23 March 2013

Tough Love

This past week as I was suffering under the nasty bug, Eldest Son got himself locked up.

To hear him tell the story he didn't actually do anything, but he was riding around with someone who had enough weed on him to warrant a possession with intent charge.

He has had a lifetime of poor choices, with the entirely predictable bad results, but none of them have ever been his fault, of course. This is called "bad luck" by those who don't realize that we make our own luck.

Anyway, he burned up the phone lines at $10.00 per call (on my plan, naturally) to his sisters trying to get bailed out without letting me know about it, but finally had to call me to tell me what had happened. The first call he told me that he wouldn't be home for a while.

The second call was to tell me if I would put my property up as bail he could get out.

Last tax assessment period the house and land was assessed at $157K. His bail is $600.

He was hurt and surprised when I declined this generous offer.

My tax return came in this week as well, and I had already planned what I was going to do with it. First I was to replenish the credit card for the tire purchases and wheel repairs made earlier in the month, and then I was going to put exhaust on the car, and finally it was vacation time.

Bottom line, I had the money to bail him out. In fact, I still do. And I could go downtown right now and bail him out.

Just as I always have.

Eight years ago he came to North Carolina from Florida to "straighten his life out" and get back on track. Eight years later he has accomplished nothing towards that goal.

He still doesn't have his GED. He has no vocational skills training that would help him get a good job. He hasn't worked a real job in over five years. He owes the state of Florida $24K on back child support and fees so he doesn't have his drivers license. No forward progress, and a bit of backwards progress.

He doesn't realize it just yet, but his life has changed. He will start his new life by sitting in jail until his April 1st court date. He will turn 30 years old the day after. We will see if he will spend that birthday in jail as well. When he does get out he will find that Dad is no longer willing to pay his bills.

One year from the day he gets out of jail he will have his GED, or he won't live at my house any more.

Two years from the day he gets out of jail he will have some sort of vo-tech training in progress, or he's out.

Three years from the day he gets out of jail he will be working in his new profession, or he's out.

Four years from now he's out anyway because I'm selling the house and getting out of the kid raising business altogether. By then Youngest Son will be 18 and he had better be graduated from school and starting on his new career path that doesn't include "sponge off of Dad" because he knows that option has been closed. At least his older brother has served as a good bad example in that regard, and I'm happy to say he's been scoring straight A's for the past few months.

He will get one single apology from me. I will apologize for not kicking his ass eight years ago.

His bail money sure does sound great on the car though.

UPDATE:  Recent developments have me cautiously optimistic. He called me today and, without me prompting him, laid out his new life's plan which pretty much paralleled my life's plan for him. He usually figures out the right thing to do once he runs out of all the other options.

He even told me he didn't expect me to believe him, so he would just prove himself to me. We'll see if he sticks to it. That will be the real test.


Robert Fowler said...

Sometimes that's what you have to do. Thirty years old is plenty old enough to grow up and get a life.

Our middle son got picked up at 0200 with a bunch of guys stealing anhydrous. No bail money. He was married, we asked why he was out running instead of being home with his wife. Sometimes you just have to let them learn on their own.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes ... it's always the other guy's fault.

Just remember that at 30, it's no longer "the way I was raised".

I have a friend with a similar problem ... and the child is 39.

Good luck

Peter said...

You have my sympathy, and my strongest support for your position. Sometimes one has to be tough in order to get through. All I'd ask is that you be careful. If he's a drug user, his resentment can break down normal inhibitions and lead him to a violent response to your 'tough love' - and I'd hate for that to happen to you. Even if you can deal with it, it'll permanently damage (if not destroy) your relationship with him.

Take care. I'll keep you both in my prayers.

RabidAlien said...

There comes a point in any process where the only thing you can do is not do anything. A computer gets too old to cost-effectively upgrade/repair. A car becomes a money-sink and is labeled a Lemon. People will continue to use you and never learn for themselves. It sucks, but cutting your losses is the only way to a) get the point across and force them to sink or swim on their own and b) stop the arterial bleeding that you are pouring into the relationship at your own expense. Much as I despise daytime TV (and most TV in general), "tough love" is, indeed, almost mandatory.

another on the journey said...

You are not the first to make this journey, what I mean is you are not alone. It is hard ...extremely hard sometimes to show tough love. For years I have been struggling with "help your son, but don't enable the disease."

Be strong, but loving.

Larry said...

Thanks for dropping by everyone, see the update for the latest developments.

Mark/GreyLocke said...

I know it's hard on you to make this decision, but you know that if he is ever to grow up, you have to do it. If you ever feel that you need some backup, drop me an e-mail, and I can always provide some morale support for you, or a vacation place for you where you can get in some fishing.

RabidAlien said...

Awesome! That's a great start! As they say, actions DO speak louder than words. Prayin for y'all, bro!

lillinda said...

The hardest thing I ever had to do was look at my son behind those bars. I swore I would never do that again. so far, so good. We let him sit there 2 weeks until his court date. Hard to do, but he has never in the 5 years since,been back there. He was only 19 but mama's gotta do what mama's gotta do. Tough love!

Jennifer said...

I'm glad he is singing the right tune. My brother finally tested for his GED. Scored so well that the State Superintendent of the Department of Education signed an actual bonafide diploma. Always knew he wasn't really so stupid.
He's also 40. 40 years only and finally has a high school diploma. His eldest son (sorta complicated genealogy which we need not cover here)is in prison. Won't behave and will likely be there forever. Which is just as well since the prison tattoos on his face will never allow him a respectable job. He's my nephew that I used to babysit.
I feel your pain. I live it and see it. I hope for everything that your son means it. Really and truly because I know exactly what it's like when they don't. I will wring myself out in prayer that he follows through.

Larry said...

Thanks Greylocke and RA. Lillinda, yep sometimes you gotta do the hard thing. Jennifer, I'm hopeful, we will see.

He's not been in constant trouble with the law (although this is not his first time in jail) so that wasn't the major problem, my biggest issue was...it's been eight years and you've managed to do nothing. If he can fix that I think the rest will follow.

Thanks for dropping by everyone.

Jennifer said...

I'm hopeful too. Hey, my brother has a respectable job now, so there's hope for everyone.

Larry said...


Buford Embry said...

Tough love is all he needs. Even though it is possible for you to bail him out right then, you stick to making him realize his mistake and hopefully learn from it. And though it must be difficult for you and your family that your eldest has to go through all those, I am happy to know that he has finally learned his lesson and is on his way to do good and make his father proud.
Buford Embry

Larry said...

I certainly hope so. He's not happy about it, but I've already told him he has to pay for his own mistakes and he accepts that.

Thanks for dropping by Buford.