Who Is This Stranger?

Question: Dear Luise: I stumbled on this website and from reading older posts I know I am not alone.  But that doesn’t really help, at least not much. I have been a single mother since before my son was born.  His father left me when I was 7 months pregnant and hasn’t been involved in either my life or my son’s since. My son and I had such a great bond for the first 10 years or so of his life.  We were each other’s best friends.  Even though we had issues due to his having problems that were later diagnosed as bipolar disorder, we always had that bond and deep love and caring for one another. When he headed into the teenage years all that changed and he started shutting me out of his life in all aspects other than the one where he needed me for money or favors.  He has always come first in my life but on the rare occasions I need something from him it takes a back seat to his friends.  Of course I understand that in many ways his friends would come first, but when he was 17 I had to go to the emergency room.  I don’t drive and had to call a cab because he couldn’t tear himself away from his friends to come and take me. He is now 21 and still living with me (he is planning to move out this summer) but it feels like I am living with a total stranger.  I lost my job in July and have continued to maintain the household on the small amount I am getting in Unemployment Compensation.  He was working at the time and yet refused to help with the bills.  His rationale was that it was his money and what he did with it was his decision.  Yet when the kitchen cupboards start to get bare he gets angry with me for not being a good provider. He’s now in college and has recently received almost $1000 in income tax refund and $1200 in a Pell grant refund.  I never saw a dime of that money.  He bought himself a laptop computer and takes his friends out to eat and to the clubs, and buys new clothes for himself.  Not once did he offer to pay a bill or take me out to dinner. Just today a couple of his friends were here at the apartment and he said he would take them both out for dinner tonight.  It would have been nice if he had included me but of course that was not the case and I refused to let my dignity go by asking him if he could see it in his heart to do the same for me.  I guess all the times that I took him out to eat when I came into extra money apparently don’t count for squat with him. Am I right to feel bitter and hurt by this?  Right now he barely speaks to me at all but I know when his “windfall” is gone, which the way he is spending it shouldn’t be too long, he will be holding out his hand to me again.  How should I respond when/if that time comes? L.

Answer: Dear L.: Parenting is such a sticky wicket. If we don’t give our kids everything we can, they may grow up feeling damaged and neglected…and if we do, they sometimes grow up with a huge sense of entitlement.

I think it may be time to stop looking for logic. Being right doesn’t help, either. Self-respect seems the better choice. Why not let your son know that his moving out next summer isn’t soon enough and his only option is to pull his weight financially and treat you with respect or move now. My guess is that he will only stop when you stop him. (For support visit my Web-forum: www.wisewomen.com ) Blessings, Luise

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