Feeling Cranky

I’m feeling kind of cranky today. Cranky and tired. Coffee hasn’t helped, and today my granola bar seems mostly dry and taste-free. In some circles I could maybe get away with attributing my mood to hormones and “that time of the month.” But I know why I’m feeling blue.

Last night I was up late. We were having yet another discussion about my son and my parenting skills. Or was it my lack of parenting skills? Sometimes that’s how it feels: like I am totally clueless and helpless when it comes to raising my children and everyone else is so much better at it than I am.

Jeremy will be 15 in October and is a day away from finishing middle school. I’m sure all parents think this of their kids, but he really is a smart kid. That’s one of his problems. He’s been coasting through school and this year he’s hit a couple of speed bumps in the shape of teachers who won’t let him do that. He’s been struggling in Spanish (yes that is embarrassing) and Science. The problem is that he’s struggling because he’s not doing the work. Does it even matter why he’s not doing the work? I’m not sure it does.

In addition to slacking off in school, he’s lied to me, he doesn’t respect me (though he claims he does), his attitudes toward women seem to be in line with the rap beats he’s got plugged in his ears, and the only thing he seems to care about is buying basketball shoes.

I’ve tried nagging. I’ve taken everything away. I’ve tried not nagging and letting him stumble to see if he catches himself before he falls flat on his face. I was actually sort of hoping the school would make him repeat 8th grade. No such luck. I’ve debated spending the money to send him to a summer program at a military school. The objective would be to give him a wake-up call. To help him grow up and become a responsible student, and to teach him some study and work habits. But would the result just be a sullen teenager who resents me for “ruining” his summer? Would the expense of military school be constantly on my conscience as we figure out how that fits in with paying for a step-daughter’s wedding, vacations, medical bills, etc.? And would I be doing it just to send him away for a few weeks and give my poor husband, who thought he was done with child rearing, a break?

You see, that’s one of the issues I’m having too. He’s already raised his kids. His youngest graduated from college last month. He hasn’t had to live with kids in the house, even on a part-time basis, in many years. He was pretty much done with that until I came along. Now all of a sudden there’s an immature and irresponsible teenage boy in the house every other week. He’s trying to be helpful, to guide me when I need help finding the way, and to encourage me every step of the way. He’s done this every single day. But he wonders if he should back off and let me do the parenting. It’s not his child, after all. His family and friends have expressed their concern about what the struggles with my son could do to our marriage. Their concerns concern me greatly!

I am married to a wonderful man and I can’t imagine what my life would be like if our paths hadn’t crossed again. Doug has worked hard and he was looking forward to having the time to do the things he wants to do, and not just the things he’s had to do make a living and support his family. He’s ready for the draining commute and long hours to be over. And I feel guilty, like I’ve placed some obstacles in his way.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the other parent in this scenario. Jeremy’s father is actually also full of good intentions, but even worse than me at follow-through. I’ve made suggestions for summer activities for Jeremy to keep him busy and out of trouble, but because they might not be convenient for his wife’s schedule (who doesn’t currently have a job but is planning on getting one), they get shot down.

So, what do I do? I’m having a hard time with this kid. I’ve been an easy target for him and he knows that if he just waits me out a little while, I’ll come around. The problem isn’t really just him; it’s me too. I need to mean what I say, and stick to it. I know this. I’ve said this before. I’ve said I wasn’t going to be so reasonable anymore. So why do I have such a hard time actually doing it? Why do I give in?

I don’t really expect anyone reading this to have the answers. I’m just trying to write my way through this and see if it helps me figure things out. Maybe what Jeremy and I need is a series of sessions with a therapist for the two of us, possibly even the three of us. I think the key here is that we can talk to each other (Doug and I) about this until we’re blue in the face but unless we include Jeremy in the conversation, we’re just wasting our breath. Maybe if he knew what he’s doing to his poor mother…

(I asked Doug to read this before I posted this because I always like getting his feedback, specially if he’s mentioned in the post. He thinks this post makes him look selfish. I don’t agree, but I guess I can see that he might think that. He’s looking at it from a different perspective, and that’s really one of the beauties of blogging, isn’t it? We write from our point of view but know that by the time it gets out there and read by others, it could say many different things to the readers. I would never intentionally write something hurtful about a person I loved and put it in a public forum. I know I’ve used this blog to vent my frustrations and complain, but it’s never been my goal to make someone look bad. While someone may not always be portrayed in the most flattering of lights, my purpose has always been to try to understand, to get a sense of whether anyone else has gone through the same thing. Not sure yet if I’ve managed to do that part successfully.)

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5 thoughts on “Feeling Cranky

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  5. There are times parenting just exhausts me, esp. parenting my son. He is warm, affectionate, respectful, and gets along well with me and most people he encounters. However, he is also stubborn, tests boundaries (as teenagers do) and has gotten himself into some tough situations. That said, he’s exercised good judgment in dealing with some challenging situations as well. He will be applying to colleges next fall and has let his grades drop. I am not the “strict” mom. He has rarely been grounded. In general, I don’t believe coercion or punishments change character and/or behavior (though I recognize that what works for a parent depends on the child and the culture). I want for my son to do the right thing because it’s smart to do so and shows self-respect and respect for others…All this a long way of saying I understand why you’re feeling frustrated and cranky. Whenever a child is going through a difficult phase, it’s hard on parents, step-parents, and siblings. Sometimes we have to step back and look at the big picture and gain perspective. I get frustrated with my son’s school performance, but I recognize that his grades do not define his worth as a person and aren’t some perfect predictor of how he’ll do in the “real world.” There are many areas he excels in that will serve him well as an adult.

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