It’s been a long time coming. And this blazing hot summer was looking to be one of the hardest, as one of my kids struggled with issues. Home for the summer, he was staying at his mom’s house. And he was being prodded into “get a job.” It didn’t matter what the job was, but he needed to be out of the house and “working.”
Stumbling Along As a Single Parent
But, my ex-wife and her husband were not ready for the real fallout. The real issue. Because to get clean and healthy meant they too would have to quit doing drugs, quit staying up until all hours of the night, and sleeping in, until 2 or 3 pm every day. ADULTS, mind you. My son’s escape was going to be through an intervention or something else.
Here’s what happened.
I offered my son the “job.” I’m not sure why my ex and her “millionaire” husband couldn’t figure this out rather than barking orders and threats over the course of June. My son was crumbling. He was also failing. But the bigger failure was of these two narcissistic parents who couldn’t get out of their own weed fog to understand the crisis that was happening inside their house. My ex-wife has often made marginal decisions, starting with the divorce. But it continued and got much worse once I was no longer in the daily picture. She veered off the “healthy parent” path rather quickly. And marrying a man on the spectrum wasn’t all that beneficial either.
Yes, her new husband took some of the focus off of me, and my ex-wife’s anger issues. And he seemed to settle her a down a bit. But it was a cold and clinical household where my two kids grew up. Yes, I had them on the traditional SPO (standard possession order) that is typical for 85% of divorces in Texas. But, you can’t manage the other time, the off parent time, the time when they were housed with two narcs who were polishing their own idols.
Self-care comes from observation. If my kids had enjoyed a less dysfunctional household, and perhaps, more time with me, they might’ve avoided some of the troubles. Oh well, onward.
Rough Start in July
The start of my son’s new job has been disastrous.
- First day of work – 1.5 hours late
- The second day of work – with a warning – 45 minutes late
- Second week – reboot – 1 hour late
- Late for every meeting
- Unable to meet *any* obligations that involved executive functioning
Restart with Four Weeks Left of Summer
The good news is this: I am focused on my son’s health and well-being. I am most interested in getting him off the multiple drugs he’s been self-medicating with. I still have hopes that he can be a contributor to the summer job work I have provided for him, but… It’s not the most important part of his recovery.
He is committed to staying off Adderall. That was a condition of his coming to live in my house. (Where he is now.) I am not “tired of his shit.” I am not exhausted at trying to reform him. In fact, I’ve been starved for time with my son, so this is a BONUS opportunity for me.
Last summer, while he was staying at my ex-wife’s house, he smoked a lot of weed, played a lot of an online game he’s been playing for 5 years, and did little else. No summer job. No internship. And I had NO VOICE. I could encourage him to get an internship. I probably could’ve provided one with a client or using my network. But, he was happy to hibernate, party and play all night and sleep most of the day away. It wasn’t a big deal for my ex and her husband last year, so what is different?
When Co-Parenting Ends
Along the journey, my ex-wife decided to quit including me in parenting decisions. She just stopped. I asked and she would blast me with a hateful text or email. She battered me out of the process. And at that point, I think, her decisions became less about supporting our kids and more about doing what she wanted, regardless of the impact on me or the kids. And if you’re a non-custodial single parent, guess what your options are? SUE your former spouse.
For what? To be included in parent-teacher conferences? I handled that directly with the school. For more time with the kids? Not possible. If your co-parent decides to be an asshole, there’s not much you can do about it.
Here’s what you can do.
- Be the better parent – always
- Give your kids all the attention and support you can
- When the time comes – step in and advocate for them
What my ex-wife and her husband are terrified about is me calling for an intervention on our son. That would REQUIRE the two of them to clean up their drug abuse as well. If one person gets sober the entire family gets sober, or it doesn’t work. You can’t help your kid recover from drug addiction if you’re addicted to drugs.
What you can do, is support your kids with all of your heart and mind. And, in this case, when the other parent poops out and is too self-absorbed, you can step in and be the solid presence in your kids’ lives. The solid presence you have always been. Perhaps my influence would’ve been beneficial all these years had I had more time. But here’s the win, I am happy now, at year 13, that my son is living with me and getting his physical and mental health together before he returns to college in late August.
Wish us all luck on this next journey.
the complete single dad story with John’s new book: Single Dad Seeks (available in all formats)
The Dating a Divorced Dad series continues:
- What the Single Dad Wants – 9 Months Later (an update)
- The Three Essential Elements of Love
- In Relationship with a Divorced Dad: Ground Rules