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Archive for the tag “coparenting”

Losing Dylan, part 6

After I met with Dylan, I began to question myself. Maybe Bird and Dylan were right. Had I failed at my most important job, of being a parent? It seemed clear that the anger Dylan had toward me was not going away, and in fact seemed to be getting worse.

I called Dylan’s substance abuse counselor. I expressed my concerns and our conversation became heated. I was really worried about Dylan. I felt it was time to put him in treatment, but Bird disagreed. I felt as though the counselor had misinterpreted the situation in suggesting that I hand Dylan over to Bird. I wanted to convey to her that Dylan was now being cared for by his primary enabler.

“Bird is buying Dylan weed!” I blurted out. I was scared to say it. I didn’t want Bird to get in legal trouble.

“Well then why haven’t you called the police? That’s going to be a mandatory report to DHS, which will lead them back to you as the source of the information. You should know that Jess, you’re a social worker”.

My heart sank. What had I done? As I mentioned before, I felt complicit and it didn’t seem right to be calling out Bird if I wasn’t also going to implicate myself. Still I felt certain that an intervention was in order. If Dylan stayed in the situation he was in I knew that things would get worse.

I pointed out to the counselor that he was not compliant with the substance abuse diversion agreement we had signed. I wanted him in treatment, if nothing else than to give him some time off of drugs so that he could see himself clearly. The counselor agreed that he needed treatment. However, she warned me about the possible outcomes. The local adolescent treatment center was not a locked unit. Dylan would likely run. In addition if Dylan acted out as he had been doing, he would end up in a detention center. I was afraid of both outcomes. But I was more afraid of doing nothing.

The counselor explained that Dylan’s pending legal charges could be used as leverage in convincing Dylan to stay in treatment. Since the counselor’s recommendation was inpatient treatment, the juvenile court would likely remand him there if he refused to go on his own. She called the treatment center and made an intake appointment for Dylan the following Monday.

I called Bird on Sunday night to give her the news. I told her everything that the counselor and I had discussed.

Bird was not pleased. “I don’t think he needs treatment”, she said. “This is ridiculous. For marijuana? He is just doing what teenagers do!”

“I think he needs treatment,” I said, speaking as evenly as I could. “His counselor thinks he needs treatment. If he doesn’t follow through with the counselor’s recommendation, he will be expelled from school”. I told her about the intake appointment.

“What if I don’t bring him there?” Bird replied.

I was prepared for this. “Then you will be seen as interfering with medically indicated treatment.” I said, parroting the words the counselor had suggested.

A short time later I received a text from Bird saying, “I’ll have him there on Monday”. I was surprised. I expected much more of a fight.

Then I received a call from Dylan. I told him everything I had already told Bird. He was angry and kept talking in circles trying to find his way out of the situation.

“Dylan, I’m doing this because I lov..”

He cut me off. “You’re a stupid fucking bitch,” he said, hanging up.

 

 

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Losing Dylan, part 4

As we left the counselor’s office Bird looked upset. I suggested we go talk in her truck. When we got there, Bird started crying. Dylan’s substance abuse counselor had mentioned that she was going to drug test Dylan. Through her tears, Bird said, “I feel so guilty because he is going to get in trouble for something I’m giving him. I’m like his drug dealer!” I assured Bird that although we had made mistakes, we could change what we did moving forward. She agreed to tell Dylan that evening that she would no longer provide him with marijuana.

The next morning I called her to ask how it had gone. She was vague, and finally said she couldn’t do it because it was late, and she knew it would cause a scene, perhaps leading to a sleepless night. I was disappointed but I attempted to be encouraging. I suggested that she could take him to 12-step meetings, as I had done so and he had enjoyed them. No, she said. Even if I stop giving it to him he will still get it from his friends. There is no way he is going to stop smoking weed. This is what teenagers do. This is what I did when I was a teenager.

We agreed on a few other things that also did not happen. The next time I saw Dylan he was angry and combative. There were dark circles under his eyes. He told me I needed to apologize for all the horrible things I had done to him. When I attempted to question him about those things he would take small pieces of huge incidents that had occurred during the two years prior. Out of context it did appear that I was a mentally unstable person unfit to parent. At one point he said, I talked with my counselor and she agrees that my problem isn’t weed, it’s you. 

I was honestly hurt and confused by all the anger he was throwing at me. He was painting me as a neglectful parent who never did anything for him. Just last summer I remembered feeling so good about where our relationship was at. But that was before school started, and his drug use escalated. But even right before he started staying with Bird, when he became so defiant, I still felt like we had a bond and that he saw me as his caring mother. I had never before seen this much hatred directed at me and it hit me to the core. I began to wonder if maybe he was right. He told me he wanted to live with Bird on a permanent basis. I told him he could do that if he wished.

Things were not getting better with Dylan. In fact they seemed to be getting worse. Dylan hated me and had convinced his counselor that I was the source of his problems. Bird was doing whatever she wished with Dylan regardless of my input. Dylan told me he was taking a break from psychedelics because he had taken “a lot” recently. I learned that the “structure” Dylan was referring to meant that he was still being given access to his favorite drug hangout every day after school.

I called the substance abuse counselor and she agreed to meet with Bird and I.

We arrived at the session and the first thing the counselor asked us was, “How did you two meet?” It seems like a good opening question. I don’t know if she knew that she was stepping on a land mine.

I looked at Bird, paused for a moment, and then told the story like I have for the last several decades. I should have let Bird tell it, but like I said, its automatic.

I was 19. She was 26. We both had girlfriends and we were all alcoholics. She and I would sneak kisses and gropes when our girlfriends weren’t around. Then we both got sober individually, met up again and had a year-long very tumultuous relationship.

Bird interjects, “And then we broke up….

Oh we broke up? I said with a head cock. She’d gotten me. It was decades ago that it happened but suddenly it seemed like a freshly opened wound.

Is that how you’re going to tell it? I turned to the counselor. She left me for my best friend, they got married and stayed that way for 15 years.

Bird scrunched her face in a scowl, “Well our relationship (meaning hers and mine) was really bad,” she said shaking her head.

At the time Bird and I had been living together in a house one block away from my best friend, Mel. I was working swing shift as a nurse. Mel was also a nurse and she was married to a cop named Berta.  Bird was unemployed as usual, and started spending her free evenings with Mel. I’m not the jealous type. Every time I’ve been cheated on I’ve been shocked because I missed all the signs. One night Mel called me at work. She tells me that she and Bird were having a dinner at a fancy restaurant in town and that Bird had gotten food poisoning and that I needed to go home to tend to her. That night definitely struck me as odd. But of course there were all the denials and We are just friends!

After that I think they knew the gig was about up and Bird said she wanted to talk with me. I made us coffee, we sat down and she announced that she was leaving me. Mel was leaving Berta, Bird and Mel were in love and they were going to get their own place. I’ll never forget that day. I said nothing because by now on some level I knew what was happening. But to hear her say it wounded me and I was hurt and angry. I threw my coffee cup against the wall and it smashed. She left. A few moments after she left I got a call from the person who had been Bird and I’s couples counselor. She told me that Mel and Bird wanted her to call “to make sure I was OK“. A few days later I came home to a house that had been emptied of Bird’s belongings.

Back at the time when it happened, Bird had said those very same words. “Our relationship was really bad anyway. It was uncanny. I could hear her saying it decades ago the same way she was saying it in the counseling session. The very same fucking words. It was like Deja Vu.

Oh, so that’s your justification?” I asked. I was really pissed by then.

“No, it wasn’t justification!” she says, her voice rising.

Next the butch appearing lesbian counselor says to the butch appearing Bird, “So you’ve been in and out of the picture with raising Dylan?” She said it in a non-threatening manner but I could feel Bird recoil and see her stiffen in her chair.

Then Bird turned to me and said, Would you like to explain to her why that is, Jess? her voice oozing with sarcasm. She had a look on her face like she had just Kinged me or something.

I was seriously flabbergasted. Bird never fails to surprise me with her interpretation of events.

Oh, wow! That’s where you are going with this? I was incredulous. She was going to start the “you kept me from my son story.” The one that isn’t true. The same one my son had begun telling.

I looked at the counselor and I said, Well, you’ve hit the mother lode here. This therapy isn’t for us, so I don’t really think we should go there.”

Counselor looks at me and says, “Well I think this is kind of about you two.” She gave us a few stories about how Dylan is a product of how we have raised him, etc.

And that’s when the shit really began to hit the fan.

I brought up how Bird had sued me in an attempt to gain custody of Dylan in order to return him to the drug using friends I had successfully moved him away from. Bird was communicating with Dylan on the fancy phone she bought him. She told him via text that she disagreed with my decision and that what I was really doing was to try to eliminate her from his life. Bird came to where we were for a visit. She came and took him two days in a row to spend time with him, which I freely allowed. A few days later I was served the papers. Looking further into Dylan’s phone and the text messages I discovered that Dylan and Bird had been planning this together for quite some time. To top it off Bird was posting things on Instagram indicating that her son was being cut off from her by her evil ex-partner.

The next thing I recall in the session was Bird saying, “Yeah, you took Dylan to Cali, and how did that work out for you!?”

Bird and I argued about what did and what did not happen in Cali. At one point I stood up because I was so angry and because the wound of that time period reopened. I didn’t yell, but I was very animated in expressing myself, perhaps lending credence to Bird’s characterization of me as being the “crazy one”.

The counselor pressed on, she turned to me, and said, “What about you, Jess? All I hear out of you is, “I’m ill, I’m sick.” She put her hands up in the air when she said it to give it a little dramatic flair.

When I mentioned that I had been disabled by an autoimmune disorder in 2013, she said, “Mm, hmm” and what I read from her was. “You don’t look disabled.” I bet I didn’t look disabled at all that day. I had put on therapist clothing, done my hair, put on my eyebrows and came prepared for battle. I stood for at least half of the session, until she politely told me to sit down. I clean up well. And if I was going to go down, I was going to look good while I was doing it. It is perhaps both my greatest strength and my greatest weakness that when the pressure is on I rise to it, even if the cost is the health of my body.

At one point when I was talking animatedly, Bird turned to the counselor, leaned in, pointed to me with her long bony index finger and said, “You see, this is why I can’t talk to her.” I recall the counselor saying, “Jess, I think what you just said to Bird was condescending. And then she turned to Bird and said, …“And I can see that you are already beginning to shut down”. Poor little big Bird.

The counselor mentioned her own relationship with her partner, and how they had always stuck together in their parenting styles. She also said that her kid had ADHD like Dylan and that they had addressed it with diet, “even though giving him a medication would have been the easy way out”. At one point she said, “It’s just like the straight parents, it’s not any different because we are lesbians”. She told us we needed to work together and that I needed to support Bird in being strong.

I looked the counselor directly in the eye and put my hands together resting my elbows on my knees.

I’ve been trying to make her strong for decades, and it hasn’t worked yet, I said in a flat tone. Later I felt bad for saying it, but it was absolutely factual.

 

 

 

 

Losing Dylan, part 3

At first I thought that Bird and I were going to be able to work together. I asked her to attend a session with Dylan’s substance abuse counselor and myself. Bird has always been wary of therapy. The last time we were in therapy together she walked out in the middle of it and never returned.

When I arrived Bird was sitting in the lobby. She looked weary and scared and I took some pleasure in that. She barely acknowledged me.

How’s it going? I asked. What I really meant was How is Dylan doing? Dylan was staying with her full-time by then. She had always asserted that she was the better parent and now she was getting her chance to prove it.

Busy... she says trailing off, shaking her head. Bird will never answer a direct question. She will respond with something vague, or ask why the question was asked.

Doing what? I asked.

Taking care of a 15-year-old, my mother, and trying to find a place to live….

I said nothing. Bird is always beleaguered with some issue or another. She’s been living in a trailer she pulls behind her truck for at least six years. If you ask her why she will tell you she did it for Dylan. She wanted to be close to him and was forced to move to California to do so.

In spite of Bird’s obvious limitations, she holds a certain power over me. I know she wouldn’t have it if I didn’t give it to her. When we first got together I was 19 and she was 26. Because of abuse I encountered when I was young, I’ve always been afraid of anger that comes from an intimate partner. When they get angry I go into overdrive trying to prevent the rage and violence that will surely follow. It happens automatically and I’ve never been able to control my response. It’s as if it was programmed into me. Don’t let Daddy get mad. When Daddy gets mad, bad things happen. 

My first relationship was with a boy in high school who had a drinking problem that led to domestic violence. Later, my first relationship was with a woman who was also abusive. I’ve always been attracted to darkness. I was attracted to Bird the first time I met her. It was like two magnets locking into place.

Bird’s father had made a huge impact on her. He did not accept his gay daughter or her masculine tendencies, which presented at a very early age. Bird’s father was the chief of police of the town she grew up in. Once Bird told me about an incident in which her dad had held his gun to her mother’s head during an argument.

In the early years of our relationship I would never have considered Bird to be abusive. I came from relationships where that had taken place and she was different. She had a drinking problem, yes, and when she drank she would sleep with other women or disappear for days at a time. Once she threw all of my belongings out of her house into the front yard. That was the extent of it.

Years later we were living together again. It was about a year before Dylan was conceived. Bird was working over the road as a truck driver, which meant she was gone for extended periods. This worked well for our relationship because it also was a bond formed out of desperation and fear of abandonment. When she returned we would have heated reconnection sex. A few days later she would leave again.

As a result of her absence, I became more independent. We heated our house with a wood stove and I was used to making the fires, and doing any other things that were required around the house. When Bird returned we would get in arguments because Bird felt that she should be in charge of things like starting up the stove. Tensions grew, and one night erupted.

We were in the guest room at our house for some reason. Perhaps the argument started in another room. It was late and I can’t remember what the argument was about. At one point Bird was very angry. She got close to my face and yelled, “Is this what you want? Do you want me to hit you?” Then she drove off in her truck.

I never spoke of the incident until now. I thought it was probably my fault. After all, I was unreasonable. It was my pattern to become involved with people who were abusive. Maybe I did want her to hit me. I wasn’t sure. Maybe I provoked her, I cannot recall.

But years later, after the relationship ended, she admitted that she used anger to control me. It was a rare admission for Bird, who normally keeps her real self hidden away. She isn’t comfortable with emotion and I channeled and expressed hers as part of our relationship. The relationship carried many unspoken contracts. I would make Bird feel like a man and protect her male ego. She needed me to need her and I did. I needed her to take care of me and she did.

So as we prepared to enter the butch-appearing lesbian counselors office, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wanted to be able to be non-reactive. But I’ve learned now that to attempt to be non-reactive to Bird is the same as trying to prevent the knee-jerk reaction that happens when I sense anger. Maybe it’s because I gave control of myself over to Bird at such a young age. Maybe because of her height she can appear daunting. Maybe because she abandoned me in favor of Dylan after he was born. Maybe because she has been overly critical of my mothering in an attempt to gain favor with Dylan.

Whatever the reason, interacting with Bird leads to me feeling reactive. Even now, when we are alone, I am subdued and submissive in her presence. Even if she is in my home. I trip over myself trying not to upset her, knowing that if I assert myself I will be suppressed. I choose my words so carefully because I know if I tell her not to do something, she will make it her mission to do just that. If I criticize her choices she shares it with Dylan to prove how mean I am to her. It seems as if I should be able to stand up to Bird. But as soon as she gives me that one look of disapproval, all of my reasoning melts into the ground.

She is my Dad, she is mad and bad things are going to happen. 

I came to the therapy session determined not to let the stick of dynamite I carry inside me to get lit. I did ask the universe for help in maintaining my cool, and in not feeling threatened by Bird. I knew if I was triggered by her and started yelling the battle would be lost. She would sit there smug and satisfied.

The lesbian therapist appeared and ushered us into her office.

She started telling us about Dylan’s substance abuse which we were both well aware of. Bird’s gifts to Dylan after their visits now included several grams of marijuana and a pack of American Spirit Cigarettes. I knew I couldn’t stop Bird so I didn’t even try. So yes, I was complicit. The counselor stressed the importance of intervening now, before Dylan graduated to IV drug use.

Then she sat back in her chair, legs spread wide, and said, “So, Dylan tells me you two hate each other“.

My explaining self jumped in, suggesting that we had differences in the past but we had worked through them. I’ve always been the designated speaker in the relationship. Especially in situations like this, I should talk less and force Bird to reveal herself. But again, it seemed automatic.

The counselor started talking about how happy Dylan was to be living with Bird in her trailer and that he had the structure now that he so desperately needed. She told us how Dylan had come to his session so thrilled that Bird had made him a sandwich to take to school. I’ve always hated making lunches. This one goes to Bird, she’s quite good at it. She used to make them for me.

For awhile after that it was like a Butch-on-Butch conversation. Bird was enjoying the praise. Bird practically pounded her chest while she declared that she was capable of setting strong boundaries with Dylan. The counselor told us that Dylan staying with Bird was the best situation for him and that it should continue.

The counselor asked Bird, “Have you seen how he treats her?” nodding her head in my direction. Bird said nothing. The counselor went on, telling me that living with Dylan was the same as being in an abusive relationship.

I felt somewhat validated by her words. For the first time, I felt seen.

 

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