The Abusive Son: A Mother's Story

Filed under: Opinions, Relationships

mother son florence italy picture

Rob and Jacquelyn Mitchard on a trip to Florence in 1991. Courtesy of Jacquelyn Mitchard

A mother can take only so much abuse from her son -- and then she can take a whole lot more. Jaquelyn Mitchard tells how she finally found the courage to shut the door on the love of her life. And open it again.

Some parents consider their children heroes because they endure devastating, even life-threatening health conditions with courage. Some people see their children as heroes because they overcome bullying, criticism or social cruelty.

My son Rob is a hero to me because he faced the fact that he had made a mess not only of his life but of his very character. The road to that recognition began when I threw him out of our house one sweltering summer day almost three years ago, when he was 23. At the time, both of us thought this was an ending, not a beginning. As Rob slammed the door behind him that day, he never looked back. He took the first steps of a 10-mile walk back from our house in the country to his crummy apartment in the city. I ran from window to window, struggling to catch a last glimpse of his brawny form and characteristic springy step. I didn't know it then, but this would be the longest walk of Rob's life.

At the time, all I thought was that I would never see my firstborn again.

Once I had believed that Rob might be the only child I would ever have. Because I'd had trouble conceiving, Rob was specially treasured and the darling of his father's heart. When the next two came along, Rob seemed more put out than the usual older sibling. Then Dan died at 44, cancer claiming him as swiftly as a brush fire, leaving me with three little boys and precious little else. Rob was only 9. The younger boys clung to me, but Rob withdrew into an ever-darkening cloud of self-absorption. Of course, I wasn't the mother I should have been or wanted to be. Emotionally and economically, I almost cracked under the strain. But I tried to fight back, with all the stamina and creativity I had. After a full day at the university where I worked, I seized every freelance assignment I could find and was also -- crazy as it seems to me now -- trying to write my first novel. All I wanted was to keep life "normal" for my boys, not understanding that life would never be normal again. The youngest, Marty, was just 3 and wistfully told me that I should work at the Dairy Queen, where they had four-hour shifts. But even Marty seemed to know that this harried and weary woman was doing her best.

Read the rest of the story here.

This article was written by Jacquelyn Mitchard and appears in the April issue of More magazine.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.