Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Rental Agreement

So I talked with Gary, over his 1pm breakfast, about his rental agreement. He looked like he was just barely able to keep from rolling his eyes. When I got to the payment for room and board being $50 a week, payable in 5 hours of course a week he said stunned, "A WEEK?"

"Yeah. 5 hours a week"

"That is freaking lot of hours."

We talked on and I mentioned some things he could do today. "I don't have time today! I have to train from 3-8, everyday."

I took a slow quiet deep breath and did not mention that that was 5 hours, every day. Hours that he is training because he wants to. Hours for which he is not getting pain. Instead I told him that I had a list that Roland had made of things he could do so the chores did not pile up. He did not quite resist rolling his eyes at that. I said I thought it was a good offer, and was actually less that Andrew and Alice were going to be doing. He said, "Yeah, but I don't even get my own room, so what's the point?"

He went on to tell me that he could move in with his best friend for $175/month. He would have to sleep on a sofa, but he could create a private space. It was in the same town as his gym and the community college so it made a lot more sense than staying here. Especially since he doesn't even have a car anymore.

I agreed that it did sound good and asked if he had made any definite plans yet. He said no.

I kept my voice calm and unemotional throughout. In the inside there was another voice being loud, yelling about how the ungrateful little shite has being doing nothing for months and offering to pack up his things and move them to his friend's right now. I don't like that part of me, but it has been trying to get out recently.

I feel badly about being so happy and relieved that he might really move out.

I want things to be better for him and I want to be able to help him to make them better. I just don't think he is ready for that though. He has to do it his own way.

You know that nasty voice that wants out? It wants to start nagging and bitching and fighting with Gary to push him over the edge so he will grab his things and storm out before his friend changes his mind.

I am not always proud of myself.


I have been keeping my sense of humor though. I have just found out about the wonderful "first world problems" meme and have been having fun with it. When Andrew caught me scowling while doing dishes and wanted to know what was wrong I told him, "I'm just so frustrated. I could make Gary's life perfect if he would just do what I want him to do when I want him to do it!"

Monday, March 19, 2012

Talking myself down

After more than a decade of foster care and time in therapy and (most of all) work in Alanon, I know this to be true:

As long as I am trying to figure out how to make Gary do what I think is best for Gary to do, I will succeed only in making myself crazy.

So, what I need to do are establish the boundaries I feel are necessary to protect myself and the rest of the family and the action plan I will take if those boundaries are not respected. Action plans are not threats coerce behavior, they are actions I am genuinely willing to take to protect the rest of us. This, of course, include protecting us from being treated unfairly.

The only real action I can take is evicting him. Evicting is both difficult and easy. On the easy side, he doesn't own very many things and the foster agency would store them in his basement. So evicting him would be as easy as boxing up his things. We might consider changing the locks, but I don't think that would be necessary.

That is extreme action and one I would be willing to take only under extreme situations. That means that I need to accept that I am in fact willing to continue to support him in a very basic way even if he doesn't behave in the ways that I want him to, as long as he behavior stays basically civil. In other words,the boundaries are in fact things like not stealing from family members. There is a point at which I would say enough, but for the sake of everyone's sanity, I am going to avoid going down that path where I only become willing to do evict after a long period of anger and attempted manipulation. Right now I don't have any particular deadline, but eventually I will. I will commit to not fighting with him, but at some point in the future I may give him notice. Start paying rent (or whatever) or you will be evicted.

I know that I am more anxious now because I really hoped and expected that Gary would move out (as he wanted to) before Andrew and my mother moved in. Once Gary does not have a private bedroom he will have no place to isolate himself. That means that we will all have to deal with him, and he with us. I spin possible scenarios in my head. Recently he has been spending most of the weekends with his friends and is only home on the days when he has the house to himself for much of the day. When people are here every day and he has no private room, will he start doing that all the time? Maybe. Though I think that "hanging out" and probably drinking is bad for him, storing his belongings while he essentially lives with friends is not bad for me.

I want help him succeed. I cannot however direct that path.


I have written up a "rental agreement." It specifies what behavior Gary must agree to in order to continue to get free room and board. The agreement includes doing 5 hours a week of chores and not creating more work for others by doing things like leaving messes in the kitchen and dirty dishes in the basement. This agreement has no "teeth." There are no consequences I am willing to impose upon him for immediate failure to comply. Part of the agreement includes that we are not available for small loans or to pay for personal expenses, so I cannot threaten to withhold those if he doesn't comply. So all I will really be doing is documenting non-compliance in case I need to make it clear to him why he is being evicted.

In the meantime, I commit to trying not to create new anxieties for myself. I will not worry about how stressful it will be for me or others to live with Gary when he no longer has a private room. He avoids stress and it is just as likely that he will end up rarely being home as being here fighting with people.

How long am I willing to do this? I don't know. However long it is though I will remind myself that I decided to let him stay. I am providing him with a safety net, housing and food, for the indefinite future. This is a choice I am making, and in making it freely, I am not going to be resentful of him for accepting it.

I do have the power and authority to evict him if I ever feel that I need to. In the meantime, I will try to avoid that insane choice in which I don't take action but instead put emotional energy into trying to "help" (i.e. manipulate him into doing what I think is best for him).

Feeling less guilty anyway

I told Gary that Roland and I would pay off the bills from his ER visit (which look like they will total at least $1200) if he paid us $500 out of the student loan payment he expects this week. He has other bills, but the medical one is the largest and, I think, the most serious.

He turned us down. He doesn't think he can afford to pay that much one one bill all at once.

The conversation went on, but I don't feel it would be appropriate to post it all here. Suffice it to say that he seems determined to make decisions that appear to me to be foolish.  So we will be handing him the medical bills and letting him deal (or not) with them as he chooses.

Update: part of  his decision seems to be based upon a rumor there is a new law saying that medical bills can't affect your credit rating. I looked it up. There is a bill that so far as I can tell, has not yet been passed, which says that once medical bills under $2500 have been paid, the fact that they went unpaid for some period of time will have to be removed from your credit report after 45 days. I'll make sure he is aware of this.

I know that the reason that I am experiencing so much frustration right now is that I am trying to make him do what I want him to do. I'm going to have to think about this...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Feeling a bit stressed

Mom sold her house. She sold it after just two weeks. It was purchased by a local family who I guess had always admired it. In the paper work they agreed that Mom could stay until the end of May. Sis and I are flying out on the last day of May. Presumably we will be spending one or maybe two nights with an aunt or Mom's BFF. Then we will drive back to Idaho. The people who bought the house are finding it difficult to be patient. They now want Mom to move out by the end of April. That's not going to happen.

When I found out that Mom sold the house I had a couple small moments of panic similar to moments I had late in the second pregnancy when for some reason or another it all became very real. You know, that what-in-the-world-was-I-thinking feeling. I kept reassuring myself that I had meant it. I mean, I wasn't just trying to score good-daughter points by saying, "You know Mom, you can always come live with me."

No, I really did mean it. Really.

Anyway, Andrew is here for spring break. He and his girlfriend, whom I call Alice on the blog, are helping with some de-cluttering and reorganization of the house. Yesterday we sorted through books. A&A took three large laundry baskets of books to the used book store. Roland is taking one basket to church and two to his school. That means that all the books that are currently on the ground floor (the house has a ground floor and a finished basement) are now on the bookcases in the basement, which are again close to full.

There is much more to be sorted, sent away, and moved, but I will spare you the details. In the end, Mom will have the corner bedroom on the ground floor. It is the largest, and has lots of windows. I wanted her to have a room that would be comfortable to use at least some as a sitting room. I know she will need to be able to get some privacy during the day. Roland and I will have the slightly smaller bedroom on the ground floor.

Brian is going to be going off to college in the fall. He is definitely going to the college where I teach, a whole half-mile away. He will come home for holidays and maybe more, but starting in September, the bedroom would be mostly empty. Gary says he can't sleep unless he has a room of his own, but he has always regarded this as a fair option because, you know, he was moving out in two or three months anyway.

Alice has been unhappy with her living situation. She lived in the dorms her freshman year and liked it but decided that she couldn't afford it her sophomore. So she moved back home with her two sisters, mother, and mother's boyfriend. She doesn't complain much, but it is taking a toll on her. Andrew plans on living at home for a couple or three years so he can get take the courses to become a high school teacher. Alice would like for him to find a part-time job so they can rent an apartment together. Andrew sees no reason at all to spend money on an apartment while he is a student and he can have free rent at home.

I talked to them and told them that it would be helpful for me if they lived here. My mother is used to a much cleaner house. Andrew already knows that he will be paying for his rent by cooking dinner more often than not. I gave them a list of other things I would really like done, including be available to drive grandma to appointments. We've agreed on a limit an average of 5 hours of work a week each.  They would mostly have the basement to themselves, and could arrange the rec room however they liked to make it comfortable for them both.

I feel much less stressed about it all when I think of them being here. Alice says she has to bring her cat who doesn't like other cats. We agreed she could bring it and assured her that cats learn to tolerate each other. I know she is nervous about moving in here, but she also agrees that it is her best option. I believe that Andrew has told her that if it really doesn't work out they will find another option.

So far, so good. All is well. Brian will mostly be in college but will have his basement bedroom whenever he wants to come home. Andrew and Alice will be living mostly in the basement and helping with the work.

And Gary? Well, when I talked to him about this happening last summer I told him he could share Brian's bedroom. He agreed, but did not really think about what that would be like because he was going to move out in a couple of months anyway. In the summer I didn't think it would be a couple of months, but it would probably be in January. In January I thought it would certainly be by May. I know Gary doesn't want to keep living here. Now though? Well, currently he still has no job, no savings, and some debt. He gets a student loan payment in a few days, but after that nothing.* And for the icing on the cake, yesterday his car was repossessed. He is upset, but mostly I think he wishes he had given the car back to the dealer months ago instead of spending so much money on it. (No, I don't understand why he spent so much money fixing it and did not make any payments on it at all. I know he was counting on it not getting re-possessed before he got his second loan payment.)

He is applying for jobs and still wants to move out in a couple of months, but is now taking seriously the idea of moving into Brian's room.

Except of course he will not really move into Brian's room. It will not become "Brian and Gary's room." It will be the Brian's room with Gary's stuff in it. Gary will live and sleep in the rec room. This, by the way, is main reason Brian has no problem with the plan at all. Sure he can make room for Gary's stuff. Not an issue. I have been confident that since Gary planned to move out anyway and would hate not having a room to himself, that he would surely get his act together and move. Now I think there is a real possibility that he will stay, live mostly in the rec room in the summer and then take possession of the bedroom in the fall when Brian leaves.

We talked seriously about his staying the other day. I wanted him to know that he was not being kicked out of the house. He was losing his private room, but this is his home and there is room for him here. I also told him that we needed to be clear on what chores he did to pay for rent. He has not been doing much, and that really did need to change. I explained that Andrew and Alice would be doing about 5 hours a week each, and he needed to commit to something similar. He agreed he still would prefer to be responsible for the yard. There had been little to do through the winter, but that would probably mean that he would be making it up during the summer. He agreed, although so far he has been far better about agreeing to do work than actually doing it.  I also expect that he agreed because he is still imagines moving out soon.

So I'm stressed. Partly this is because I worry about other people's stress and I have been assuring Alice that living here will be acceptable for her. We have all been imagining the basement as something of a semi-apartment for them. Of course, Brian would be there sometimes, but otherwise they would have a bedroom and good size general room to themselves. As I imagine life with my mom, me, Roland, Andrew and Alice it feels very doable. Mom will like and get along with Andrew and Alice. Everyone living here will be committed to pitching in and making it work. There will be stress and difficulties, but mostly it feels right.

Gary here is not the same dynamic. He says he will pitch in, but doesn't. He doesn't even seem to understand that as a young adult getting free rent it is really, really tacky that he still leaves dirty dishes all over the basement and only brings them up when I demand that he does. He is still a teenager, acting like a teenager, expecting assistance without really believing he needs to do anything to contribute.

On the bright side he did yesterday announce that he has decided that getting drunk every weekend with his friends is stupid. This behavior has not had a much of a direct impact on our lives as he tends to just be gone for the entire weekend, returning with the tail end of a hang over. (Of course, this is not taking into account the emergency room visit, or the affect that this behavior has undoubtedly had on his ability to move on.)

So I hope that Gary will actually move out. Then I feel guilty about welcoming Andrew back and wishing Gary gone. Then I remind myself that I am counting on Brian leaving too, and that I would NOT be happy about Andrew moving back if he didn't have a clear plan for independence. Andrew and Alice will affect household expenses, but they will be responsible for all personal expenses. And because Andrew knows how to cook on a budget, my grocery bill is often no higher when he is here then when he is gone. (Having a reliable second cook also means that we almost never do things like order pizza because I just don't feel like cooking).

Gary does not seem to be any closer to independence. I know he is trying, but nothing is working for him. Right now he is talking about applying to living in the dorms at Boise State University in the fall. That he does not have the academic record to be accepted to BSU does not seem to factor into his computations. I understand that letting him live here is providing him a safety net so that his life doesn't sink in the ways his sister's has, but it also is not helping him to become more capable.

So I find myself hoping that the changes in the family motivate Gary to move. He will no longer have the house to himself when everyone else leaves for work or school. He will no longer have a private bedroom. I find myself hoping he hates it and figures something else out.

Then I feel guilty. I know it looks like all the related-by-birth family is welcomed with open arms while the adopted son is being pushed to leave. So I reassure him that he is not being kicked out. This is his home. He is welcome here. Meanwhile I hope that he moves on.

So yeah, a bit stressed.

And  in case you are wondering, I have no regrets about adopting him, although I do sometimes wish we had waited until he was out of the home like the other boys. The social workers from Casey Family Programs** were so very helpful during transition. I did not realize how difficult this part would be without them.

I don't know. Maybe it would help to be more formal about the work that Gary is supposed to be doing to pay for his rent. Maybe if he had to log the hours it would be more real.


* My current thought about Gary's medical bills is this: Roland and I take responsibility for them but insist that Gary pay us $500 out of his student loan distribution he is expecting in the next week. We then put that money aside and tell him that when he moves out we will give it back to him so he can spend it on his various expenses.

**That is not a mistake. I'm not worried about anonymity so much anymore. I live in Idaho. We worked with the Casey Family Programs.