Seven days ago I willingly asked my son’s father to come to my home and take my son from me. Indefinitely.
My 48-hour weekend visitation began with a grumpy 14 year old staring at his phone or playing Xbox for hours. I tiptoe around him, leaving him be, because I am nervous and weary of his reactions to me initiating an interaction. Will he answer normally? Will he ignore me? Will he respond with sarcasm? Will he think I am trying to gather information for the next court hearing? By the time I think through each of these questions and more I have beaten myself down and remain silent.
I gather courage, walk downstairs, enter his room where I see him lying in bed still on his phone. We have some small talk and I try to find the right moment to tell him my purpose for talking to him. During a lull in the conversation, I make my move. I take a breath and brace myself for a multitude of possible reactions.
I ask him to take a shower.
We have three other children, my daughter and my husband’s two children, and they all take showers within five minutes of a parent request. Asking a teenage boy to take a shower is not outlandish. However, my son creates drama out of any benign request such as, “Please take a shower.” As I feared, my four words became the springboard for my son to tell me he will take one when he takes one and if I ask him one more time he is calling his dad and if I cannot get over it he will keep telling me what a terrible parent I am.
I left his room in a familiar emotional state: hurt, angry, and hopeless. How can this one person bring so much strife and pain into our home? What have I done wrong? How did I fail him? How can I help him? How do I show him I love him?
The next morning, no surprise, my son woke up and had not taken a shower. He was still in his dirty school clothes and his yellow, plaque–plagued teeth dulled in comparison to the shiny, red pimples covering his oily face. The armpit stench signaled his entrance into the kitchen. My fingers gripped my coffee cup tighter, my shoulders slumped in defeat, and my jaw clenched in frustration.
So, here we are, 14 hours into our short weekend and we are ready for our second altercation. The shower does not happen. It never happened. It will never happen. Over the next several hours I communicate by text with my ex husband. He puts on a fantastic show. He says caring, concerned, parental sentiments such as, “We teach respect in our home,” “Before he left for your house we talked about how to be respectful,” “I do not allow him to speak to adults the way he is speaking to you now.” My ex husband went so far to say, “Make sure he is taking his meds. He is so much nicer on his meds.” The irony of this is found in the 700-page binder of texts and emails evidencing my ex husband’s neglect as a parent. In several texts, he says my son is not mentally unstable and does not need therapy or medication. He chastises me for shoving chemicals down his throat when I should know I am my son’s issue and all of my son’s struggles are because I am a bad parent.
(This binder was thrown out of court by a judge who seemed more upset that I did not reside in his county, therefore not supplying a vote, than in the well being of my emotionally unstable son.)
Trying to decide whether or not to kick your child out of your home is like contemplating whether or not to amputate your diseased arm. You love your arm. You are used to your arm. It is normal to have an arm. But, your arm is toxic and if it remains attached to your body you may lose more than your arm. At some point your decision can no longer be about your arm. It has to be about you. All of you. You deserve a chance to be whole even if you are missing a part of you. There is a new you to be made.
Seven days ago I told my son he is no longer welcome in my home. I do not fully understand what I have done but I understand it was right. I deserve to live without fear and anxiety. My daughter, stepchildren, and husband deserve a home that is calm and safe. My sadness is more than I can explain but I know I did the right thing.
2 thoughts on “Please, Take a Shower”
I understand the emotions you described very well, from personal experience. Tiptoeing around your child just so they will want to continue to be in your presence. Have you read A Kidnapped Mind by Pamela Richardson? I kept thinking about her book as I was reading your post.
I just ordered it! Thank you for telling me about it.