Yesterday was much better than the day before.
Amy came over to help me with some stuff around the house. She got my Christmas tree taken down (with Dyl’s help), changed my air filter, changed some very high light bulbs that were burned out in my bedroom, and helped Dylan get his new queen-size mattress set up in his room.
But before all that, she came in to talk to me privately and told me that she wanted me to go easier on Dylan. She had kinda read between the lines (accurately, I might add) that I was getting parenting advice from my mom that was not in line with how I’ve tried to raise the kids.
Part of that conversation was difficult for me, I admit, because she said that she has a different relationship with me than Chloe and Dylan do. They are more dependent on me than she was, which was partially due to her personality but also due a great deal to how our financial circumstances were when we were in Michigan.
She doesn’t blame me for the circumstances in Michigan that forced her to grow up more quickly and with more responsibilities; in fact, she said she wouldn’t trade them because she likes how responsible she is. And she also doesn’t blame me for the circumstances we were in when we lived in Michigan; she now understands just how poor we really were, how much we expected to have more help from both of our families that didn’t come through, etc.
But she does think that if I start getting too tough with Dylan now, it will probably change the closeness of our relationship and she doesn’t want to see that happen (especially because it’s likely that Chloe and I can cover most of the expenses ourselves, anyway.)
I got to thinking a lot more about what she said and not only do I think she was right, I think that going easier on him will be more likely to prevent him from making a lot of the same choices that J did. Dylan is so much like young J, both in appearance and mannerisms. Honestly, it’s spooky how alike they are.
I wrote an article for Medium last night about what J was like when he was young and a lot of what I recall was that he was just so angry about pretty much everything. In fact, mutual anger was an early topic of bonding for us.
Yesterday, Dyl said something that sounded so much like young J that it startled me. He said that his 8 cavities that he just had to get filled weren’t his fault because of the stress he was under last semester at college.
Obviously that’s total crap, although I didn’t tell him so. Stress didn’t make him take poor care of his teeth. But J used to make the same kind of excuses and refuse to take accountability for things that were, in fact, actually his own fault.
But I realized that this moment is a particular crossroads for Dylan and what I do next determines whether he will for sure have 10+ years of chronic anger and resentment or not (particularly toward me and even the fact of J’s death.)
I now have the benefit of hindsight that I didn’t have then. If I keep Dylan in therapy and don’t push him into full-time work against his will right now, maybe he can avoid the years of struggle and pain that J went through (which I also believe—but can’t prove—were contributing factors to his early death.)
Quite simply, I think that J lived with unresolved anger and feelings of pressure and resentment for so long that his body wasn’t strong enough to fight off the cancer. Of course that’s not scientific (and J would probably discredit it for that reason) but it seems plausible to me.
Pushing Dylan too hard right now, when he’s struggling with mental health issues and trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, is very likely to send him down the same path that J went down.
I’ve always believed that J needed parents who were more patient with him and didn’t have such unreasonable standards for him, especially when he was a young adult. His parents said he had to be working full-time AND going to college full-time or else they would kick him out.
I now have the chance to make a change with Dylan. Maybe it will prevent the years of anger and working himself to death; maybe it won’t.
But to whatever extent that I can, I’m going to try. The fact and timing of J’s death is unfortunate but I hope it won’t have to condemn Dylan to the same fate.