Lessons Learned From ODD – part 3

Not everyone has the will power to handle people who are obstinate and rigid. My son’s father is one of them. Interestingly, he too is an incredibly rigid person. For the last nearly three years, he has relinquished all of his parental responsibilities and rights for a number of reasons; one of which is the simple fact that he cannot handle my son’s inflexibility. He has been out of my son’s life, purposefully, for a while now.

As a consequence, my son is angry and lost when it comes to making sense of his identity – the other part of him that is his father’s. My son is bi-racial, half African-American and half Asian. Since his father’s abandonment, my son has tried to process, on his own, what it means to be Black and bi-racial. I cannot teach him that and he won’t allow me to do so because I am not Black. In his insatiable need to figure out who he is, he has taken a very aggressive and, at times, concerning stance of Black empowerment. He is consumed by race to an extent that all he listens to are Black empowerment leaders with very hostile messages. He is literally alienating himself from everyone, myself included. I try to trace back key events that would have played a part in his mind shift but I cannot pinpoint anything definitively. I suspect some of his beliefs is the result of his father’s abandonment.

He attends a private school – which is largely Caucasian – because of his emotional issues. This school offers intensive therapy as part of its program but even the staff and clinicians are having a very hard time breaking through to him. He is just resistant to anything and to anyone. And they are growing increasingly frustrated trying to engage him to no avail. I am exasperated and disappointed that even a special education school with intensive therapy doesn’t know how best to deal with this. So now we are in the process of changing his school placement for the fifth time. In my experience, schools just don’t know how to deal with extremely difficult kids. And as a result, he has developed very strongly negative feelings about schools, teachers, academics. What’s tragic is that my son is extremely bright and articulate but his negative experiences with schools have hindered him from flourishing and realizing his fullest potential.

I have been through so many difficult phases with my son but this one is especially hard. It is hard because he refuses to entertain any other idea that is not his own. He refuses to engage with people who are not Black. And even within that community, he dismisses some because they aren’t Black enough, whatever that means. His thoughts and beliefs are largely illogical and his actions are entirely emotional. It is very challenging to navigate through all of this, alone. It is also worrisome because he is becoming a young adult who will need to integrate into society and right now, it doesn’t look so promising.

But even when the going continues to get tough, I refuse to give up as much as I really want to at times. I imagine this is what families of people with addictions go through – the cycles of highs and lows and the constant witness to bad decisions being made by loved ones. Over time, I have come to see that there isn’t a silver bullet for these kinds of issues and many people fall by the wayside going through the difficulties, the way my son’s father did. Through it all, what I have found is that solace comes from empathy. For many, especially those deep in it, these experiences are very hard to rationalize and understand. If you know someone who is going through very difficult circumstances, just be there and offer empathy. There’s no need to try to offer solutions to the issues because sometimes there just aren’t any and doing so is a reminder of that. Instead, listen deeply and just be there unconditionally.

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