For People With Kids - Managing The Terror Of What Could Be (Bonus points for those with adult kids)

Friday

Moderator
Every stage my son has gone through, I’ve figured out a way to manage the… terror… of what COULD be.

For the first half of his childhood? That meant making things as amazing as possible. There are too many dead kids, brutalised kids, lost kids, hurt kids, in my past. Not my fault, at least not mostly, but kids are hard. Full stop. And some things haunt.

The self-aware thing meant I had about 50 workarounds for my most common failings as a mother. And, to be fair, they did work.

The second half of his childhood I had to switch gears into Vengeance mode, in order to manage. He WILL come back to me. Or I will raise hell. Unleash hell. Rain down hell. <<< I made a bad decision & divorced his father instead of killing his father, or taking my son & fleeing the country. Follow 9 years of child abuse & the very normal/expected results of child abuse. Never knowing from week to week if I’d be greeted at my door by TheKiddo or police or CPS doing a death notification. Not an unrealistic fear. My ex put my son in the PICU several times, and my son attempted suicide -serious attempt- on one occasion where the social workers didn’t realize I hadn’t been notified of the attempt, so when they came to talk to me about my son having hanged himself? Their wording left out the part where he survived. I almost didnt. Shock. Heart attack level collapse. >>> Vengeance may not have been the best way to manage? But it was all I could come up with. Legally. Ish. As every other option I played out was worse. It got me through. By the skin of my teeth, but c’est la vie.

NEW STAGE!!! So it’s a rough one, for me. As I haven’t figured out how to cope with it, yet.

TheKiddo is an adult. Doing adult things. Like being 20 at a 21-run bday party, too wasted to come home. Fair. Reasonable. The safe smart thing at one of those parties IS to stay over. It would be crazy rare for anything except a puking level hangover to result.

But me? I’m front-loading grief. As if any of the things that COULD happen… are guaranteed. And how little of his life he’s lived. And how hard it’s been for him. And WTF to do when the ER calls, or police show up at my door. Or I have to chase down “what happened” because we use Skype instead of the call history or contacts list the police would go off of.

Aaaaargh.

So. f*cking. Vexed.

I am so new at the adult life / adult responsibilities / adult consequences thing. As in his having one. And being one, now. And my being able to do so little. So late.
 

shimmerz

MyPTSD Pro
<<< I made a bad decision & divorced his father instead of killing his father, or taking my son & fleeing the country.
Me too.
TheKiddo is an adult. Doing adult things.
And is TheKiddo still TheKiddo in his mind or just yours? Does he feel like he deserves a new name at this point to punctuate his working towards being recognized as his newly forming adult self? If so, maybe looking at what he is trying to express in this new stage can be recognized in your attitude. "Great job making that decision to stay when you were loaded. Very mature/grown up/wise (whatever word fits)." Hard because your thoughts on getting drunk may not be ideal when imagining your son being an adult, but finding the golden nuggets and pointing them out maybe isn't all bad.

What does it mean to you his coming into his manhood? How would you like your relationship to work? Can you focus on what you would like to see as he matures into true manhood? Sunday dinners? Taking the girlfriend and he out for dinner? Hanging out eating organic strawberries or sucking back beers? Does he love cars? Boats?

Idk, but I think you are at the helm right now. And that can be daunting. Especially with a child whose relationship with you has been interfered with (as I recall). What do you picture? What does he picture? When your conversations run with ease - what have you been talking about? Him? You? Something else? Go with that.

lol. No idea if that is helpful or not to you Friday. I expect you know I have my own set of issues with my adult kids (40-35) so clearly I am no expert. Best of wishes with this new stage for you and your son.
 

scout86

MyPTSD Pro
I’ve figured out a way to manage the… terror… of what COULD be.
Just curious. He's been aware of what YOUR life has been like, hasn't he? At least pretty much? How has HE managed the terror of what COULD be with, and for, you? (Which also would have affected HIS life. A LOT.) There must have been some. Have you guys had any adult conversations about that stuff?

I'm not really a parent. I've got 3 step kids who I like and value as people but I didn't raise them and don't feel the responsibility that a parent would feel so it's not the same. But it seems like the worst fears are the ones I conjure in my own brain and the best way to deal with them is drag them out into the light and examine them. They get bigger and darker if I don't. Sooooo, sadly you can't guarantee his safety or happiness, but maybe it would help to have some adult level conversations about what the world looks like to him, what HE thinks about stuff, etc. And I see no harm in letting him know you're terrified something bad might happen. Not to guilt him into or out of certain behaviors, but just because it's true. I think it might help you both to talk about what those childhood years were like, now that you can do it as adults. (He's still a very junior adult, whether he realizes it or not. Doesn't hurt to share some info on what adulthood can look like.) BTW, has the suicide stuff been dealt with? Because some of that partying reminds me of stuff..... IDK, I could just be projecting there. But worrying about THAT doesn't get any if you cross your fingers and close your eyes either.

I've been sitting here thinking about what I would have wanted from a parent, if I was in his position. Then I realized that's got very little to do with what you actually asked! LOL How about you make friends with the terror? Because it's probably a permanent part of the lives of parents who care about their kids. In your case, the PTSD brain no doubt makes it a lot worse, but I don't think it's ever going to leave. Maybe you and The Kiddo should just spend some time exploring the terror, from both your side and his, and get to know it very very well. Not just the shadow it casts, but the terror itself. It might not seem quite so big and bad if you understand it better. But the truth is, you're right. Something bad could happen. To EITHER of you. I'd be surprised if you haven't raised a pretty cool adult. Have a few adult conversations about this. (BTW. Adult? How's that happen??? Even I still think of him as a kid and I've never met him!!!)
 
I have a kid who's going to get a driver's license in less than a year. I don't think I've been the greatest parent to him the last few years although I think he is doing ok. My main worry for him is navigating the world of relationships and sex (and I certainly think this is at least partially due to my own issues at that age). I've been meaning to talk about it with him for the last couple of years but I feel paralyzed when I think about it. That's one way I'm sure I'm letting him down - any other potential failures on my part are speculative.
 

DharmaGirl

MyPTSD Pro
I have an adult child. When he was 13 I had a breakdown and he has suffered depression ever since. I've talked to him about this and he says it's not my fault, what happened was not my fault but it did affect him. I wish it were different. I really think he has undiagnosed PTSD since I tried to kill myself 4 or 5 serious times and was hospitalized about 15 times in 2 years. I recovered, but he still (I think) feels he has to take care of me. We live with my elderly mother who needs lots of help, and he homesteads with me but seems to have no interest in getting an outside job or finding new 3D friends here. My T said many children with failure to launch feel they need to take care of their parent. We have a source of income without working, and the house and land will go to us so the need to work outside the homestead isn't imperative but it would be nice for him. He doesn't drink or smoke or use drugs, he is respectful and a good friend. I still think I failed him in a major way.

I'm afraid he won't be able to live a full life. I want him to live the life he wants and be who he wants to be. So, the point is, I don't have the worries you have. The opposite really. I got my worries early. My son is anaphylactic to peanuts so every day he went to school I would be stressed to the max he would die.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
my eldest son is now 42 and living on the streets. we haven't interacted to any significant degree since he awarded me toxic mom honors some odd years ago. my youngest son was 35 when he and his wife were killed in a traffic accident in 2019. their 3 children (then ages 6, 3, and 8 months) were already in protective custody with my hubby and i at the time of the accident. i was officially demoted from grandma to mother at the funeral. i miss retirement. parenting is no small gig. i often wonder if the biggest problem with our contemporary world is what we call, "not working." for sure, it isn't working. . .

"detachment" is my most used therapy tool in processing all this. i'm plying extra tools to guard against the detachment escalating to dissociation.
works in progress.
prayers ongoing. . .
small steps, big faith and lots of prayer.
 

Friday

Moderator
I've been sitting here thinking about what I would have wanted from a parent, if I was in his position. Then I realized that's got very little to do with what you actually asked!
Bit still useful! Go for it. I’d love it. And it’s a great perspective to take.

lol. No idea if that is helpful or not to you Friday.
Incredibly useful. Still processing parts of your post & will prolly hit you back up as I do.

How about you make friends with the terror? Because it's probably a permanent part of the lives of parents who care about their kids. In your case, the PTSD brain no doubt makes it a lot worse, but I don't think it's ever going to leave.
Right?!? I know great-grandparents who still wake up in the middle of the night worried about not only their own kids, but grandkids and great grandkids. The level of connection that’s just normal… is maybe?… part of what my PTSD is f*cking with. Whenever the Mom-Guilt or Mom-Worries gets all magnified. Like he’s playing on a playground at 6 and I flash to trucks who arrive in, shoot the adults, and take the kids as soldiers… so it’s a matter of finding the BEST playgrounds, and being one of the “cool” parents who is running around with the kids being the lava monster, or pirate, or rolling down hills, or whatever… so that “if” the last memory he has of me before being taken as a soldier is the park? It’s pure joy. Weather than McDrunky or McTexty or absent or... even just beloved and normal. Countering every fear of my own, with what I would best want.

But it seems like the worst fears are the ones I conjure in my own brain and the best way to deal with them is drag them out into the light and examine them. They get bigger and darker if I don't.
Exactly.

Sooooo, sadly you can't guarantee his safety or happiness, but maybe it would help to have some adult level conversations about what the world looks like to him, what HE thinks about stuff, etc. And I see no harm in letting him know you're terrified something bad might happen.
This is exactly what I’ve been starting to do. In a very carefully orchestrated “I’m being very ‘mom’ right now” so he can feel free to laugh at / ignore me (which he does), rather than take on the guilt/responsibility/blame or get pissed off at the hovering/nagging

My T said many children with failure to launch feel they need to take care of their parent.
I spent most of my childhood in Asia. Where I grew up? This would make him the most honorable of men, and the most desirable of husbands. It may seem like a failing in the West. And is not what I would want of my own son. But in the majority of the world? (Going by population density) The loyalty, strength, and honor of a child protecting their mother is a deeply valued character trait. That he’s doing this in the West? Affirms it’s not peer pressure/ expectation that he’s rising/resenting to meet… but the true faith of his heart. Which, beyond what you feel for him, makes him -and his bloodline- immortal. The best of luck, to the both of you.

my eldest son is now 42 and living on the streets. we haven't interacted to any significant degree since he awarded me toxic mom honors some odd years ago. my youngest son was 35 when he and his wife were killed in a traffic accident in 2019
My most profound condolences. There simply aren’t words. As you well know. Strength to you. And love and joy. As they pain you least, and thrill you most.

***
Anyone I’ve missed? I will hit you up. And feel free to hit me up. I’ve simply reached my emotional limits of the day.
 

scout86

MyPTSD Pro
The level of connection that’s just normal… is maybe?… part of what my PTSD is f*cking with. Whenever the Mom-Guilt or Mom-Worries gets all magnified.
I think you're exactly right. One of the things I've learned through therapy is that I literally have no idea what a "normal" level of connection is. It's come as a surprise to learn that parents actually DO worry about their kids once they're out the door. (At least some parents do.) That thought never crossed my mind. Not until recently. At all. So I'm in no position to talk about "normal". It totally makes sense, though, that your parenting is filtered through the lens of PTSD. You have seen situations in real life where they DO kidnap kids and make them soldiers, yes? And then you had to deal with parenting through the minefield that was (is?) the relationship with the ex. Where it would have been totally legitimate to be terrified most of the time. Seems like it would be understandably hard to back off from DEFCON 1. My T always preached about remembering the difference between "possible" and "probable". That's a good point, I guess. And it's useful, to an extent. So far it hasn't really sunk in far enough to make me FEEL like things are probably going to be ok, but it helps a little to KNOW they're probably going to be ok, if you get what I mean.

I've been sitting here thinking about what I would have wanted from a parent, if I was in his position.
I actually know what I would have wanted, in my own situation. I don't know if this will apply to him at all. I would have liked at least one conversation that went along the lines of "Well, that was pretty weird, wasn't it?" Another thing I learned through therapy. My mom was nuts. (Not the technical term & my T always objected because it "lacks a certain specificity".) She never had an actual diagnosis that I'm aware of, it's only relevant in that I know there's no way I could have had any kind of real conversation with her. The conversation would have had to be with my dad. And he adored my mom to the point that I'm not sure a serious conversation about what "childhood" was like was an option there either. Actually, I'm pretty sure there was a ton of stuff he didn't see because of the way he saw (or didn't see) her. But, if it had been an option, I would have liked, and I think benefited from, a conversation about what "childhood" was like from my point of view, where people honestly wanted to know and were brave enough to hear the truth. And then maybe were willing to explain some of the stuff a kid can't really see at the time. As an adult, I told them I'd been molested as a child. (Following the suggestion of a well meaning friend. Might have been the only bad advice he ever gave me!) What I got in response was how bad that made THEM feel. It was a conversation that was super hard to have. And no one ever even asked if I was ok. Looking back, I think that hurt more than anything else that ever happened in our relationship. Because it confirmed that they didn't actually care about ME, I suppose. So don't do that. LOL

I don't think you WOULD do that either. But he might be interested in sharing, now, what his experience of growing up was. There might be some things he either didn't understand or MISunderstood that you can clear up for him. And vice versa too. Around here, you've always been one of my go to people when I'm trying to figure out how a family should work. Because of that, I strongly suspect he's grown up to be pretty much ok in spite of all the complications of his childhood. But I can see where it might be a bit (or a lot) scary to explore that territory. And I can see where the ol' PTSD brain would grab that and run with it. I know that my dad worried that he hadn't done a good enough job as a parent. I know, because towards the end of his life he asked if he'd screwed up several times. By then, what could I say? He'd already kind of shown me that he really wasn't up for an honest conversation and he was OLD. Why make a guy on his death bed (or nearly) feel bad about anything? So I always told him that I knew he'd done the very best he knew how and that that was good enough and all anyone could ask for. Which was more or less true, right? I'm not sure it made him feel any better and I don't know what would have. Maybe an actual honest conversation years earlier? I really don't know.

I guess the reason I think that sort of conversation might help is that I worry less about the people in my life who I KNOW are thinking straight and know how to look out for themselves. Unless I've got some actual evidence to base my assessment on, I tend to assume the worst and worry more. I'm thinking it might be easier to relax a little and trust this young man and his judgement the better you know him, as he actually is now. BTW, I think it's WAY COOL that you're thinking about this.

I was thinking while I was proofreading. It might be interesting to ask how your own parents dealt with, and/or deal with the terror when it pertains to YOU. Because there pretty much has to have been some of that along the way, hasn't there?
 
Top