August 14, 2010,
M.G. asks from Shirley, MA on July 19, 2010
18 Year Old Boy Shutting Parents Out
I am a divorced M. of an 18 year old. I get along fine with my ex. My son lives with my ex for the past year because I had an out of state job transfer. The last time I saw my son was after his graduation and since I sold my old house to my ex (so 18 year old could be where he wanted), he barely communicates with us. He has a job and a girlfriend of 2 years. Life revolves around her. He won't answer my calls or texts or emails at all. He barely responds to my ex either and constantly ignores his calls. He spends most of his time at his grilfriends. We have a slight feeling it has to do with control by the girlfriend. It makes me crazy because I have nightmares about something happeneing to one of us and not having ability to communicate. Really bothers both of us. Feel like I should just keep trying to call him and hope that he responds some day. Not sure what to do...is this an independence thing? Does he feel he has to break from us so much in order to become independent? It seems like crazy behaviour. help...really bummed out because always had a good relationship with him in past...had fun day after graduation riding around in his truck with him while he dropped off resumes.
So What Happened?™
Thank you all so much... I will be in the area in the next few weeks and will stop by his work....if nothing else pans out. I just miss talking to him. His grilfriend has lived with her grandparents since she was little and I do feel like that is why he is drawn to go there...they are nice people but no one in that family has any aspirations. Which is why I think he abandoned immediate plans for more education...but I also think he just wanted to start working because he is skilled and trained as an automechanic....he is not making much money right now but knows if he gets his cerifications that will help him also. He is basically a really bright kid and has never had a drug or alcohol problem...never been into it...I count my blessings....
A.S. answers from Detroit on July 19, 2010
L.S. answers from Los Angeles on July 19, 2010
I love MechanicMama's post! Ok, but in all seriousness, I "took a break" from my parents at that very age -- I had moved out and wanted to live my life for the first time on my terms. My parents were VERY strict, as in be one minute late past curfew and you'd be on "restriction" or sleeping in the car that night. Don't know what your relationship w/ your son is like, but it sounds like it has been good and comfortable so that is on your side. Do keep trying to staying in touch; my parents used show up at the restaurant that I worked at, just to see me and see that I was ok.
I feel for you because now that I'm a parent, it know it must have just killed my parents for the few years that I wasn't close to them. Just keep reaching out to your son and tell him via message or whatever that you and his father want to keep the lines of communication open with him and that you truly miss the family closeness. Of course, tell him that you love him. It sounds like it's his part of growing up -- and you're probably right, the girlfriend is a big part of it. Hang in there and good luck!
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F.B. answers from Fort Collins on July 19, 2010
It's not clear to me whether he's still dependent to some extent on you and your ex. Does his job actually support him? Is he planning on any further schooling that you would be helping to pay for? I think if you are paying any of his bills then you have some leverage to ask for more considerate behavior.
Otherwise, I think a certain amount of cutting the apron strings IS normal as a kid establishes his independence and makes closer bonds with his peer group. When I was 18 I went away to college, and although I don't remember ignoring my parents' phone calls, I probably didn't talk to them as much as they would have liked.
I hope it's possible to come up with a communication frequency that he'll agree to. Possibly if he knows that you're not calling just to chat every day, he'll respond to that emergency phone call when he sees it.
I do think that if you've had a good relationship in the past that he'll come through the other side of this and re-establish a connection as an adult. A little forgiveness at this point for his being self-absorbed will pay off.
J.S. answers from Boston on July 20, 2010
I think this sounds like typical, age-appropriate behavior, perhaps amped up a bit by some resentment that you moved out of state. Even big kids get upset over things like that, even if it's a totally logical decision and benefits everyone, the little boy in him might be feeling like you chose your job over him so screw you.
So at 18 and out of high school, what are his plans? If he's going off to college, most kids push their parents away during senior year and the summer after to prepare themselves for being on their own in college. If he's entering the workforce and doesn't currently have firm plans for further training and education, he may feel like he's in limbo and that it's time to cut the cord and be a man, and this is his way of doing so. Also, if his girlfriend lives at home with her parents and has an intact family, he may be drawn to that right now. If she doesn't live with her family, you've got a whole 'nother kind of trouble on your hands.
Anyway, I would get together with your ex and have a sit-down with your son about re-drawing boundary lines. You can respect his adulthood, independence and need for autonomy but he has to respect some rules about keeping in touch with you, coming home, etc. Presumably he still lives in your/your ex's house, eats your food, watches your TV, uses your water to shower, uses a cell phone that you pay for, etc. In that case, he still needs to live by house rules. And make sure he's using protection with his girlfriend.
It sounds like a typical phase and I bet when he matures a bit you'll find that you're back to your old strong relationship. Good luck!
E.R. answers from Chicago on July 19, 2010
My M. always said that you try to raise your kids to be independent and strong and to know what they want to do and go where they want to be- AND then they do it!
Some of it might just be his age, and the fact that he has graduated and is feeling his independence. Some of it might be the girlfriend, and just being more wrapped up in that relationship, which is natural, particularly if you have not been in the same state recently.
As long as he is not withdrawing from EVERYTHING and you or your ex have not noticed any other dangerous or worrying behavior, it sounds like your son is just growing up and apart from you a little. It's sad, but I think its pretty normal.
I would say just keep reaching out and making contact. Even if he doesn't return your messages and texts, just keep sending them. Ask if you can arrange a once-a-week phone call, same day and time, so you guys can connect and keep in touch.
Try not to feel rejected or hurt- unless you think your son is specifically angry with you for taking an out of state job and moving, in which case you need to sit down face to face and talk it out with him. But other than that, just let him know that you respect his new 'grown-up' status and privacy- but also that you are always still there, and always love and support him, no matter what age he gets.
Sooner or later the fun of being a grown up will wear off a little and he will be glad you've kept in touch. Good Luck!
J.S. answers from New York on August 14, 2010
Well, we are all in the same boat with our 18 year old sons, divorced or not, in-state or not. My son is 18 and has separated from us also, which makes us both sad - and we are trying to attribute it to his age. He has always been a sweet, considerate person, very close to his Dad (more than me), and caring. He has grown up in the same house, same state, has had the advantage of parents who have never divorced, has had a solid ground underneath him, and has received lots of love and attention - and STILL he has broken away. So DON'T beat yourself up about the move or the divorce! I am putting a lot of hope in the words of others whose sons have clearly separated, then come back around at around 20 or 21. My son also has a girlfriend who we are not thrilled about, and feel sometimes as though we have "lost" him to the girlfriend. We are trying to be kind, patient, and caring regardless of his typical 18 year old behavior, and once in a while, a flicker of his old self rises to the surface unexpectedly, we see his smile and fun personality - and just that one nanosecond restores our confidence that the person we've known for all these years is still in there. He is going off to college soon and I guess I won't expect a lot of phone calls. But I will definitely be calling him.