Wednesday, April 27, 2016

When nothing seems to matter anymore...

I'm finding it very difficult to care about anything any more. I mean, I care about stuff. I care about my family, and my friends, but I don't feel any passion for or against anything anymore.

I'm due to return to uni next week and I'm not feeling it at all. Where I used to have this burning desire to do a PhD and write and teach writing and discuss all things writing, I just don't feel anything right now. I haven't thought about writing since I walked out of my office last. I haven't thought about my thesis in three weeks. Honestly, I think it's going to take me a week to just to refresh myself on what the hell I was even writing a about (thank good I had started keeping a journal this year).

I think it's a Maslow's hierarchy thing. With all the stress of the past month, just struggling to keep my head above water physically, mentally, and emotionally - losing $250 a fortnight on top of all the emotional trauma has been a great financial strain - it is difficult to focus on self-actualisation when all the needs below that are barely, or not at all, being met.

A week and a bit a good I was feeling okay, like I was ready to go back, but right now I'm not. Maybe tomorrow I'll be fine again. Who knows. Stability is not exactly my strong suit at the moment. I have found myself wondering why I ever thought having a PhD was some sort of Holy Grail of achievements to aspire to. I wonder now if this isn't just some sort of ego trip, you know, like, hey, let's kills a few trees just to show the world how clever I am with words.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Still here...

While I have a number of blog posts sitting in my drafts folder, I don't seem to be able to bring myself to hit the publish key on any of them. Life has been pretty painful lately with all the upheaval surrounding Erik's sudden departure; the self-recriminations, the dealing with fallout, the grief, the anger, the relief, the guilt. There has been a lot going on.

I'm really glad I intermitted for April, I've been a mess. I've spent several days in bed, or wandering between my bed and my egg chair in the lounge room like some sort of automated zombie doll. We saw Erik on the GOM's birthday last Sunday. He asked to see his dad, to drop off a present. That was a first for Erik - organising a present on his own. I would have said no, but I left it up to the GOM and he said yes. It didn't go well. Erik spent maybe two minutes with the GOM, then wanted to see Lukas to ask him how things had been at home, and to ask for a game, at which point I (luckily, Lukas told me later) interrupted them and told Erik if he wasn't spending any more time with his dad, it was probably time for him to go. At the door, a conversation started up which led to 40 minutes of back and fro about what had happened and what had been said to whom and why things had been done and what people thought was happening from here. It is clear now that this is a permanent move for Erik. That the girlfriends mother sees it as a permanent move (she has bought him a tv, a heater for his room, is having air-conditioning installed in his room, aside from getting a contract for an iPhone 6s for him - he had a choice between that or a Samsung, he said). He accused me of abusing him and when I asked why the girlfriend's mum hadn't reported me or us, he said it was because he had told her not to because the other boys would be taken from us. This is rubbish. I told him to tell her to report us, so I could clear my name because I have absolutely no fear of being found to be an abusive parent - yes, I have lost my temper out of sheer frustration - and I have apologised and I always do my best to find better ways to communicate with my kids -, and yes, I have set boundaries, but I have not abused him or any of my children.

It has taken me until today to find my footing again since Sunday's episode. We ended up re-doing the GOM's birthday celebration on Monday because the birthday dinner we'd planned for Sunday night was a wipe-out. Luckily, one of his presents had not arrived on time, and arrived in the mail Monday morning, and he didn't know about it, and it was the best present and so Monday night was a lot of fun and made up for Sunday's disaster.

As horrible as it is to say, to realise. We've slowly come to the realisation over the past three weeks of how much more peaceful our house has become. There are no more arguments. The kids rarely bicker now. Bryn is so much more relaxed now that he doesn't live in fear of being bullied by Erik. We found out after Erik left that he had actually been bullying Lukas as well. Beating him up if he informed us of Erik's transgressions. Needless to say, Lukas is more confident now as well. He suddenly seems much more mature as well. Even our little firecracker, Ari, is more settled. While Erik didn't pick on him as much as he picked on Bryn - though he was starting to in the past few months - Ari picked up on the tension, especially in the mornings, and often got hyperactive just from the electricity in the air. There is less of that now. In fact, the mornings are so quiet now, without the GOM have to constantly chase Erik up to get out of bed, have a shower, get dressed, pack his bag, brush his teeth, get out to the car - often resulting in screeching - that one morning I thought they'd left the house already when they were still sitting in the lounge room.

Why did such a terrible thing have to happen for our house to become a nice place to be?

People have said to me, not to let Erik get to me, not to let him win, not to show him that I feel awful, but this is not a game for me. This is my child. Something has gone terribly wrong with us. How can I pretend I'm okay with that?

Saturday, April 02, 2016

The sun and the shadows...

The beach is my happy place, always has been. Sea air and the spray of the ocean never fails me.

Today we went to the beach and for a little while I was able to let the tension which has been crushing my body from the inside melt away under the sun.,,

When we left home, it was already lunch time, so we decided to stop at Hungry Jacks on the way. We let the boys order whatever they wanted, so of course they went for the most unnatural, chemical-ladened thing on the menu, a bubblegum Icey.

This morning when I got Lukas up to get ready, he said he couldn't go unless he had a rashie. With his red hair and fair skin, he burns very easily, so he was being quite sensible. He said he wouldn't swim in a t-shirt. So, the Grumpy Old Man ducked down to the shops and got him a rashie. Then he said, he didn't want to go swimming anyway because he hadn't slept well overnight and was feeling a bit yuck. I asked him if he was sure he didn't at least want to take his swimmers with him, just in case he changed his mind at the beach. He was certain he wouldn't change his mind.

Harlem had a blast, and I couldn't miss this opportunity to get a bit of a glamour shot of him with the Melbourne skyline in the background.

I wanted a photo of him actually looking at the camera, but he was so distracted by the flocks of seagulls he kept swinging his nose this way and that way until I finally said, 'Harlem, are you hungry?' That got his attention... This is his, 'Huh, what you say?' look.

I was quite looking forward to seeing him in the water. As you can tell by the laid back ears here and the lowered head, he wasn't terribly keen on the cold wet stuff lapping around his belly. He couldn't get out of the water fast enough!

Ari had a ball, and is already asking when we're going again. As I took this photo it occurred to me that this is the last summer this particular suit will be worn. We bought it for Lukas when he was four, so it's about 10 or so years old. It has worn exceptionally well, and been a favourite with the boys.

When Bryn got out of the water (the last one out, as usual), he was so cold he ran across the sand like Popeye, all bowlegged and fists pumping.

So, back to Lukas not wanting to swim, and definitely NOT wanting to swim in a tee shirt...

Of course, afterwards we had to have ice-cream. It was much warmer than this photo suggests, though the wind had picked up considerably by the time we were leaving, it was a perfect weather day for the beach, not too hot, and not cold, with a nice breeze.

Ah, the family tradition of eating ice-cream cones from the bottom - it wasn't necessary with these waffle cones, but old habits die hard.

This is Harlem nearly pulling Lukas over as he snuffles around the garden bed on the foreshore.

Yesterday afternoon, Ari had been playing out in the back yard and when he finished he asked me to come out and have a look at a chalk picture of The Joker he had drawn. I have to say, I am pretty impressed with his drawing, the proportions and the colours. We might have another artist on our hands here...

It was a really nice day, and for a while I felt pretty good.

As we were driving in the driveway my GP called. I'd apparently missed an appointment at the Eye and Ear Hospital a fortnight ago. I had no idea I even had an appointment then. While I had her on the phone, I asked if she'd received a letter from my neurologist about a new medication which treats both epilepsy and migraines at the same time. She checked and she had. So, I have an appointment with her on Tuesday to get a prescription for that. I am also going to get my anti-anxiety meds increased because this last week has obviously completely up-ended me.

I texted Erik again last night, and he returned my text this morning. He said he hoped we were having fun. The kid is clueless, really. He just doesn't get the impact of his actions. I don't know if it would make him happy that we've all been stressed, or if he just wouldn't care either way. I don't get the impression he would be upset to hear we have been upset though. He expressed frustration over me changing the passwords to his email accounts and social media (something I have a legal right to do as his guardian, by the way, and I did it only to gain access to make sure he was okay), Obviously, he was frustrated, I get that, but how can he not see our frustration over his constant lying and stealing - why is it always a one way street with this one?

I was able to confirm that the girlfriend's mother did give him an iPhone 6s. Something about that just doesn't sit right with me. She has only known my son for maybe four months. Even then she hasn't spent a lot of time with him. But just four days after him moving into her house, she gives him a phone worth several hundreds of dollars, if not over one thousand. He already had a phone, a pretty good phone, an iPhone 5. He didn't need another phone, or another phone number, and certainly not a top of the range smart phone. It just doesn't sit right with me. Is she trying to buy his favour? Why? What happens when he and her daughter break up (oh, I know, it might be true love and last for years, but seriously, they're 15 and 16, the odds are stacked against them). Will she take the phone back? Would he be worried that she might take the phone back and so not break up with her daughter and move out. It seems like a huge outlay (either an upfront purchase, or a long contract which would have to be in her name), for someone who has only just taken a kid in.

I hope he doesn't end up feeling like he owes her because she gave him an expensive phone. Certainly, she is shifting the power dynamic.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The next step...

Day seven of Erik not living at home. We've been through the gamut of emotions, but I think things are starting to settle down just a little bit.

The Grumpy Old Man and I went and saw a lawyer yesterday, just to be clear on our right and responsibilities in a situation where we are no longer our son's carers, but are still his guardians. I'm sure in his head, this is just about him moving out to get more freedom of choice - ironically, at least as far as school goes, the choices are still not his and not his carer's either - but the ripple effect here at home is huge.

I have just submitted the intermission application form to the university with the permission of my supervisors. So, my degree has been suspended. We need to contact the school and let them know Erik is no longer living with us, and that we can no longer afford to pay his school fees since losing the family tax benefit - they will need to make arrangements with his new carer. We will likely give our permission for him to change classes if that is possible as we'd already decided to do that before he left, anyway, and I had already spoken with one of the assistant principals about beginning that dialogue. I will seek some sort of assisted conference with the staff, the GOM, myself, Erik and his new carer to arrange things like parent-teacher conferences, reports and so on. Despite being unable to pay school fees and materials, we are still allowed access to his reports and his teachers to see how he is going. Obviously, his carer will need access to his compass, but I still want to be able to see that as well, to see that he is attending school and classes. At least until he turns 17.

He needs to get his own medicare card because he doesn't have access to ours and he will need it for his skin condition and eyes at the very least.

We found out that because there is only a sixteen month age gap between him and his girlfriend, he cannot be charged with statutory rape if their relationship is physical - that was a huge weight off our shoulders. Now we can only hope he at least filed away all the information about sexual hygiene I know was imparted to him by us.

I wonder what his carer will make of his unvaccinated status. He has had the choice to get vaccinations for a few years now, but hasn't taken up that choice. If she claims family tax benefit for him to help with costs, she will not be eligible for the end of financial year bonus because he is unvaccinated.

My main focus now, though is not on him. He has chosen to move out and there is nothing we can do about that. In the eyes of the law he has autonomy. He is safe and he is happy.

I have to focus on the well being of the rest of my family now. The GOM is terribly upset about this whole situation. He feels so deeply hurt, he keeps saying he may never recover. I worry about how the tension of this situation will impact his long term health, particularly his blood pressure. The boys, mostly Bryn and Ari, are acting out in their own ways, so we're working with them to reassure them Erik is okay, and so are they. Lukas has been so mature and level headed through this entire week, endlessly helpful and kind. He was already showing a leap in maturity in the second half of last year, but has stepped it up to another level this last week. We have to be careful that he doesn't take on too much responsibility for supporting everyone else, because one day it might become too much for him.

Today we went out to The Pancake Parlour to get out of the house and do something fun. Being the middle of the day on a Thursday, it was really quiet. We had a good time. There has been a significant drop in arguments and aggression in the house this week and it is quite noticeable.

We had a laugh at Harlem going from being a labrador when we arrived to being a sausage dog when we left.

In order to accept this new situation (accept that Erik is serious about this - he did take ALL his stuff, even the headphones he had let his father use for the past year because he had three others, he got a new phone and changed his number, he seems pretty determined -  to respect that) we started the process of rearranging the house to suit the new family situation here. Lukas is now back in his old room. He has been given the second TV as it was in a sort of rumpus area down in the garage, and no one is living downstairs now. Lukas is the only person in the house who plays on the playstation 4 at the moment - the little boys don't have any games for that console, and they also have the PS3 and the Wii to keep them occupied in the lounge room. Lukas is pretty happy with his set up, I have to say. It feels good to do something nice for him in light of how great he has been this last week, too.

I'm going to set up what was Erik's room as a guest room for when my brother, or dad, or other guests come to stay, and then the space in the garage where the blue lounge and the TV and consoles were will become a sort of paint studio. While I'm intermitting, I'm going to get back into painting. I still owe my brother a star scape from two Christmases ago, so I'm going to do that first up.

Poor Harlem is all out of sorts. I would also say he was reacting to the stress here at home as well, but then I think I might just be anthropomorphising him. On Monday and Tuesday he vomited and had to go on plain chicken and rice for a few meals. He has not left my side, which is not unusual as such, but now he seems to want to be in physical contact all the time.

Another reason for this change in demeanour might be that his routine has been put all out of sorts. He not given the tasks of finding the grass, or the lift, or the office, as he is used to doing every day, so he's probably all at sixes and sevenses, poor boy.

So, April is going to be all about getting us all back on an even keel and letting Erik go until he is ready to come back, if he ever is. It is not that we don't love him. We all love him. It is just that loving him was not enough for him, and we can't force him to come home or to interact with us if that is the case.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Hello again 3am...

Another sleepless night and I'm having to admit defeat. Tomorrow (well, later today), I'm going to apply for another intermission of my PhD. I can't do this thing where I'm supposed to function like everything is normal, everything is all right. It's not. I'm terribly worried about the Grumpy Old Man, he is so upset, so hurt, and of course he's just trying to hold it all in because he's afraid of what might happen if he lets it all out. I admit, that thought scares me, too.

I can't see how I can go to uni every day and do research and writing and leave him at home with his thoughts and three kids, it won't be fair to him and it definitely would not be fair to the boys.

And then there is the thing where I'm just not getting any sleep.

Today I found out Erik has himself a new phone, an iPhone 6s, and a new number. I know this because he added it to his Apple ID account. I guess he's determined to cut contact with us. I don't know how he got such a late model phone, he certainly has no money to buy one, and he is too young to sign a contract for a phone. Has his girlfriend's mum really bought him a brand new phone? The 6s only came out last September, surely she's not upgrading already, and even if she was, wouldn't she give her old phone to her own daughter? Did he steal the phone? Is that where he is now in his journey of self-discovery, stealing merchandise? Hopefully not, but then that only brings me back to the question, why would someone give my child such an expensive gift?

It frightens me. Him getting a new number frightens me.

Right now, his head is full of how awful his father and I are, me in particular I know. How much we have restricted his life - he doesn't acknowledge the desperation we have felt over his behaviour at home and at school. He doesn't acknowledge that he has bullied his brothers and deceived his parents on a daily basis. He doesn't acknowledge that he has broken school rules and lied to his teachers time and again, causing them stress. His head is full of everything we won't give him and everything we won't let him do. I don't know how to begin to change that in him.

Tonight I helped Lukas move his room up to where Erik's room had been. We have decided to let him have the tv and PS4 in his room now because it was only him and Erik using it, and now that Erik isn't here anymore, Lukas might as well have it in his room. Lukas needed a power board, and so I went to the top of the linen closet where I'd hidden the power boards months ago because Erik kept stealing everyone's chargers to charge the devices I'd confiscated from him when he repeatedly refused to turn up to class or hand in any assignments for VCE Art Studio (one of the classes he wanted to repeat this year when he saw no point to it last year).

It occurred to me that the younger boys have suffered so much because of Erik. When we set consequences for his behaviour, it often impacted on the other boys. If Erik couldn't play on the Playstation, I had to pack it up so no one could play on it because he'd just bully the other boys until they let him play. Same with his phone, when I took his phone off him because he refused to answer it and tell me where he was when he repeatedly turned up late from school, I had to take their phones and iPods of them so he wouldn't steal theirs and use them instead.

His behaviour has impacted so deeply on them. They have all expressed relief at being free of those threats and it breaks my heart. Twice as much because they also feel bad for feeling that way and they are all feeling some level of rejection that he has just left without saying goodbye, without explaining why, and without making any effort to be in contact with them. I know Lukas has tried to text Erik several times and Erik has ignored him. Lukas who was always by his side, who kept his secrets, and who kept him company. Lukas is angry now.

Bryn says he feels safer now, but he has cried the most since Erik left. It is such a tug of war in him, he loves his brother as much as he feared him. Bryn has long felt rejected by Erik, going back seven or eight years, really, I think Erik saw Bryn as a threat to his relationship with Lukas, still he misses him terribly.

Ari went to bed the other night chanting, 'I love Erik forever and ever.' I think maybe he thought if he said it enough, with enough fervour Erik might hear it or feel it wherever he was.

I can't leave these boys and their father alone to go do a PhD, we have to get through these holidays somehow and I have to be here to see us through them.

How will we ever get back on an even keel, now?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What kind of person...

I can't sleep again. The stress is too much.

I need to know.

What kind of person helps a sixteen year old pack up their bedroom and move out of their parents' house in the middle of the night, claiming later it was so the child had a 'safe place to go'?

This person obviously believed the child was going to run off and live on the streets, but never spoke to the child's parents, never spoke to their school, never contacted the Department of Children's Services, just drove a child away from his home in the dead of night without a word to anyone, and then believes herself to be a hero?

The police said it was bizarre.

The child is happy as Larry because, well, he wasn't getting what he wanted at home. He wanted to do VCE subjects in year 10 when he'd failed them in year 9 when he refused to attend classes because he couldn't 'see the point'. He didn't have his parents' permission, which to him was intolerable. His girlfriend's mother listened to him talk about how his parents were holding him back and how unhappy he was at home because of this, and she told him if he couldn't stand to be at home anymore, he could stay at her place.

She never spoke to his parents, not once.

He left a stripped back bedroom and neatly made bed, and a note to say he wasn't coming back, that he had been planning this for months, that he thought they could see how they survived without him. He didn't say where he was going. He caused panic and mayhem and distress to his mother, his father, and his three brothers.

She didn't call or message to say she had him. She said nothing.

He didn't answer his phone, but then he texted, 'I'm not coming home.'

His mum told him there was a family emergency and she just needed to know where he was - it was a lie, of course, but she was desperate. He told her. She asked for a number, he gave it.

His father called that night. The woman said, 'I know you're probably cross, I would be too, but I wanted him to have a place where he felt safe.' The implication was unmissable. Cross? How about devastated? How about afraid? How about betrayed!

She said she went to the police station as soon as she left the house with the boy. A constable on night duty remembered someone talking to him through the intercom, but he took no notes, so there is no record.

The child is happy. He thinks he has everything he wants. He doesn't have the emotional maturity to comprehend the situation fully. He has autism. He has 'won'.

Of course, the woman can't give the school permission to change his subjects, so nothing changes on that front, but maybe that doesn't matter anymore, anyway. Maybe he just wanted to leave.

The parents have no recourse, the child is sixteen, he can live wherever he wants.

They were just being parents, setting boundaries, setting consequences, trying to protect him from his adolescent inability to always think things through, but that means nothing now.

She can be his friend, but can she be a parent to him? Her child drinks bottles of Carlton Dry  and Crown beer from the fridge, will he drink beer from the fridge? Will he like the Carlton Dry better, too? Her child has her permission to break the school rules and leave the school ground, will he have her permission to break the school rules and leave the school grounds? Will she check his phone messages and wake him up in the middle of the night to yell at him, the way her daughter says she does to her, too? Will he still consider her place somewhere he can 'feel safe', then?

What will she do when he steals from her and lies to her the way he did to his parents time and time again? Will she set boundaries and consequences? Which 'safe place' will he run to when she does that? Will she call his parents when he runs from her house?

What kind of person doesn't tell the parents when she knows their child wants to leave home, but instead helps him pack his room into her car in the dead of night?

Sunday, March 27, 2016


Sorry peoples, this is going to be another vague post, so if that sort of thing bores you to tears, feel free to skip it. I just need to get some stuff out that has been swimming around in my head for a couple of days now.

A couple of days ago our household woke up to some shocking news. At one point or another, I think, we've all had a little cry to ourselves, a couple of us a much bigger cry (it won't surprise you to hear the couple of us are Bryn and me). Ari has been off the planet, so we're just trying to be patient with him.

With a couple of days under our belt we're starting to emerge from the shock and trying to find a path through the chaos.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about how you can do your best, you can try to do everything 'right' and still bad stuff happens. I've questioned myself, my actions, was there more I could have done, but search as I might, I just can't see what.

In the wake of this world rocking event I've been sad, angry, but also relieved. The relief brings guilt. I shouldn't be feeling relief, and yet I do. This was always going to happen, I can see it now, no matter what we did, it was inevitable really, there were things beyond our control that we did our level best to work with. But life has been so stressful for so long because of the circumstances leading to this event that to have it here instead of hanging over us like a threat, lurking in the back of our minds all the time, creating so much tension and stress at home, it is a relief.

Right now, I feel like doing nothing. Just enjoying the peace. And I feel horribly guilty for that too. On Friday I felt like crawling into bed and never coming out. I felt like I'd been kicked in the guts and left bleeding by the roadside. The Grumpy Old Man and I sat in shock most the day. Today we pulled ourselves together and took the boys out Easter Egg shopping - funny how life must go on as normal when it is anything but normal now. We may have gone a little overboard as some sort of compensation or self-comforting measure, but we don't really care right now. Tomorrow my parents are coming over. We haven't told them yet. I spoke to mum tonight about tomorrow, and I was going to say something, but I just couldn't form the words. I don't know how I'll go tomorrow.

Maybe that is why I can't spell it out here yet. I still can't face it directly, I can't create the words to say the hard truth. Relief aside, I'm still deeply, deeply upset. I'm still blaming myself. And I'm still very, very, VERY angry.

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