Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mara: I felt like a failure.

As a result of writing a book about parenting troubled teens, sometimes I find myself following developments in other’s lives. I’m hearing or reading real pain, anguish, and sometimes fear.

“Mara”, wrote that she felt like a failure. Her 17 year old daughter, “Jane” is depressed, skipping school, has abandoned favorite activities, and sleeps as much as possible. They’re working with a physician to get her up and moving around, experimenting with different anti-depressants, but there are other dynamics at work.

Mara’s husband is controlling and demanding, and when he can’t control Jane, he demands Mara do so. Of course, Mara can’t control Jane, and then she is berated and treated terribly by her husband.
Every day there’s another fight, and Mara never knows who’ll start the next argument, she only knows there will be one. She watches what she says and how she acts, but walking on eggshells for years at a time is not a reasonable way to live.

Over the years, Mara withdrew from family and friends, mortified that they might discover her horrible family life and judge her. She has defined herself as a wife and a mother, and because neither relationship is working, she felt she was a failure.

She remembers a time when she was delighted to be a wife and mom, thrilled with her child, and had dreams and hopes for a wonderful, close family.

The realities of her life and the crushed dreams of a good marriage and good relationship with her child had become too much for her. Mara writes that if she could have glimpsed her future, she would never have had a child.

She read my book at a time when she needed to know that nice people, good people, sometimes find their lives spinning out of control, and there are ways to gather oneself together and find solutions to problems. She reached out for additional help and has shared the truth of her family life with her parents and siblings. Instead of judging Mara, they are helping her.

Mara is in counseling and my prediction is that she will divorce her husband, wait until Jane has completed school, and then will tell her to leave the house. As she has been examining what went wrong, what she did right, what she would have done differently, she is also learning that she did not stand up for herself against her husband or her daughter. She is developing that ability to assert herself, and that’ll help her change her life.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

“Tom” is at the end of his rope.

“Tom” – I’m changing his name to protect his privacy – wrote regarding this blog, and he said some things I’ve thought, said, or written about.

Tom wrote about living with dishonesty and disrespect and tolerating it. He wrote of angry outbursts, his and his son’s, and the frustrations that go along with being the parent of a destructive person. He noted the wasted time and energy while hoping to make his child change. And he wrote about his angry, spiteful, resentful teen.

He said he was at the end of his rope, ready to kick his kid out the door and worried about losing his marriage, too. The parents were not on the same page, and his wife had been enabling their son, even lying for him to avoid family confrontations and arguments.

It’s a sad story, and I’m afraid it’s a common one. Unless the parents get on the same page and are consistent with their son, they don’t have a prayer of getting their son on track and may even face divorce. Their anger and resentment of their son and each other is imploding their family.

I wrote that there are resources listed at, and I hope they all get the help they need.

I’m reading and hearing a lot of sad stories, and I hope Tom’s family has a good outcome.

Call From a Parent

I received a lovely call from one of the parents interviewed for the book. She and her husband have three sons. They are close with the two older sons, but the youngest is one that no one in the family can deeply relate to. They love him, they want him to have a great life and they want to see him. His life, interests, and lack of intellectual curiosity makes it hard for them to relate.

The parents read the book, and when one of their older sons saw it, he read it, too. He recognized their family and it gave him another insight into how his parents felt. And he recommended it to both of his brothers.

Once everyone had read the book, it gave them an open to talk in-depth about their feelings, their love and their frustrations.

It didn’t change the fact that they don’t share many interests with their youngest son, but they have a deeper emotional connection. They accept each other and enjoy being together.

I believe they had reached a point where they were beyond hoping for the “perfect family” and they accepted being close and loving.

Knowing this family’s story and hearing an update reminded me that relationships are fluid, that families can endure difficult times and find solid ground together.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Worried Parent Called

A man who had read my book called to discuss the topic. His therapist thought he should read it, and he understood why once he read the first few pages. He felt he had to share his story.

This man is a highly educated executive in a high tech company living in a prime location. His family has the best of everything: a great home and vacation homes, cars and possessions, but his family was falling apart. He’d been a “great provider” and he was positive that no one in his social circle would suffer anguish due to their teens’ behaviors.

Both of these kids went to great schools, were tutored when needed and were kept very busy so they would stay out of trouble. And both of them, around age 14, started drinking and displaying a lot of anger towards both parents. The kids ruled the home: the mother was afraid to tell them to stop and that escalated their bad behavior. The father worked at the office very long hours, primarily seeing the family on the weekend. The situation in their home was so difficult and frustrating, the parents felt helpless to stop the downhill slide of their family.

The parents were considering a divorce and an ugly truth came out: neither of them wanted to live with the kids. Their lives were out of control in every way. While seeking help for their marriage, the topic of their kids came up immediately. Their therapist referred them to a specialist working with teens. While the parents went for marriage counseling, they also consulted a coach to work with them on effective parenting techniques.

Meanwhile, both kids were evaluated and it was determined their son needed immediate intervention. He had gone far beyond drinking and was heavily into drugs. A year ago, he was placed in an emotional growth school where he receives individual and group therapy. He has steadily been modifying and improving his behavior.

They hoped to correct their parenting skills in time to help their daughter, but they learned via a social networking site how deep her problems have become, and they feel the safest place for her is in a separate school for girls. She’ll be sent to one this weekend, but she doesn’t know about it.

Both parents are devastated and worried about their children. They have wondered where they went wrong and still feel very alone. This isn’t the kind of thing one discusses among executives or at social events.

They have decided that saving their children and their marriage was more important than anything and took action to improve their lives. Their decisions were not easy and were driven by worry and desperation, but their recovery as a family will surely happen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Attention, New Parents: Let the Worrying Begin!

Attention, New Parents: Let the Worrying Begin!

Being a parent is not easy. The worrying begins before the baby is born. You can do all the right things, watch your diet, take your vitamins and do what you can to have a healthy child. And it can all change in an instant.

Our nephew’s baby was born through a surrogate in July. The baby was due August 16, but last night, their surrogate was in a serious accident. The baby was delivered via C-Section so doctors could take care of her other physical needs, and she required various procedures and surgery. Meanwhile, the baby was born with serious head injury, possibly due to the same seat belt that probably saved both their lives. He is in stable but critical condition in the hospital.

The photos were shared and there is this wee baby with lots of tubes, wires and what-not attached to him. And he’s strong, a real fighter. He wants that oxygen tube out and tries to remove it.

Our nephew and his beloved husband are in full parenting mode: exhausted, worried, hopeful, anxious. There are all of the feelings that go along with being a new parent and the additional stress of the situation.

It’s not easy to look past all of this and see down the road, envisioning this child at 10 or 16 or 30. I remember it wasn’t easy for us to picture our baby as being anything other than the particular stage he was in.

When our son was an infant, that precious time did seem it would last forever, although logically we knew it wouldn’t. Parents of older children would say to cherish each day as those days seem very long but in fact, go by quickly and children’s stages don’t last very long.

I tried to heed that advice but it wasn’t easy. There are certain times that I remember vividly, as if they occurred earlier today. I remember holding our baby in the middle of the night, feeding him and singing to him and feeling we would be close like that forever. And that was 20 years ago. I did treasure that time with our son, seeing the world through a different lens and filtering through all of the information thrown out there for parents.
We also went through difficult stages and behaviors and did what most parents do: were ignorant about or denied problems, were angry and upset, felt guilty, worked on the issues, tried to find help.

It’s what we do for our children all along the line, isn’t it? We do the best we can. That’s what our nephews are learning now.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Worried about your teen?

Do you remember the joy you felt when your son or daughter was young? Taking them to the playground, reading to them at night, helping them with their homework: these are everyday activities loving parents do for their children. We build relationships and know the teen years might be tough.

Some kids seem to go through their teen years with few problems, while others scare their parents with extreme behaviors, drinking, drugs, and violence. You worry about them every day and wonder happened to your child and those sweet, innocent times.

How would it feel to know that you’re not alone? Parents with young children worry about their future, and parents of a difficult teen may fear for their child’s life. Share concerns and resources – I welcome your thoughtful contributions.

Marcia Stein