As some of you may remember, I have two sons, T and J. At 15 yrs old T hasn't been giving me too much grief, just the usual rebellion. And by 'usual' I mean mostly attitude stuff. He attends school, has friends, has a girlfriend, does well in some classes but is flippant with other teachers, has a job, and is generally responsible. He is cautious about new situations and will study them for a bit before wading in carefully.
J however, is thirteen and seems to be cut from a very different cloth and has been getting increasingly difficult to manage. Any new situation for him is an opportunity to fling himself into completely before totally understanding what could happen. Then deals with the consequences with the arrogant attitude that it doesn't apply to him and therefore is irrelevant.
Pdoc said that from his personal experience about 80% of the child is born and 20% is their environment. He's seen some messed up kids from outstanding homes and some fabulous children from homes nobody should be subjected to. He said J is a good kid but is under the impression that he runs the world. J is full of smoke and mirrors and in order to be guided he needs to drop the bravado. This isn't uncommon for a teenager, but it can lead to disaster. Pdoc also pointed out that J cannot be helped unless he chooses to be helped because of his age. And right now J is not willing and feels it's not needed. As an adult I can see that some of the decisions J has made can be disastrous but J sees them as fun and interesting. Luckily, J is still obeying the rules to the house like curfew and whatnot, but is starting to push things a bit far.
One of the decisions J has made is to hang out with mall rats. These are mostly teens with some fairly bad habits. While I don't think all of the kids in this circle are bad, there are some that I wouldn't want J influenced by. Some of these kids live downtown as street kids which J thinks is just so cool. These kids bounce from house to house to sleep or sleep on the street. I can't fathom how this is cool, but I'm not 13. These street kids also associate with some adults and that is just a recipe for Very Bad Things to happen, in my opinion. Pdoc agrees that this is not the best situation for J to be in and could throw J down a very bad path.
Because J is getting difficult to manage, pdoc had two suggestions for me (J wasn't in the room when we discussed this). The first was a teen group therapy that he has run for the last 18 years and has been quite successful, even with the children that are dragged there and guarded by social workers. It's a group where the teens talk to peers instead of teens talking to adults. Successful apparently because teens listen to peers more than adults. The problem, of course, is getting J there. Even this last visit with pdoc was non-productive as J didn't want to be there and made sure everyone in the vicinity knew that. Somehow I've got to get J to volunteer for it as I doubt I could physically carry him in the building and strap him to a chair. Although I am very strong...
The other suggestion was to try some tough love with J to get J to crack. You see, J wants to live with his dad for a while. He thinks his life will be better with dad as most kids who have split homes are inclined to believe. Pdoc thinks that J will quickly tire of dad's rules or treatment and want to come home to me. This may be true as Ex is married to a woman who doesn't want children. Having your spouse's children over for the weekend is very different than having them over for an indefinite amount of time. But pdoc says to tell J that he can only come back to me if he agrees to whatever rules I have in place (like attend the group).
There's a major flaw in this logic to me. While I think it may work, J would get tired of how Ex treats him and remember life with me wasn't all that bad. But J is extraordinarily strong willed. Instead of agreeing to my conditions and coming back, he'd go downtown and live with the street kids because it's cool to him. He even told me today that he'd like to live with his friends but that it was probably illegal for him to do that. I told him it was indeed illegal as he's only thirteen and still a minor. He said I could pretend to kick him out and then he'd have to live with his friends. I told him I love him too much to kick him out (thinking 'thank goodness he thinks it's illegal' because in reality if he runs away there isn't much the police or Social Services can do about it, according to pdoc). I'd like to think he'd get tired of living on the street and not bathing, not eating regularly, no computer, no iPod (I'm sure that would disappear quickly), and no warm home...but I can't be sure he'd bend and come back. He has not once, not ever, given in and backed down from something or someone. Instead he accepts the new situation and does his best to manipulate it to his advantage. Sort of reminds me...of...me...hm.
Moving right along here...J talked to Ex and asked if he could live there, Ex said he had to talk to me first. The only thing Ex said to me was that he shouldn't have to pay child support if J is living with him. So I filled Ex in on all of J's behaviour problems and current poor choices, and Ex brought the conversation back to money. And he's already talked to his lawyer, oh goody. So I called my lawyer today.
And yes, Ex wouldn't be responsible for child support while J is living with him. But he is responsible for child support for T living with me and I pay child support to Ex for J. Child support is based wholly on income and number of children. So if Ex is making the same amount of money as me then our child support payments cancel each other out. But if one is making more than the other, the one making more pays the difference to the one making less. Still with me? Ok. Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) has a new program that automatically recalculates the child support payments based on the tax returns each year. The way my child support is set up I'd have to take Ex to court to have it recalculated so I don't qualify for the program. So I asked the lawyer about taking Ex to court and changing the child support agreement to be in compliance with the recalculation program with MEP. After all, fair is fair. Ex is making more money than me and should pay more. I just haven't bothered to go to court until now because it seemed like a hassle. But then I remembered...he's a prick and should pay whatever the law demands he pay.
I won't stop J from staying with his dad. If J lives with him I'll be sure to file the addendum to child support that J is living there instead of here and reverse if J moves back so the child support can be calculated appropriately. I'm sure Ex will be fumingly angry at me for readjusting the payments and may even rant and rave to J about it. But fair is fair, you pay what you owe.
Oh, and, pdoc told me (but didn't tell J) that because he's 13 he can go to a custody hearing with his own lawyer or represent himself and choose where to live. So I feel like J has all the power here. Social Services can't drag him back home if he runs away, he can choose which parent to live with, if it doesn't work out living with Ex and I burn the bridge to come here he'll bolt to his friends and get in a worse situation. That leaves doing my best to instill some kind of moral compass in him to make better choices. Keeping in mind that I've been doing that for 13 years and this is where we are now. I'm hoping to get him to go to group, even grudgingly. It's a tiny glimmer that things could be better.