People have every right to exclude family members from their lives for whatever reason. I am not one of those who subscribes to the idea that blood is thicker than water, as much as Jim does not agree with me. I still believe this even though we are currently in such a situation with Connor.
It all started when Connor went off to college. While his high school years were tough for him and us – not doing homework, staying up until the wee hours to game, struggling with cross country his last two years, some rough grades his first two years, not ever being able to get out of bed, and all of the scream matches and fights that occurred as a result of all of this, we thought he ended high school well and prepared to go away to school. He seemed happy and ready.
During that first year, we found that Connor rarely responded to our phone calls or texts. When we did talk to him, we discovered that he was struggling to go to class and even failed one of his classes. He LOVED marching and pep band though, so he kept going to enough classes to maintain his eligibility for both. He continued to struggle his second semester, not going to classes and dropping at least one class because he couldn’t handle it or didn’t like it.
He came home for the summer, working at Jim’s company. Out of work, he did nothing but sit in his room gaming and sleeping. He hung out with friends while he could, but he was fairly antisocial the entire summer. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the greatest impression among Jim’s coworkers either. We tried to talk to Connor about his issues with school. It seems most of his problems about going to class all came down to crippling anxiety and not liking the undergrad courses he had to take before he could get to the good stuff. Once we found this out, we recommended he take the year off so that he could get some help with his anxiety and growing depression. He refused.
We took him back to Ames for his second year with heavy hearts and more than a little anxiety ourselves. We met what would become his current significant other and some of his other friends on that trip. We felt better once we understood that he had a good circle of friends that would keep an eye on him. Or so we thought. Once school started, we were on radio silence again. He didn’t respond to texts or calls very often, and what little information we did get seemed that he was doing okay. As his first year, the highlight of his sophomore year was marching band and being able to go to a second bowl game.
When he did come home, we found out the truth. Unbeknown to us, Connor stopped going to most of his classes after the first week of school. He did the bare minimum to maintain marching and pep band eligibility and that’s it. Because we never saw him over winter break thanks to another bowl game, we again didn’t know how bad things had gotten.
His second semester went about as well as you would expect. He faced the same issue with attending classes and ended up dropping all but the minimum. What made it worse was a phone call in the middle of the night in late winter wherein we found out that he had been admitted for a psych eval and put on suicide watch. He was released with 24 hours, but that is not a phone call you ever want to receive. To make it worse, he didn’t want us to visit, didn’t want to come home, and really didn’t want to have anything to do with us. We talked, and he reassured us he was okay, that his friends jumped the gun in calling officials for a health check, and that he was never in danger of committing suicide. We couldn’t do anything but listen and hope he was telling us the truth.
He stayed in Ames that summer after assuring us he had a job and that he was co-letting an apartment in town. We don’t think he had a job and he was basically living on someone’s couch for the summer. That fall, he continued to ignore our plea of not going back to school. Instead, he moved into an off-campus apartment with his significant other and again struggled to go to class. We went to visit him, and things seemed okay. He looked happy and content, and we didn’t discuss school or grades at all. A few weeks later, we found out he dropped out of school altogether.
All this time, we were encouraging Connor to visit campus therapists. We offered to pay for all of his medical costs to get psychiatric help. After his suicide scare, he told us he was seeing someone and that they were working on finding the right combination of medications for him. Unfortunately, we don’t know if he really was getting help or just telling us that to keep us quiet. Since he ended up dropping out of his third year of school after not attending ANY classes that semester, we don’t think he was.
Unfortunately, things didn’t get any better once he dropped out. During one short visit home with his significant other and their kitten, he dropped the bomb that he blamed us for ALL of his problems. In his rant, he told us that our high expectations set him up for failure, that we should have known he had anxiety issues and that we failed him. He also told us that we owe him the money he spent towards his failed college attempts (he took out at least one student loan and borrowed money from his grandmother), even though we already paid for his freshman year and were willing to pay for additional schooling if he had taken some time off after that first year. He went on to tell us that we should have known all that time in his room was a sign he needed help and again reiterated how much we failed him as parents.
And this is how the last eighteen months have gone. He blamed us for all of his problems, even going so far as to say we gaslighted him regarding his anxiety (except we didn’t since we took him to therapy as early as second grade because we recognized he was having problems) and accused us of increasing his anxiety by not financially supporting him while we attempted to mend fences without conceding anything. As before, our communication with him was sporadic, and not for lack of our attempts. We visited them, and they visited us once or twice. Things seemed better the last time we saw them.
Unfortunately, once Connor dropped out of school, he was no longer eligible to be part of my health insurance. Then, I lost my job, and we moved to Jim’s insurance, where we couldn’t even add him as a beneficiary. In November, I was asking Connor for Christmas ideas, knowing that since neither Jim nor I had a job, we had to be creative in Christmas spending. For some reason, the fact that I was asking him for wish lists infuriated him, and he went off on me. Again, it came back to this idea that we OWED him money because he shouldn’t be in debt at his age. He ended the conversation, which only happened via text, by telling me to f*ck off. So I did. Those are the last words he spoke to me.
Because that wasn’t enough, Connor reached out to Jim in December, asking him to pay for his meds, which supposedly cost $600. I don’t know if he gave a reason for wanting Jim to do so. I know that Jim told him we couldn’t afford that because he was out of work but told him to check out Good Rx or another prescription coupon app like it, explaining that we were using it to pay for the meds we had no insurance. As before, Connor became irate at this, and that was the last time Jim heard from him.
We keep trying. Jim even called him around my birthday trying to mend fences because that was the only thing I wanted for my birthday. Connor won’t answer phone calls or texts from my parents or Jim’s mom. I’ve sent him a few texts and a penned note with his new insurance cards because Jim’s new company will cover him. Unfortunately, he ignores everyone but his sister. Everyone tried desperately to get him to attend my dad’s surprise seventieth birthday party, but he refused – apparently because he is not ready to face us.
Through Holly, we know they are getting ready to move to Denver. That he doesn’t have a job yet but does have an apartment. We don’t know what his plans are. We know that we are not a part of his life right now and that Holly assures us we did nothing wrong.
We’ve kept this a closely-held secret partly to respect Connor’s privacy and partly out of embarrassment and shame that our son would decide to stop speaking to us. After all, we don’t think we did anything wrong and to have someone as intelligent as Connor drop out of school and seemingly settle for a low-paying, no-future job with no plans to do anything else is not exactly what you want to share with others.
Except, I know this is why I continue to struggle with ennui. This is why I spend so much time worrying about Black Lives Matter, women’s rights, climate change, and pretty much every other hot topic out there right now. It’s why I spend so much time playing on my phone rather than doing something/anything. It’s why I can’t find pleasure in anything, why I haven’t been blogging. I was able to ignore everything when I was busy unpacking and setting up the house, but now? I can’t hide it anymore.
It breaks my heart that my little boy, the one who always had a hug and a kiss for me, who was MY boy thanks to all the time we spent together when Jim was in the Army, doesn’t feel comfortable enough to talk to me anymore. I miss him so much. I try not to let it affect my relationship with Holly, but I already warned her that his ongoing silence is only going to make her last year of high school that much worse for me – because there will be that fear that she will move and do the same thing.
I have only ever wanted my children to be happy and healthy, and I can’t say that my boy is either. I can only hope that he comes back to us one day. Our home is his home and always will be. While I still expect an apology for what he texted me, we won’t stop trying to mend fences because that is what we do as parents. But let me tell you if you think parenting young kids is difficult, parenting adult children is ten times more so.