived through it, frankly.

  5. I’m so sorry to hear that things haven’t gotten better for your family. Boy, I’m definitely not looking forward to the teenage years!

  6. Thank you, Chel. I really appreciate your feedback.

    I was a creep when I was a teenager. I mean, compared to what I did to my folks and what other kids put their parents through, this is nothing.

    But he’s my son and he’s something to me. I maintain my mantra, “This too shall pass.”


  7. Don’t we all want a little control over something to give us the control we don’t have in real life? We plan everything in our schedules to a T or we clean the house perfectly (you know, not me, but I’ve heard of other people doing it) or we work out to maintain a strict weight or color our hair in ever-changing colors. We all want control, and this world offers us little of it. I think control of our lives is one of the last things anyone is able to willingly give up to God.

    Hang in there. I remember being a teenager and pushing my folks over completely unnecessary things. It’s part of growing up, I fear.

  8. Thanks ladies.

    Jen, that’s what the hubs says, too. That if he uses this “focus” for the good, he’ll be successful in life because he’ll be an expert in whatever he decides to do with his life. But this is assuming that whatever that focus is is a positive thing.

    BELIEVE me, we’ve had loooong talks about the fact that he only wants to do one thing. I’ve told him I didn’t think it was very healthy – I make the boys stop their games and take a breath of reality. All I can do is expose him to different elements throughout his life (we’ve always been very supportive “if you want to join a club at school, or pursue any interest outside video games, just say the word”). I have to trust that we’ve raised him right and that he’ll do something good with his life. He’s a good kid, he really is. He’s just stubborn – like his momma. 🙂

    I also think, that video games give him the control that he doesn’t feel like he has in real life – hence my struggle with myself to give the boy more control over his life. I think once he has re-established that control and has figured out just where he fits into the whole scheme of things, this obsession will ebb a bit.

    I hope.

  9. I think as far as GD and his “obsessions” go you are both right – it can be a positive thing, but it can be negative – like anything, it’s how you use it, what you do with it. Keep doing what you are doing, including understanding his tendency to focus in singular areas for potentially years on end, and keep in mind that in a couple of years, he’ll probably be onto a new obsession. But I think it is important to keep showing him new experiences – let him decide if he’s interested or not, but at least make sure you know he knows it’s out there – you know?

  10. It is never easy, but I do have to think that he does need some more variety in his interests…actually taking the computer or XBox360 away here really only seems like a punishment for a day, and my 3 find other things to entertain themselves.
    We do go through the serious arguments though, hormones at play I keep being told, but it hurts and frustrates.

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